…that was the shout that went around the centre of Flavigny sur Ozerain last Friday, and everyone did go silent, including me. I was an extra for a day on a TV film shoot in the absurdly picturesque hilltop town, where “Chocolat” was also filmed. JMP productions were filming some outside scenes of a France 2 production of “L’affaire Blaireau”. Its a fascinating sight to see a film crew in action. Myself and around 40 other extras arrived at 7am for costumer fitting, hair and make-up dahling. In the meantime a whole market had been constructed in the road next to the church and it really did feel like taking a step back in time to 1898, the time of the story. After a briefing on the story from the assistant director we were given two firm rules, do not speak and never look directly at the camera. Seems easy enough but actually its really hard. This shoot had a camera on a small truck on a track with the cameraman and his assistant perched on stools as part of this contraption. I hard to work very hard to convince myself that I wasn’t at all interested. but as soon as a take had ended I had to go over and have a good look at it. It’s like being a kid all over again in this strange world. I’m 44 and I desperately wanted a ride on the camera truck, but felt that asking might have resulted in a stern gallic glare or swift curtailing of my ‘Extra’ status. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we shot three scenes over the course of 12 hours, all in all about 50+ takes. It was a long but fascinating day, only made uncomfortable by a pair of trousers that were hoisted eye wateringly high with a stout pair of braces. Though I was somewhat better off than the female extras playing bourgoise ladies in their super tight corsets. You could see them holding their sides and dabbing their foreheads as the temperature soared to over 30 degrees in that breeze free alley. Fortunately an army of make up artists and hairdressers fluttered around, powdering, lipsticking and tonging them into perfection every few seconds. It’s a different world.
The director shuffled round in straw hat and slightly ill fitting jeans and I’d like to say that he really looked in charge, but in reality it was his two assistants and the cameraman who got most of the job done. Anyway, it’s a great way to spend a day getting a window onto France and french film making, and of course you earn a few euros into the bargain. Genial !