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#1
Old 07-25-2006, 11:57 PM
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What are extras talking about?

I was watching Three's Company a while ago and it had a Reagle Beagle scene that interested me. I've always wondered, what are the people sitting at the tables in the background talking about?

This may be an impossible question to answer, but who knows, maybe someone has been an extra before.
#2
Old 07-26-2006, 12:23 AM
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I've never been an extra in a movie, but was involved in a group scene in a college play. (I learned I loved backstage work!) We were given no specific lines that weren't in the script, but were expected to come up with "covering" sounds and movements to make the scene appear more natural. I remember having a "squabble" with my "boyfriend" in a scene from " Dark of the Moon".
#3
Old 07-26-2006, 12:32 AM
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I would figure they're just making up stuff as they go along. Writing up scripts for all the extras would take way too much time, especially in a crowded setting. I would figure they'd tell everyone to converse naturally about anything they wanted.

It would be kind of cool to know what people were talking about in episodes of Three's Company, though. Real time machine.
#4
Old 07-26-2006, 12:32 AM
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I clearly remember a phrase written by maybe Harlan Ellison or perhaps David Gerrold, not sure who, sorry. But he was an extra in some scene and he said that in that case the parties were saying "Natter, natter, natter" and replying "Grummish, grummish, grummish."

Hence why he sometimes used the phrase "Nattering and grummishing."

Just a small data point on the question. I'm sure others will have better, more comprehensive, answers.
#5
Old 07-26-2006, 12:35 AM
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A friend of mine was an extra in the movie Avalon. He was a waiter in the background at the country club. He was told to just pretend to be taking people's orders. So he said somthing along the lines of:

"We have a fine hashish today, sir"

"LSD for you, madam?"


His "customers" were elderly and he said the had no idea what he was talking about and thought he was just saying gibberish.
#6
Old 07-26-2006, 12:39 AM
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My experience with stagework suggests that there are three possible things extras are talking about:
  • Actual, in-character discussions or arguements, which are intended to look natural to the director.
  • Their personal lives, gossip, politics, pros and cons of potential and actual romantic partners, and how much better they could play this role (often a justified observation).
  • Vulgar jokes and comments intended to make the other person laugh.

Option number 3 seems to pop up more and more often as the run of a show goes on, because actors are getting bored with the play.
#7
Old 07-26-2006, 01:44 AM
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It also depends on the scene as well. Sometimes extras are just moving their mouths and not saying anything outloud so they can capture the main actor dialoge. They loop the background chatter in later.
#8
Old 07-26-2006, 01:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seven
It also depends on the scene as well. Sometimes extras are just moving their mouths and not saying anything outloud so they can capture the main actor dialoge. They loop the background chatter in later.
This is most likely in a filmed or taped setting, where getting the dialogue down is the only thing they sound people want to hear, and all necessary background noise can be edited in later. I was an extra in a dance club scene once, and to get ready, they played about 4 bars of a dance tune, then filtered everything out except a synth bass drum thump, to keep the whole room of a couple hundred dancers in sync. We all gyrated silently in the background while the dialogue scene was filmed.

In a large scene in a stage play where a crowd is to mimic individual conversations, actors will improv about anything, make up nonsense, or fall back on various standby words like "rhubarb", "watermelon", and/or "canteloupe", which are reputed to sound like naturally occuring conversation when a roomful of people say them all at once out of sync.
#9
Old 07-26-2006, 01:59 AM
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When my sister was an extra (back in the seventies) they were coached to say "peas and carrots, peas and carrots, peas and carrots" while trying to make ordinary body language movements.
#10
Old 07-26-2006, 02:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NinetyWt
When my sister was an extra (back in the seventies) they were coached to say "peas and carrots, peas and carrots, peas and carrots" while trying to make ordinary body language movements.
That's exactly what I heard from my mom. No idea how she would know that. She wasn't an actress, and didn't know anyone in the business that I was aware of.
#11
Old 07-26-2006, 03:23 AM
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A movie was filmed at a local school when I was in Vancouver. A few of my close friends were extras in it, since it was at their high school.

In some scenes, they were given a 'motivation' and told to go from there. They were fighting, or happy, or talking about homework. Some scenes were more involved. This particular movie involved a 'big game' at the end, where the athlete hero scores the winning touchdown. Obviously, they were told to cheer. One friend was a cheerleader (with the rest of the team) and they were actually performing a routine through the thing.

Other times, they weren't really told to do anything other than to not look at the principal actors, the dog, or the cameras.

For the record, it was Air Bud: Golden Receiver. I doubt it will launch any of their careers.
#12
Old 07-26-2006, 04:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NinetyWt
When my sister was an extra (back in the seventies) they were coached to say "peas and carrots, peas and carrots, peas and carrots" while trying to make ordinary body language movements.
Rhubarb is a well-known one.

Wikipedia says:

"It is or was common for a crowd of extras in acting to shout the word "rhubarb" repeatedly and out of step with each other, to cause the effect of general hubbub. As a result, the word "rhubarb" sometimes is used to mean "length of superfluous text in speaking or writing", or a general term to refer to irrelevant chatter by chorus or extra actors."
#13
Old 07-26-2006, 06:03 AM
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Interesting question. Nothing to add but to say I'd like to see many more responses here. I know we have acting dopers and I really WOULD like to know what they were saying in the Regal Beagle.
#14
Old 07-26-2006, 06:14 AM
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I can't remember which show it was, but one episode had an older actor claiming that he created the "wallah." He then asked for all the other folks in the room to demonstrate it. Everyone just started saying, "Walla wallah wallah" and acting like they were really having a conversation with the other folks at their tables.

I also imagine that some of the extras are rehearsing their lines for another show.
#15
Old 07-26-2006, 06:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scotandrsn
This is most likely in a filmed or taped setting, where getting the dialogue down is the only thing they sound people want to hear, and all necessary background noise can be edited in later. I was an extra in a dance club scene once, and to get ready, they played about 4 bars of a dance tune, then filtered everything out except a synth bass drum thump, to keep the whole room of a couple hundred dancers in sync. We all gyrated silently in the background while the dialogue scene was filmed.
Whan i lived back in Australia, a scene from an Australian drama series was being shot at a local bar. The extras in the background were told to make their lips move and to appear as if they were talking, but to make no sound at all.

Not only that, but the scene called for a couple of extras to be walking across the room at various points, and those people were asked to take their shoes off and walk in their socks/stockings so that they wouldn't make distracting noises.
#16
Old 07-26-2006, 07:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveOnAPlane
I clearly remember a phrase written by maybe Harlan Ellison or perhaps David Gerrold, not sure who, sorry. But he was an extra in some scene and he said that in that case the parties were saying "Natter, natter, natter" and replying "Grummish, grummish, grummish."

Hence why he sometimes used the phrase "Nattering and grummishing."
That was David Gerrold, recounted in his book on the making of the ST ep "The Trouble With Tribbles."
#17
Old 07-26-2006, 07:20 AM
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Michael Winterbottom talking about his movie Wonderland:

What normally happens in a film is that you'll shoot an 11pm pub scene at 11am in the morning. The pub will be empty and you'll fill it with extras saying 'rhubarb' to each other. And then you'll edit out all the 'rhubarbs' and put over talking tracks, which feel false. Instead, we decided to film the scene in the pub at 11pm when it's full of people who are drunk and are preparing to go home.
#18
Old 07-26-2006, 07:29 AM
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I've been an extra in a number of films, and I also went to the "nadder nadder gromish gromish" school of acting (pronunciations may differ from coast to coast).
#19
Old 07-26-2006, 07:42 AM
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I've been an extra several times - if it was with people I knew, we'd spend the time trying to crack each other up by various means, such as surreptitiously revealing rude body parts at inappropriate times. Or once during a picnic scene, by trying to stuff as much food into our mouths as possible, then turning our heads to show our buddies what we'd done. If it was strangers, we'd just go "wibble wibble wibble" and smile and nod.

I was also in an ad where there was no soundtrack, but I had to look like an angry executive in the boardroom, so I was waving a piece of paper and shouting "I'm a doctor and I want my sausages!" I was on screen in the final cut for about half a second.
#20
Old 07-26-2006, 08:03 AM
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I've been a movie extra.

For long shots, street scenes with people passing by and the like, we'd generally be talking about anything: the weather, sports, you name it.

Closer shots might be the same, but they might also require silence from us extras while the principals had dialogue. So we'd talk to each other silently--mouth moving as if we were actually speaking words, but not using the voice. Try saying something like, "Did you see the Patriots game last Sunday? Brady threw some great passes" without using your voice to get an idea of what we were doing.

In one scene, another extra and I were in a bar. We were supposed to be quietly laughing and talking with a principal actor, who would spot his friend across the room, say goodbye to us, and go to join his friend. Up to that point, there would be background bar noise; after the two principals met, their dialogue would take over.

But we two extras keyed in on the "laughing" part of the director's instruction, and told jokes to each other, very quietly. Problem was, we got the principal laughing so hard, the shoot had to be delayed a few minutes while he recomposed himself. After that, the director told us to concentrate on sports and weather while smiling a lot. We did, and the scene still worked.
#21
Old 07-26-2006, 12:18 PM
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It varies on what is needed for the scene. In some plays I have been in / worked on, they need actual crowd chatter to fill in the scene and then you have to make up converstaion that would go along with the scene. For example, if you need an excited crowd for a play, it is likely the audience can hear some of the lines being spoken out of the crowd, so you have to make up things like "here he comes!" or "isn't this exciting" or whatever. In those cases you have to stay 'in the scene' so to speak.

In other cases, you are just background and it doesn't matter what you say. That's when things like jokes and commenting on the other actors happens. More likely in a tv show or movie since the crowd noise will be added later anyway, but we did it in play sometimes too. There is a joke about this in the movie "Waiting for Guffman" a spoof of community theater where you can hear all the actors on stage saying "hubbub" to each other.

It's kind of like talking to a dog or a baby, it doesn't matter what you say, it's how you say it. So you can have a lovely romantic chat whilst sitting in a guy's lap in the background of a park and be making horrible comments about the audience or the show itself while making smoochy faces at each other (this is a situation I had anyway.)
#22
Old 07-26-2006, 12:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monty
I can't remember which show it was, but one episode had an older actor claiming that he created the "wallah." He then asked for all the other folks in the room to demonstrate it. Everyone just started saying, "Walla wallah wallah" and acting like they were really having a conversation with the other folks at their tables.

I also imagine that some of the extras are rehearsing their lines for another show.
"Memories of Me". Billy Crystal's father is a career extra, and is dying. At one point in the film, they are having a drink in an establishment that caters to the hollywood extras when this scene takes place.
#23
Old 07-26-2006, 01:10 PM
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I have worked as an extra in several movies. (The word "extra", by the way, seems to be dying out and is being replaced by "background people".) The other extras and I talked about anything we wished as long as we didn't talk too loudly. In "Syriana" I was sitting at a table smoking a (fake) cigarette and the other extra at the table and I spent the time talking about the difficulty of giving up smoking and critiquing the actors. In "Contact" another extra and I were in the background while Mattew McConnaghy was kissing Jodie Foster in the foreground. Matthew wasn't getting it right and the directors shot the scene several times. The other extra and I spent the time discussing why McConnaghy was having so much trouble getting it right, whether he was doing it on purpose, and whether one of us should volunteer to show him how do do it. If you like movies and think you would enjoy learning something about how they are made, I strongely urge you to get a job as an extra if you have a chance.






s
#24
Old 07-26-2006, 01:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Velma
There is a joke about this in the movie "Waiting for Guffman" a spoof of community theater where you can hear all the actors on stage saying "hubbub" to each other.
Fred Willard's face in that scene absolutely kills me.
#25
Old 07-26-2006, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Ronald C. Semone
If you like movies and think you would enjoy learning something about how they are made, I strongely urge you to get a job as an extra if you have a chance.
And how does one do that? How would I know if there were a movie even being made in my area?
#26
Old 07-26-2006, 02:15 PM
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In choir we were told that if we forgot the words we should just mouth "watermelon". It does provide a nice variety of mouth positions which may look like an exciting conversation.
#27
Old 07-26-2006, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by levdrakon
And how does one do that? How would I know if there were a movie even being made in my area?
Here ya go, good luck!
#28
Old 07-26-2006, 02:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gigi
In choir we were told that if we forgot the words we should just mouth "watermelon". It does provide a nice variety of mouth positions which may look like an exciting conversation.
That's been my experience too. "Watermelon, watermelon, watermelon . . ."
#29
Old 07-26-2006, 03:44 PM
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"Brussels sprouts, Brussels sprouts, Brussels sprouts."
#30
Old 07-26-2006, 05:07 PM
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(Homer's voice) mmmmm......Watermelon and brussels sprouts! mmmm....
#31
Old 07-26-2006, 05:17 PM
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"Soda water bottle, soda water bottle..."
#32
Old 07-26-2006, 05:54 PM
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Back in the days of silent movies, there was no actual dialog to say, so leads as well as extras could say whatever they liked during filming as long as the lip movements looked realistic. Skilled lipreaders in the audience could then amuse themselves figuring out what the actors were really talking about. I've heard there's a scene in Greed in which a man is making passionate advances to a woman, while actually telling her he's being evicted for nonpayment of rent.
#33
Old 07-26-2006, 11:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troy McClure SF
"Soda water bottle, soda water bottle..."
I was taught, "Cabbages and rutabegas, cabbages and rutabegas..." I always thought it would be really cool if all the extras said it in unison. And by cool, I mean frightening.
#34
Old 07-27-2006, 06:55 PM
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I thought it was

Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich

#35
Old 07-27-2006, 09:40 PM
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"Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, four Pepsi, chip..."
#36
Old 07-28-2006, 02:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ryobserver
Back in the days of silent movies, there was no actual dialog to say, so leads as well as extras could say whatever they liked during filming as long as the lip movements looked realistic. Skilled lipreaders in the audience could then amuse themselves figuring out what the actors were really talking about. I've heard there's a scene in Greed in which a man is making passionate advances to a woman, while actually telling her he's being evicted for nonpayment of rent.
Some years ago I saw a documentary about silent films that brought up this very point. It showed a close-up of an actor in a western (Tom Mix, I think) smiling and saying -- according to the title card -- "Hi ya, pardner!" You didn't need to be much of a lipreader to recognize it was actually, "You old son of a bitch."
#37
Old 07-28-2006, 03:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjimm
I was also in an ad where there was no soundtrack, but I had to look like an angry executive in the boardroom, so I was waving a piece of paper and shouting "I'm a doctor and I want my sausages!"
I've just been replaying the opening credits of The Prisoner in my head... Patrick McGoohan stomps down the underground corridor to the relentless drumbeat, flings open the double doors as the thunderclap sounds, slams his resignation down on his boss's desk (breaking one of the saucers under the teacup), and the words that we've wondered about all of these years are finally revealed:

SPOILER:
I'm a doctor and I want my sausages!

It explains so much about the series: in the end, it's just the quest of one highly-educated man for his meat by-products. The secret is finally revealed!
#38
Old 07-28-2006, 03:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjimm
I was also in an ad where there was no soundtrack, but I had to look like an angry executive in the boardroom, so I was waving a piece of paper and shouting "I'm a doctor and I want my sausages!" I was on screen in the final cut for about half a second.
This is right up there with discovering what "Rosebud" meant!
I shall be using this phrase constantly from now on.
#39
Old 07-28-2006, 10:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by levdrakon
And how does one do that? How would I know if there were a movie even being made in my area?
Levdragon You might google for a casting bureau [or several bureaux, if you're serious] in your area.
I was an extra at http://hollands-glorie.nl/en/index.shtml.

I had a wonderful time.
I've never laughed as much in my life.
After some time, you get to know the other extra's and if you have a fun team, it's a great time to spend the day.
You do get to meet known actors.
And you do 'act' a bit yourself.

However: The chances of being 'discovered' by the director are slim.
I know one extra who made it as a B actor.

If you go with the attitude of: "I'm just background', you'll be allright.
Longgggggggg days.
Lowwww pays.
But: Fun.
I've played a hooker, a judge, a bag-lady, a scientist, a regular at a bar [this was a series and soooo funny] and various other occupations.


Oh yeah: NEVER look at the camera.
And about talking: We talked about anything, really. But SOFTLY.
Since a scene often has to be played over and over again, we - as extra's - just blabbered away.
Later on, when the director had all the material, we sometimes had to make 'real' background noises.

Go for it.
#40
Old 07-28-2006, 11:31 AM
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If you ever happen to be an extra in a Woody Allen film, if you're anywhere near the camera, make sure you say loudly "These pretzels are making me thirsty!"
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