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Interview

Extra and special effects wiz Dan Smiczek – Page 2

Dan Smiczek talks about some pitfalls for extras...

READERSVOICE.COM: Have you ever stuffed up a scene or seen an extra do something the director didn’t like, and what happened?
DAN SMICZEK: Oh yeah….very common experience.
I managed to stuff up my second extra experience on none other than The X-Files set. I got cast as one of many LA County Sheriff Deputies. Through the magic of being in the right place at the right time I managed to get featured in a shot with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in a close-up. A very rare opportunity that I never really was able to reproduce. Well due to inexperience…..the fact it was probably again about 4am……and the camera is only a few feet away…..in my delirium it seemed like a really good idea to look straight into the camera. That is pretty much the ultimate bad thing to do. It’s like the Sun…you can’t look away.
To make matters even worse, that take was the one they were going to use. I was going to say something because nobody seemed to notice…..but the words were just not going to come out. In the episode the very last second of the shot you can see me start to look at the camera.

To make matters worse the creator of the series Chris Carter just happened to be directing the episode….I’m sure he was cursing me in an editing bay somewhere.
They just released the episode on DVD with audio commentary….haven’t had the heart to check it out. I have high hopes that my stuff up doesn’t get mentioned!!!
Another notable stuff up was on the set of a TV pilot for a show about the LA Sheriff department. I was playing a bomb technician sifting through the debris of a building. I managed to get featured in opening the shot by picking up a handful of debris/ash and taking it over to be sifted…..the first take I may have been a little too conscious about being featured. The director – “CUT! umm…..ok….it’s not the Holy Grail you’re carrying….do it more naturally.”
RV: What sort of talents do you need to be an extra, or is it something simple?
DS: Really the biggest thing by far is just to pay attention and follow directions. You would be surprised how difficult it is for some people. If you are on the ball and easy to work with, a lot more opportunities open up for you. Every second you are on a set large amounts of money are being spent. They want to get things done fast fast fast.

RV: What are the unwritten rules that extras have to learn?
DS: The biggest rule of them all is to never look at the camera! Easier said than done…. The other big one is not to talk to the actors unless they talk to you. They get bothered the rest of their lives with people coming up to them. When they are at work they get the space they need.
RV: Have any of your scenes ended up on the cutting room floor and has this ticked you off? Which ones?
DS: Actually I really can’t think of anything at the moment. Most of the time it’s always going to be a mystery if you are going to be seen or not depending on what lens they are using in the camera and what kind of movement is going to be going on in the shot.
RV: Are there “regular” extras that you saw all the time on different sets?
DS: Absolutely. It would get to the point where if I went to a set I would know at least a few people from previous shoots.

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