Our Deputy Head Concierge, Paul O’Pray, has a secret, or he did have until a colleague spotted him in Silent Witness! Yes, he has a second career as a TV and film extra and we caught up with him to find out more about his alter ego as Paul the Actor.
How did you fall into working as an extra? When did it start?
I became a film extra in early 2012. I decided I’d like to try something different from the day job and I had read an article about film extras. So, I did a bit of research and found an agency that was looking for people to become film extras. I registered, along with providing photographs and my measurements and fortunately, they accepted me. Within six weeks of registering, I won my first film job, a two-night shoot at Wembley stadium in a film called Closed Circuit Starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall. It was a big production with more than 500 extras shooting scenes. I was rather awestruck, and after our scenes “wrapped”, I was hooked.
How do you find out about new roles?
I am now registered with three background artist agencies and work usually comes in via emails and texts, requesting your availability. Short notice work can come in via a phone call.
How do they cast? What do they look for?
Casting directors look for ordinary people to fill background roles in TV, film and TV commercials. It depends on the production, they may require people with tattoos, facial hair, even with limbs missing.
What do you like about what you do?
It is totally different from what I have ever done before. You are entering a world of make-believe: you become someone else. The hours can be long and there are periods of inactivity as they film scenes. The experience is very empowering. I love it!
How difficult is it to combine with your job as a top London concierge?
I don’t have great availability unfortunately because I have a full-time job as a hotel Concierge. If work comes in when I am off, I will do it. But I am planning for the day I retire and then I will have great availability.
How invested do you have to be to make a success out of being an extra?
Having great availability helps. You need to be passionate about this kind of work, as it involves very early starts. Sometimes I leave home at 3am to get to a film set – you must always be on time, it’s a stipulation of the terms and conditions. I have recently updated my headshot photos using a professional photographer, to update my profiles. It is extremely important to your chances of securing work that your profiles are up to date. I have also learned the art of miming, as in the crowd scenes we are not allowed to talk, just simply mime conversations.
What’s your most famous TV and film moment?
I think I will always remember my very first film job. Walking on the set for the first time after our briefings from the assistant director, we rehearse the scenes a few times before we go for that “take”. We may film the same scene several times. The adrenaline starts to run, it’s just sheer excitement. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the great Eddie Redmayne in Theory of Everything. Sharing scenes with him was just thrilling. Of course, he won an Oscar for Best Actor! I also enjoyed working on The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with Lily James. This was a period drama set in 1946. I had to go to a costumier in Islington for a fitting for 1940s clothing. Even the watch I had to wear was from that period. My secret came out though two years ago when I featured in an episode of Silent Witness, the long-running BBC series. One of my colleagues spotted me in scenes with Emilia Fox.
Do you have any tips for anyone wanting to break into this career you’re developing!
You must want to do this work. Once you get accepted for a job you must turn up, on time and be ready to do what the director wants. There are many agencies you can register with. My agencies require no signing up fee, they take a booking fee off your first job and they also deduct their agency fee off your work fee. Yes, you do get paid for this work, and in my experience now, the catering is first class. I am serious about this work and I watch and listen, learning new skills on each job. You get to act! It’s a bit of a dream job, there is something quite magical about being on a film set working with famous actors.
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