Lights. Camera. Extras.

Making a city come to life is always a challenge. Finding the right mix of people to occupy the streets, a shopping center, or perhaps a lobby scene is harder than you think. Extras aren’t just part of the background. They’re the life of the scene, the part that makes the world seem real. Imagine a screaming crowd running from danger. The way they scream and run can really impact the movie.

In the early days of film, scenes were done in the desired location. They’d be run on a screen behind the movie stars in a studio. The same film could be used over and over. While it saved money, it lacked realism. Having real people walking around gives the movie the feel of a real place. The audience is pulled into the story. To have your star standing in the middle of a crowd, you need a crowd. This is where movie extras help create the authenticity that elevates a movie from a mere story to an impact experience.

In order for the producers to control a film situation, they must control all parts of it. The people walking around on the street might not seem important, but if they’re not behaving in a natural manner, the scene no longer feels real. The millions of extras that work in movies, actors or actresses not yet famous, breath life into the world the film maker is creating. Today’s audience demands that the world they travel to be as real as the one they live in everyday. Even if every other part of  it is fake, they want to see real people walking around.

Sometimes a film maker will use a filmed location with a few extras in front. Like if the stars are on stage at a concert, or in a big arena. But they still need warm bodies in the front rows dancing and cheering. The people in front need to look like they belong there. If they’re dressed in a manner that’s out of place or out of fashion, they’ll suddenly jump from the background and steal the scene. They need to remain in the background. More than props, but less than characters, important in their own way. There basically needs to be a proper balance between the two.

Movie goers today demand to be transported to another place. They want to submerge themselves into the world before them. Feel the fear, the pain, or joy of the characters. Whether it’s a galaxy far away, a famous city, or world only dreamed of, it must feel real. Movie extras bring to life the places we visit through the magic of cinema. They help flesh out a world that would otherwise be flat and less believable. Without them, movies would be just stories, they make them an experience.

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