10 Questions with Actress Helena Chavez
How did you get started as a movie extra, and what inspired you to pursue this career path?
Years ago, I did a bit on a Japanese TV show almost as a dare, I never really thought much about the entertainment/film business again. After I retired from law enforcement and moved to Savannah, I was looking for something different to do. I saw several productions around town and applied.
Can you share some of the most exciting or memorable moments from your time working on film sets?
Watching how the proverbial “sausage is made” is always my favorite; to see the amount of work that goes into even the most innocuous scene. When some of the actors have taken time to chat for a minute or even say a simple thanks is always a highlight. Meeting Clint Eastwood was an honor!
What are the biggest challenges you face as a movie extra, and how do you overcome them?
Scheduling and hours. Once you commit, you are pretty much there until they wrap. That could mean a very long day in crazy conditions. We were on set one night last winter (it got down to 28 degrees) in a state park in flimsy costumes, no heat until 3 am.
In your opinion, how has the role of movie extras evolved in the film industry over the years?
I feel that extras are being viewed as more than just ketchup bottles. Some of that has to do with extras themselves doing what they can to improve their craft and reputation.
Are there any behind-the-scenes secrets or interesting anecdotes you can share about working on a film or TV show?
You get to see a lot of it, the good, bad and ugly. A good extra never talks ;)
What advice do you have for aspiring movie extras looking to break into the industry?
Be flexible and reliable. Know your role and be self-sufficient. Most of all, maintain a positive attitude.
Have you ever had the opportunity to work with well-known actors or directors, and what was that experience like?
Yes, many. It’s great! You just have to remember that you are all there to do a job so you have to keep any “fan girl” reactions in check. Don’t feel slighted or take it personally if they don’t acknowledge you, they’re working!
How do you stay prepared for different types of roles or scenes as a movie extra, from background characters to featured extras?
Keep in touch with local groups and casting directors, have good photos that show how you look the day you apply. Extras come in all shapes and sizes so don’t stress about your physical appearance. Just be adaptable.
Can you discuss any unusual or unexpected roles you've played as an extra, and how you approached them?
I can’t discuss some of the roles as they are still in production but it’s always an honor to be singled out by a director to do something specific.
What impact has your work as a movie extra had on your life outside of the film industry, and what do you hope to achieve in your career moving forward?
I have met some wonderful people that I consider friends. I’d like to continue to pursue working in film in various roles. I have been taking acting classes and am working on getting an agent.