Meet the fishermen with an unusual sideline – appearing as extras in blockbuster films (From Thisisdorset)
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Meet the fishermen with an unusual sideline – appearing as extras in blockbuster films
It’s all glamour in the film industry isn’t it? Wall-to-wall red carpet premieres and paparazzi, ever-flowing champagne, designer clothes, hysterical fans and a gilded bubble to isolate you from the travails of everyday life.
Well, yes, for the favoured few it is – but for many people in that most alluring of businesses, it’s a very different story.
“Two of our lads were unloading three tonnes of crabs on the harbourside at 4am and then went straight up to Pinewood for a day’s filming,” laughed bearded seadog Ivor Charles, the most senior member of Weymouth’s film fraternity.
“Mind you, they treat you very well and the food is lovely. There’s the producer and their assistant, someone in charge of continuity and costumes, someone to look after you. Helena Bonham Carter has been in two of the films I’ve been involved in – I’m sure she’s following me around…”
Ivor and 11 other Weymouth fishermen including George Armstrong, Kevin Heart, Kevin Nurrish, Kelvin Moore and Martin Hadley are on the books of Mad Dog Casting Agency, one of the UK’s leading providers of extras to the film industry. The men are marshalled by effervescent Russian Svetlana Savrasova and have so far appeared in several films including Johnny Depp’s vampire comedy Dark Shadows and Snow White and the Huntsman which starred Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth.
Ivor has also appeared in The Boat That Rocked, Titanic Case Closed, da Vinci’s Demons and the supermarket-based comedy Trollied, and the whole crew recently spent time at Pinewood Studios in London filming for Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Cinderella, which is due for release next year.
The links with the world of film were forged several years ago when Svetlana was looking for a man to photograph who looked like Urfin Juice, the hero of the Russian folktales she grew up with. That man was Ivor, well known around Weymouth for his craggy, whiskered features which tourists beg to photograph (he lets them, as long as they give a donation to the RNLI in return).
Impressed by his weather-beaten looks, Svetlana encouraged him to sign up with Mad Dog Casting, which he duly did. A few months later she received a call from the agency’s director Kate Mclaughlin asking if there were any more fishermen available for a big film she was working on.
The film was Dark Shadows, much of which was set around a harbourside fish canning factory.
“They needed people who knew all about fishing, so they had come to the right place,” said Svetlana.
“Whatever they want, we will get for them. We are just there to do a job, and we do it very well. We are asked to be there at 6am, so we are there at 5.45am.
“You can’t have an ego if you are an extra. It is a haphazard business and you can spend hours filming several takes for a piece of film that runs for a few seconds – and then they don’t use it at all.”
Then there are the vagaries of life in film. At one point in Dark Shadow the casting agent called Svetlana to ask if her men could fillet fish. When they got there they found a net jammed full of thousands of gleaming fish – all made of plastic. The film crew did, however, ask Ivor and the men if they could spot any discrepancies between the filmset harbour and a real wharfside.
The one rule that the extras must abide by is not to talk to the stars.
“They are there and you see them but you are not allowed to approach them or look them in the eye,” said Ivor.
“You just do what you are supposed to do and that’s it. The stars are there to do their job, we are there to do ours. They even have a double for rehearsals. With Dark Shadows, Johnny Depp’s double looked so like him that the only way you could tell the double from the real one was that the real one had an umbrella held over him when it rained.”
Svetlana continued: “You have seen the Ricky Gervais programme Extras and the way people treat the stars different to how they treat the other people? I thought that was made up at first – until I started in this business.
“The only time I saw anything different was when we were at Snow White and I was looking out for my extras and this man came up and said ‘hello, how are you?’ and I just said ‘hello, fine thanks’ and kept on looking over his head for the others. I didn’t have a clue who he was.
“But when he walked off all these people came rushing up and were asking what he said and who was I and what was he like. I didn’t have a clue who he was until someone told me that he was Chris Hemsworth, the star of the film. It was all very strange.”
Svetlana and her fishermen love their time as extras but they don’t let it detract from the more important business of everyday life.
“I think that if you have no job and just spend all day waiting to be called for work as an extra, it would destroy you,” she said.
“But for us it’s a lovely opportunity to break up the routine of everyday life, it’s like a day off work for us. We work as the extras for the film industry but really, the films add that bit extra to our lives. It’s our chance to touch the magic of the movies.”
This article appears in this weekend's Seven Days magazine, see more at bournemouthecho.co.uk/sevendays
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