My Brush with the Big Screen: Being an Extra on Equity

When I was in the fourth grade something so truly bizarre happened, I actually would be sure I imagined it if there were not other witnesses.

I grew up in a super quiet suburb outside Philadelphia. Hours could go by without a car passing. But one morning in 4th grade I woke up to see a bunch of people and cameras directly in front of my house. I went outside to inquire and was told they were filming a Pepsi commercial. Why? Because my front yard had a good hill for skateboarding.

The premise of the commercial was that an 11-year-old girl bets her brother she can get a Pepsi before him (or something like that). Then there is some adventure to try to obtain it, involving said skateboard. This was a real commercial with real actors – a 4-year-old with a professional headshot and a sound guy who let me and my friends use our bikes to capture “bike sound.”

The fact that this happened in Huntingdon Valley, PA is still completely unexplainable and, despite exhaustive searching, I am quite sure it never aired.

That was my closest brush with Hollywood.

Sure, I have been on television. Mostly local TV where I play “myself,” or more accurately, play a possessed Martha Stewart-like caricature of myself.

Alas the big screen seemed far from my reality.

So it sounded like a pretty cool once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be an extra in my friend’s film.

I got to know Alysia Reiner before she became uber famous as “Fig” in “Orange is the New Black.” She contributed to my book as a “celebrity eco-mom” and we have been friends ever since. I was thrilled to learn that her new production film was shooting its first film in Philadelphia, a female-driven Wall Street story called “Equity.”

She was happy to let me be an extra, but warned me that it would be a long day’s work. I figured it would be a cool experience – and how bad could it be?

With "Equity" star and producer (and "Orange is the New Black" star) Alysia Reiner
With “Equity” star and producer (and “Orange is the New Black” star) Alysia Reiner

Turns out being in a film is really hard work – and being an extra is that much harder! Extras can spend hours perfecting their “pantomime” while the director makes sure the set is absolutely perfect – and that is before they even bring the real actors on to the set! Then once the real actors are ready to roll, there can be a dozen takes to just get ONE of the angles correct. Hurry up and wait because then everything starts over to shoot from several different perspectives. A 30-second scene can take HOURS.

I was fortunate enough to get amazing placement, seated between Alysia and leading actress Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad”) for a pivotal scene where Anna gives a killer monologue. It would be pretty hard to cut me out of that scene, so expect some possibly frightening close-ups of me sweating under the bright lights when this thing hits the big screen.

With Anna Gunn, star of Equity and "Breaking Bad"
With Anna Gunn, star of “Equity” and “Breaking Bad”

Meanwhile, follow the amazing work Broad Street Pictures is doing bringing women-driven, produced, and directed films to Hollywood…and Philly!

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