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Extra and special effects wiz Dan Smiczek – Page 3

Dan Smiczek talks about making movies on location...

READERSVOICE.COM: What’s your daily routine when you go to work on a set?

DAN SMICZEK: Since the set can be anywhere it’s really necessary to have a car. There were some people I met that used the bus, but it’s a real pain.

Being late is never an option so everyone tends to show up at least a half hour early. If it’s in the morning they usually have food of some kind or you sometimes can go to the catering truck with the rest of the crew.

Once everyone is assembled they hand out all the vouchers where you record your hours etc…..and then head off to wardrobe. In general you have to bring your own wardrobe choices unless you are going the uniform route. After that you spend the rest of the day sitting around and talking to people in a holding area.

Assistants eventually show up to take you to the set and tell you what to do. That’s pretty much it! During the day odds are good there will be another meal break and a lot more sitting around and talking to other extras.

RV: What places have you gone to work on movies or tv shows?

DS: The locations can be all over the place. Sitcoms are always at one of the major studios.

I spent a lot of time at Warner Brothers in Burbank. Another one I went to a lot was Sony which is in Culver City.

Most of the dramas have smaller studios all over the LA area where they are the only production there. Actually Rhythm & Hues (where Dan works in special effects-ed) is right next door to where they film The District. Then there are location shoots which literally can be ANYWHERE.

I’ve even been in a room where they developed the SR-71 spyplane at a Lockheed facility just North of LA.

RV: Does being an extra pay well?

DS: I can answer that with a big no. It’s pretty much minimum wage. You do get into double time, bumps for certain things like smoke and hazardous conditions, etc……but even a 16 hour day your take home after taxes might be a 100 bucks. But if you are a Union (SAG) extra then you can make significantly more.

The problem is that there are not nearly as many Union extra jobs as there are Union extras. Basically any production has to have a certain number of Union extras before they hire Non-Union ones. But it’s not nearly enough for consistent work unless you have a really good look.

Non-Union you have a lot of opportunities but the pay is not so good. There are definitely dedicated extras where most of their income comes from working as much as possible.

RV: You’ve studied film, and I was wondering what sort of things you’ve learned working on sets, specifically, that you didn’t learn at film school?

DS: I think that’s the age old answer of learning through experience as opposed to a classroom. You can never fully be prepared for anything until you get in the mix of it all. The time I spent working and watching was invaluable compared to what you learn in a classroom. It’s an environment that just can’t be described.

RV: Is there anyone you’d particularly like to work on a film with and why?

DS: At the time it was pretty huge for me to work on the sets of shows that I actually watched. Being on the set of The X-Files completely blew my mind.

Another big one was working on the set of Jurassic Park 3 and seeing Sam Neil. Hah! And the childhood geek in me got a kick out of seeing David Hasselhoff when he guested on an episode of The West Wing. Knight Rider taught my generation “One man can make a difference…” LOL!