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13 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Movie and TV Extras

People who make up the street scenes, parties, and general backgrounds crowds of TV shows and movies can’t tell us too much about the particular shows they work on, because producers don’t want spoilers or workplace gossip. But they can tell us about their jobs in general. Like many Hollywood jobs, it’s not glamorous at all, but hey, it’s showbiz! Meanwhile, they go through some weird stuff to make a coherent show for the audience. For example:

3. WHAT LOOKS LIKE BOOZE ON CAMERA ISN'T ACTUALLY ALCOHOL.

While posing as party-goers in bar scenes, extras need something to fill their cups. But film sets are no place for drunk actors, so the props team uses a number of tricks to fool the camera, some less appetizing than others. Apple juice is a good substitute for beer, according to Beaudreault: “Or it’ll be seltzer with a little food coloring in it. There will be bottles that have been cleaned out and their labels removed and fake labels put on.”

“Vinegar is sometimes used to approximate the texture and viscosity of booze,” Rogers says. “You’ll stand there with a glass of vinegar for eight hours.” And because filming can be a long and mind-numbingly repetitive process, nobody has time to replace melting ice cubes, so they’ll use gelatin ice cubes. Or, for the ultimate cheat, plastic wrap can be put in a cup filled with water to resemble crushed ice, according to Gale Nemec, who teaches a workshop for background actors. (This approach also apparently makes for festive centerpieces.)

It’s a real job to look “natural” while drinking vinegar with gelatin in it. But that’s only one thing. Read the rest of the list of tidbits about being an extra at mental_floss.

(Image credit: Flickr user McBeth)


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