UK production terms: A surprise in a hand basket

I was greeted with “You all right mate?” as I passed up the producers and director on set every morning. And after hearing it over and over I started to feel as if I wasn’t.
A good beginning to a great production got muddled quickly when terms used commonly in UK production didn’t translate into the U.S. exactly the same – mainly Fixer and Extra/Walk-ons. I was contacted via email by the UK production company’s Production Coordinator. Here is the first paragraph of her email: I am on the hunt for a production person for an upcoming shoot Oct/ Nov in Cleveland & Columbus Ohio. The scripts are still being written, however it’s generally help with location borrowing, extra’s and maybe one or two props. I felt like I did more than a couple props…

Now we come to hiring the “extras”. A term which I use for people in the background or slightly off screen without any dialogue. After a quick read through of the script breakdown which described actions without lines for the actors I realized that at a minimum these are “Featured Extras” roles (an actor whose clearly seen on camera in the jest of action but without lines of dialogue). To my surprise, on-set these so called “extras” where given lines that will appear on the final edit…even if its a one liner ad-libbed. When I approached this with the producer and director I was told this is normal for extras in the UK and those that don’t have lines are called “walk-ons” and something more about class A & B (more research for later). And yes I had a conversation with SAG: Non dramatic, unscripted, and not on the “Do Not Work” list.
My final point to calling this a wrap is the title crew position which I was hired…The Fixer. I have worked in the industry for over 10 years and never heard this term used. I had to go back to the original email I received which stated the duties included casting (character look-a-likes), location management/scouting (5 houses and a police HQ with jail) and art department (see photo above). Soon, I felt like this was my project as a producer. On the final day of production I asked what my credit would be (not that it mattered), I was given a shoulder shrug from the lead producer and was told she would ask. An associate producer credit I wondered…on a film a associate producer credit is as useful as a one armed trapeze artist with an itchy arse.…she stated she already had two assistant producers. So I guess I will look forward to seeing the credits on the “telly”.
After rallying the american troops we set out to defeat those british forces and ended up winning the production battle and a successful production!…and I did get to play a bad ass extra (see photo below Joshua Porter, right side).
Joshua Porter (right)
Joshua Porter (right)


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