FRIDAY, NOV. 11 – From where I’m standing on the 10th tee, three rolling fairways stretch away between tall oaks and pines, green and inviting. It is mid-morning and the air is crisp and warming pleasantly, and the sky is cloudless.
Below the teebox are 11 golf carts bristling with equipment. On the tee itself, twenty feet away, PGA Tour pros Chris DiMarco and David Toms are chatting with an L.A. actor named Matt Greisser. Arrayed around them are large reflective screens, cameras, a producer, director, and dozens of crew members wearing toolbelts and headsets and armed with pliers, tape, rope, boards, hammers and knives to ensure that commonplace reality is improved upon in every possible way.
In other words, we are on location. We are shooting a FootJoy commercial at the Druid Hills Country Club, a leafy bastion of privilege just west of downtown Atlanta.
I am standing outside a yellow nylon rope strung between thin green stakes. Around me are a dozen other people, men and women, young and middle-aged, all of us doing the same thing: nothing.
We are extras, hired to form what looks like a gallery at a Tour event. But this is a break and thus we wait while producer, director, first assistant director, Greisser and golfers confer.
This is not unusual. In approximately three hours, no more than 12 or 15 minutes of tape will be shot. The intervals are filled with conferences, moving props, correcting the lighting, waiting for a school bus to pass on the road below, and so on.
The waiting began at 6 a.m. when we were shuttled to the club from the Fernbank Museum parking lot across the street and sequestered in a room in a far corner of the clubhouse.
The bacon and eggs we smelled as we entered the club were for the principal actors and crew. Extras got coffee, ice water and cold Krispy Kremes. We did crossword puzzles, read, chatted or, in the case of one woman, studied scripts. It was dark when we arrived, then twilight, and it wasn’t until sunlight poured through the windows that we were led outside.
DiMarco and Toms arrived a few minutes later. DiMarco wore an orange shirt and brown slacks. Toms chose a light-blue shirt and black slacks. Both wore new black FootJoy shoes with a seam down the middle and white FootJoy golf gloves.
They were taking direction from the director, a thin, sandy-haired man with a hawk nose. But it was the first assistant director, plump, Slavic features, Florida tan and a Chicago accent, who called the signals.
"OK," he’d say when everyone was in position, "we’re rolling." "Rolling!" comes a shout from a golf cart where several people with computers and monitors watch the video feed.
At "Background!" extras walked toward assigned spots in the gallery and at "Action!" Greisser, in hip-hop shorts, checkered sport shirt, a blue tie that didn’t quite reach his sternum and blue sportcoat, began his role as SignBoy.
"Your 8:40 pairing…from Orlando, Florida … Chris DiMarco…."
The gallery applauds politely. DiMarco steps up to a ball on a tee.
Signboy: "Chris is wearing the new FootJoy G2 shoe!"
DiMarco frowns, glances at Greiser, then addresses the ball again.
Signboy: "Chris is also wearing the new FootJoy StaySoft glove!" DiMarco frowns, mutters, turns back to the ball.
Signboy, giggling: "His mother calls him ‘Spanky!’"
DiMarco grimaces, hits the ball, topping it brutally.
Toms: "How to spank it, ‘Spanky.’"
Variations are repeated dozens of times over the next couple of hours, including repeated takes where SignBoy knocks over a table holding a glass trophy and bowls of flowers. After each take, crew members stoically set the table back up, gather the vase and flowers and re-arrange them on the table.
Other than applauding and looking attentive, the extras have nothing to do. And aside from a hello from Toms, sunscreen from a makeup girl and water from another crew member, we are ignored.
It’s not glamorous and in many ways it’s not even interesting, and yet every year there are plenty of extras.
As a fledgling actor last year, I was an extra for two days, and happily added FootJoy to my resume. I also noticed that while Greiser clowns around, even between takes, he is very professional on-camera and never muffs a line.
Another appeal is that it’s a union commercial. Where a non-union job may pay $125 or less, a Screen Actors Guild extra gets around $500. If you’ve got nothing better to do, $500 – less 20 percent to your agent – will buy a lot of ice cream.
There is also the "bump," an almost mythical experience where an extra is easily recognizable in the final product. Last year, an actor said he was recognized in a FootJoy commercial and got a bump from $500 to $8,000.
Finally, there’s always the chance you’ll be discovered, like the geek in the Verizon commercials, and your fortune will be assured.
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