“Can you swim?” asked Christian.
“Oh no, you’re not going to throw me in the brink?” I said with some trepidation.
“No, it’s just a health and safety thing. You have been chosen to play a UN Official (extra).”
He might have included ‘refugee’, he might just as well have said to ‘people’ background scenes, for a new zombie movie. As things turned out, this was as much information as we were going to get. And I never did get to play in the UN scene, proper. Gutted by my sudden demotion, my ego easily bruised. (raise hand to brow, with weary sigh).
Hey-ho! as any seasoned extra will know – and there are plenty that travel to wherever the work is – to play an extra is to be placed at the bottom of the pecking order and information is hard to come by, at best drip fed only on a strictly need to know basis. No matter, I spent five fascinating days – sometimes with a child ‘extra’ pinned to my side, sometimes without – totally absorbed in the heavily guarded world of this new Hollywood zombie movie, World War Z, not due out until the end of next year. And would you believe it, all the action (for this section) takes place on a boat! (see ‘Extra Cash’) And a big one at that. A de-commissioned British aircraft carrier to be precise, docked in Falmouth harbour and converted to an impressive set for an American operation centre as a safe retreat from the zombies…..and that is as much as I will say!!! (You can read the book if you want to know the story). I even scored some bragging points as my children were duly impressed that I was in such close proximity to Brad Pitt (and his twig-thin co-star) on a daily basis. I confess to being far more interested in the mechanics of this massive, big-budget industry and the intriguing, black-hoody figure of its director, Marc Forster, as a budding, zero-budget, film-maker myself. (see KerstenWoods Productions).
In this industry, a lot of time is spent hanging around waiting for something to happen. This goes with the territory and I have learned new levels of meaning for the word ‘patience’. Not being personally blessed with much of this particular virtue, surprisingly after a few days of not expecting much action, I began to get used to it, even relish having time to get to know my fellow ‘refugees’ beyond small-talk terms. When idle for such long periods of time at a stretch, my attention is automatically taken up with the visual possibilities of such a fantastic location, either on the deck of the ship or milling around, kicking up the dust of the dockside wasteland where our food tent was located and where the 500 or so crowd extras were fed, bearing an uncanny resemblance to a scene from a real refugee camp. I took these pictures with my iphone and as luck would have it, this also coincided with regatta week with plenty of pretty sail action going on in the estuary and which culminated in a Red Arrows aerial display, and for which I had an unprecedented grandstand view of both.