“Strictly Background” takes us inside the life of a movie extra by following around ten background actors as they engage in their daily hustle to get onto a movie/television set and furthermore get as close to the camera as they can for that shot of grabbing a little slice of fame. It’s a living.
The first half of the film is pretty light and funny as we get acquainted with the ten actors. Through interviews they tell stories and paint a fairly upbeat picture of background acting life. We also get to see them work their stuff out on the field as they hustle up that next gig. One major interesting thing this doc does is that it will show clips of films that these people have been in, knocking out all of the color in the picture, except for the background actor, so you can spot them. Sometimes they’re front and center right next to the leading actor and sometimes they’re way off in the back, but the filmmaker has done an amazing job at making sure that they’re not missed no matter how fleeting the screen time. That did a lot to make me appreciate these people more. Seeing where some of them wind up on screen, you can start to understand why they go through the hastle they do for such little pay.
But while this first half stands as shining encouragement for people considering extra work to get out there and do it, most of the remaining half focuses on the downside. We witness rejection and hear about long gaps in employment. The mood is brought down significantly as the reality of bills and rent and self-doubt throw a monkey wrench into the works. At the beginning of the film we’re told that most people who start extra work don’t stick with it for very long. Now we start to see why. It takes a lot of work to be an extra and it also takes a lot of determination and patience.
“Strictly Background” is a wealth of information for those looking to get into background acting. It’s also an immensely entertaining, charming movie. I really had a great time watching this film. Highly recommended.