Monday, October 18, 2010

Tripp Stryker on how sexy extras can save a movie

The Bitter Script Reader has taken an abrupt vacation. In his place is the Roger Mudd to his Walter Cronkite: Tripp Stryker.

Who's Roger Mudd?

Anyway guys, it's your old buddy Tripp, back again for what looks to be a couple of days or so. We've probably picked up a bunch of new readers since my last extended visit, so if you're asking "Who's Tripp Stryker" you should probably follow t
his link and catch up with my old guest posts.

I told Bitter I'd try to kick off the week with some relevant screenwriting advice. He suggested I talk about "setting" and I realized I had the perfect story.

Actors, producers and directors love to fuck actresses.

Wait! Stop drafting that feminist rant and hear me out first.

Anyway, something that must be avoided on long shoots is hook-ups with the principle cast. Sure, it sounds like a great idea to cast Jessica Biel in the hopes of getting some action, but it overlooks one salient fact: actresses be crazy. Hooking up with an actress rarely is a good idea in the long term. Both parties know this. Heck, when she was single, Jessica Alba
talked quite openly about enjoying one-night stands, saying:

"I could have a one-night stand, and I'm the kind of girl who looks over in the morning and is like, 'Do you really have to be here?' I don't need to cuddle and do all that stuff because I know what it is and I don't try to make it more."

Problem - not everyone is that smart during production. Many an actor, producer or director has learned the hard way that hooking up with leading lady during week one of a three-month shoot can cause problems when the relationship goes south. Between projects, stick it wherever you want - but on set, don't you dare point that thing at anyone above the line. That's the #1 Rule.

But that's why God gave us extras.

Producers are probably worse than directors when it comes to screwing around on the set. They don't really do anything except watch scenes be filmed, play with their Blackberries, and overcompensate for high school related insecurities by trying to make time with the popular girl. (i.e. the hottest girls on set.) They're also not very bright - after all, they just gave YOU money to make your movie, didn't they?

This means they're the ones most likely to break the #1 Rule. Your job as the writer is to reduce that temptation. The problem is, your job was also to write that 10-page chase where the leading lady has to flee from the killer in nothing but her underwear. That ain't exactly cold water for any producer. For that matter, you've got to worry about the worst of all occurances happening - that two of your actors hook up.

No good movie has ever resulted from an on-set affair, even when the parties in question was married: The Getaway with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger; Mortal Thoughts with Demi Moore and Bruce Willis; Proof of Life with Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan; Eyes Wide Shut with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman; Days of Thunder with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman; Far and Away with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman... Anyway, you get my point.

So how do you get around this? Write lots of scenes that require hot extras. Ever wonder why so many films have scenes in trendy bars, hot nightclubs, pool parties and strip clubs? Especially for scenes that have plot points that could happen anywhere? Yes, they provide a little bit of eye candy for the audience. But frankly, if you've paid your $14 to see Scarlett Johansson with her top off, somehow I doubt you'll be titillated by the out-of-focus stripper in the background.

No, those club girls, bikini girls and strippers are there just to be something shiny to keep the producer (and your star) busy during takes. If an extra starts making trouble after a hookup, you can fire her and no one notices. The film doesn't come to a screeching halt because you can't get another shot of the bikini girl under the waterfall.

In most cases it doesn't come to that. Both parties know what they're getting out of this, and in a few days, production moves on to a new set and civility is maintained. (Also because even though extras are wannabe actresses, they haven't yet hit the full-scale crazy that seems to come with getting your own trailer on set.) Even so, I've still seen moron line producers and UPMs manage to screw this up. On one film, this moron invited a group of extras from the club scene to come hang out the following week at the pool party scene. Not as extras, mind you. As "friends."

Yeah, I'm pretty sure he's producing local spots for WNBC in Kentucky now.

So the key to a successful film shoot? Lots and lots of scantily-clad and hot extras. Trust me, that atmosphere just might save your film from a disastrous on-set affair that disrupts the balance of power. Plus, there are days you'll be on set too - so why shouldn't you enjoy the view. Or the buffett table.

Now, Bitter wants me to run this thing at the end of every post. Not really sure why.

The views expressed by Mr. Stryker are Mr. Stryker's opinions and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Bitter Script Reader, Blogger, or any of affiliated sites linked on the side of the blog.

If you have an issue with Mr. Stryker, the Bitter Script Reader suggests contacting Tripp directly at his Twitter: @TrippStryker or his email address:


  1. Oh dear. and with this little secret are you suggesting we offend any usual Bitter rules to ensure the extras are not missed eg. references to DD cup sizes n character intros, camera direction (focus on side boob in background) or anything else?? Hate to lose the advantage by not maximising the *appearance* of said hot extras...;-)

  2. Ow..."stay gold ponyboy...stay gold..."

  3. I think Mr. and Mr. Smith is a fun, entertaining movie, but whenever I watch it I can't help thinking about how it ruined Jennifer Aniston's marriage.

    Should have been more hot extras.

  4. "Also because even though extras are wannabe actresses, they haven't yet hit the full-scale crazy that seems to come with getting your own trailer on set."

    --I have to disagree with that. The craziest people on set are inevitably extras, they're just easier to deal with than someone you actually need for your shots to work. On a recent set, this buck toothed, ear stain of a girl (who will quickly be swept under the Hollywood rug never to be mentioned again) caught the AD off guard. She kept saying that "when she made it to the top", she was going to have everyone who had ever overlooked her for a role or said she wasn't a brilliant actress killed, because "at the top, you can do whatever you want."

    The majority of extras will die slow irrelevant deaths solely because of the fact that they are so crazy no one wants to add any more of a false sense of entitlement to their personalities.

    So I would venture to say that the really crazy well known actors (I'll revert it to the ambiguous gender title because I've met plenty of bat shit guys on sets too) were once the moderately crazy extras who managed to sneak through the system without someone realizing they were fame seeking attention whores.

  5. " the really crazy well known actors... were once the moderately crazy extras who managed to sneak through the system without someone realizing they were fame seeking attention whores."

    WORD. Yeah, the reason why PA is the worst job on set is because aside from being the grunt, the one everyone yells at, the guy who might have to deal with asshole locals while maintaining his "lock-up" and the guy who gets the least respect for the most work... is that he's often a target for chatty extras.

    The PA who has to corral the extras likely wants to shoot himself at the end of the day. Extras come in two varieties - the type that James discusses, and the even crazier type who's made a career of being an extra. Don't engage any extras in conversation because they will. not. let. you. leave. Then you find yourself trying to politely break off conversation with a guy who played every third latex-clad demon on Buffy and is determined to tell you ALL about it.

    And don't be fooled by the attractive ones of either gender. James' assessment is pretty spot on.

    Well, I'll qualify that a bit. I can't speak for TV, where many of the same extras end up employed years on end (like the coffee shop cashier on Seinfeld, or Gunther on Friends.) But on a movie shoot - you've been warned.

  6. Wow -- what a ridiculous post. If this wasn't written in jest or a complete sarcasm-gasm, I'm wondering why it was allowed or full-blown desired to be released through this usually fairly classy and smart blog.

    ... Sad.

  7. I love everything about this post. More please.

  8. There is another gem in this advice.

    Biggest problem for screenwriter? access to producers.

    Clearly, the subtext is that if you want to have your script read, get a job as an extra, screw a bored producer and in that moment of post coital bliss, BAM, here's my script.

    Awesome advice. Why shell out all this money or engage in all this networking when you can get paid to be an extra. Brilliant.

  9. nmegan - There's a fatal flaw in that - attractiveness. Producers are shallow, shallow types when it comes to the looks department. Have you seen most screenwriters? Sure, every now and then you'll get a looker on par with a prime actor or actress. (Me for example.)

    The problem with screenwriters is that most of the dudes look like Kevin Smith and most of the chicks look like Kevin Connolly.

    So sure, sound advice, but the stats on it working are about the same as shoving your script in George Clooney's hands at the Farmer's Market.