Short Story: The Extra

“Action!” cries the director as the cameras stare at the lead actors. The handsome lead of the film begins reciting his lines by memory while I pretend to have a conversation with someone I just met. The bar set that we are all standing on is convincing enough, but no matter how accurate the set looks the cameras staring at us are a reminder that none of this is real. The lead actor’s sidekick recites a joke. I immediately pretend to laugh in the background to punctuate a joke that I didn’t hear. A third character passes by my table carrying a few beers, which in reality is just tea put in beer bottles. The main three actors sit center stage drinking away and going through the flow of the scene, reciting their lines with perfect diction and timing.

“I do miss my dad sometimes,” says the lead actor. The scene has now taken a sad turn. The audience will feel sympathy with the lead actor when they remember their own losses. I see another extra walking by me, so I stand up and hug him, miming that we are old friends seeing each other for the first time in a while. The extra has a moment of confusion but quickly catches on and plays along. The fellow extra sits down at the table with the third extra and me so we now mirror the three actors with actual lines in this scene.

While the main three actors have a melancholy air as the scene dictates, the three of us are miming a conversation to contrast the emotions of the main cast.

“Well, that’s just the way life is sometimes,” says the sidekick, taking a swig of tea. I lean back in my wooden chair and take a drink myself.

“Cut!” Cries the director stepping down from his chair. The two Extras I was just having a nice fake conversation with instantly go to their phones, treating me like the stranger that I am. The director showers the three principal actors with praise and jokes while giving them tips on how to make the scene better, as well as tips to just being better actors. I wait my turn to come, when the director tells me how great my artistic choices were, and even though I have a nonspeaking role, I contribute so much to the project. Of course, that praise never comes. To them, a mannequin could play me, and they wouldn’t know the difference, but the truth is this production wouldn’t be the same without me, even if I’m the only one who thinks so. The director sits back in his chair, the actors return to their first marks, and I’m ready to make this scene great even if no one notices.

“Action!” cries the director as the cameras stare at the lead actors.

– Matthew Brosche

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