place and direct the extras on a shoot

placer et diriger la figuration sur un tournage

How to place, direct and engaging extras on your shoot


Here is the last part of this trèèèès long article on figuration. Now we are going to go back in the heart of the matter : How to lead, place , and involve the figuration once it is on your set ?

I’ll explain the basics, I’ll even make plans for you to explain how to do it. I hope that this last part is going to carry you, you learn how to do it…and for the most accustomed to…allow you to improve yourself ;o) I do not hide from you that there would still be a lot to say, but it is necessary for everyone, that’s why next week I’ll cover a different topic ;o)

Just Before the figuration is on the shelf

Be aware that you will not have a lot of time to install the extras. But luckily you are a pro and you are organized.

I’m going to give you the most important thing : before you even place your first listed :

  • Look at the frame !

That is to say, look at the back camera, or in the eye of the camera, to see what is going to be filmed. Look at the movement, how it begins and how it ends ! Otherwise you’ll never know if your extras will be in the frame ! Or that your extras will move correctly in order to sublimate the plan ?!

Once you have done this you can place your supers in the field.

According to the movement of the actors, the width of the frame and its movement, you need to make sure that your extras are to live out the plan without attracting attention to themselves.

For example : you are filming on a street in a fixed plane. Your actor walking to the bottom of the field towards the camera (up the street).

You will ensure that the figuration :

  • down the street in the same direction as the actor, but not too close and not at the same speed ! (I advise you not to use this procedure if you are a beginner. It is listed on the plan)
  • Appearing up the street. It goes in the opposite direction of your actor
  • Crosses from right to left or left to right behind your actor
  • Crosses from right to left or left to right in front of your actor. (pay also attention to the movement, it depends on several parameters for this to work)
  • Place extras are already on the path of the actor. They don’t work. They do not speak etc… And can ” get away “ once the actor has exceeded, for example.

I told you just now that the extras are not just there to fill the field. If you believe a scene this is also thanks to them ! If it is a moment of tension, your actor may be an excellent actor, if side of him or the extras do not play the game or are not into it… sorry, but vur plan is ruined.

The last date that the bill is the Christopher Nolan in the teaser of Dunkirk ! You tell me that this director is a little accustomed to this kind of problem…I put the teaser here…you will find easily found on the bridge that has the air of a lot fun… while it is a moment of tension…

There is always worse…you can find them here. You will find a few films of the director I’m talking about :

It is still good to laugh a little ! Yes good, it’s not nice to make fun…but who cares !

To resume what I was saying : ” It is necessary that your extras are involved,” well, not too all the same…;o)

Even if he is walking in the street from point a to point B, it must say something

  • It can be pressed, having lost his mother…(or that you want to ;o)), just be fired and calls his wife, goes to find her lover…
  • If he joined someone it can be late and get yelled at, join her fiancée and kiss her, to join friends to go for a drink

Do not think that your extras are going to find a topic of conversation by themselves or an intention...they are not actors, the person who stands in front of them is one or a stranger. They must pretend in a stressful environment that they don’t know…honestly find a topic of conversation…it is not so simple.

You say also that the audience will not read on the lips of your extras to see what they say. But how to have the discussions of the extras then they pretend ?

The answer : Make a sound alone. I’ll let you read the article on the subject that you will find in the tab : Items.

But to respond to the most time-pressed among you, we talk about the extras without the actors, without a camera, just with the sound.

Ditto there are some precautions to take :

  • The extras do not speak of cinema, shooting etc…
  • The discussion of the extras is a function of what is happening in the scene. Example : if your scene is happening on a scene of crime the conversations are not going to revolve around the midday meal…. (what that…..)

It’s like spinning in a nightclub. It runs without the music…yes, people are dancing on…nothing…except the dialogue of the actors. For they are in the rhythm it puts the music in the beginning of decision and then it is cut.

And I could go on !

When I have extras in a restaurant, in a bus or I don’t know what, that is to say, people who can’t move around too much I’m still doing the same thing. I take two people and I say to one : “you’re going to tell your boyfriend or girlfriend who is next to you that your ex (boy or girl) came ringing one evening at you disguised as Elan…to try and win them back. There seems to be a con as idea, except that, in general, it makes laugh all the extras and it gives results quite surprising in terms of the ” game “. Then it is necessary to restrain a little those too which would be worn on the mime ! lol But in general it works really well.

Then you’re going to tell me : ” But if they pretend to talk about it will see ? “. FAKE !

An extra involved it is, but a contained involved and fitting it is better !

You already know a sequence is rarely spins in a single plane. We therefore need to think, when you place your extras, to tell them to remember their trip and what they are doing.

The problem is that the trac and the stress involved in it…more as we change axis, of value, and that we do it again sometimes in the middle ofan action…the contained is quickly lost…and so will you if you do not have the correct method !

If you resume the plan, from above, as an example :

Your Actor share on : Share. You can on that top to do from A. Then 3 seconds later C. once C has passed the axis of D, D can from. 5 seconds after D left, B can be set in motion. Once the actor has passed E, E can be separate or dropping from the right frame.

Now suppose thatwe change the axis of the camera and that there should be a movement in the stead, as in the example below. And all the world will be fitting !

If the action is expected to resume in the middle of the movement of the actor, idem, everyone would have to guide her !

I put below an example of a figuration that I set up for a telefilm. It is very simple…but they are fittings. You’re almost at the end of a sequence of one implementation of figuration in a theatre.

Here, a work more complicated on figuration : It is a trailer but look like the extras are live each map…imagine the same actors with the extras that are not in their role…

I could talk to you for hours and hours the way you must manage your extras, so there is to say on the subject.

But thanks to this article and the previous ones you should know you get out of it to get the best out of them and pass on your images, your plans and your sequences to another level.

That’s it for this article on : The figuration on a shoot…can be soon on your tea ;o)

Please do not hesitate to ask me your questions or comments below this article.

I will tell you next week.

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The next week,

Tom Weil

*For example, if you turn the sequence 12, which is found in a bar, and that the sequence after the sequence 13, which is located in a barracks of the gendarmerie… the extras of the bar may not be the same as those of the barracks…

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