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Burns enjoys career as 'extra' in movies, TV

Burns (click for larger version)
July 14, 2010 - "That was kind of cool because I actually had to stand on a mark, so that meant I was in that scene with an actor," Burns said.

Since his film debut, Burns has worked as an extra in 11 other movies and television shows, all filmed in Michigan.

Burns was a war protester in "Master Class"; a funeral attendee in "Cedar Rapids"; a homeless person in "Secrets in the Walls"; a gun store shopper in "Trust"; an office worker in the short film "American Dream"; a church member in "Salvation Boulevard"; a featured FBI agent in "Restitution"; and a cannery worker in "The Double."

"I've done everything from driving my car to walking through (a scene) to sitting," he said. "It could be anything."

He worked as an extra in season two, episode two of the HBO series "Hung," which follows the exploits of a suburban Detroit high school basketball coach who becomes a male prostitute. That episode aired July 11. Much of the cable show is shot in Troy and West Bloomfield.

Burns even played an extra in the movie "Real Steel," which is scheduled to do some filming on American Aggregates-owned property in Oxford Township at the end of this month or beginning of next month.

"I worked four days on that movie (in Highland Township) and that was incredible," he said. However, he admitted "four days in cowboy boots was kind of rough. Those were 12-14-hour days."

"Real Steel" stars Hugh Jackman as an ex-fighter who becomes the promoter and trainer of a robot gladiator when human boxing is outlawed. The film is targeted for release in November 2011.

Burns made some small talk with Jackman and described him as a "really nice, personable guy."

Mostly recently, Burns has been working as an extra on the set of the Christmas-themed movie "Harold & Kumar 3." He worked in scenes filmed at the Somerset Collection in Troy a few weeks ago and in Detroit just last week.

Burns is definitely loving his second career as an extra.

"The thing I enjoy about it is the fact that you really meet a lot of nice people," he said. "And the food is usually fantastic."

He's so serious about his new career that he even signed on with a casting agency, the Clawson-based Real Style. The agency's website is www.realstyleonline.com.

For those interested in working as an extra, Burns recommended putting together a resume, having a quality headshot and posting your information on-line via social networks like Facebook.com.

Burns also recommends making yourself available for shooting anytime, anywhere.

"If you want to do extra work, just make sure that you have free time," he said. "Don't have any other commitments or anything else going on, period. They want you available for the whole day. Sometimes that can be for 12-14 hours. Most of the time you're just waiting around."

Don't plan on getting rich working as an extra. The job typically pays about $8-10 an hour. In some cases, extras do get paid time-and-a-half and double-time.

Should you get a job as an extra, Burns recommended speaking to the actors and actresses only when spoken to and keeping the conversation limited to small talk, Burns said.

"Basically, they don't want you talking to the movie stars, period," he said. "They want to keep the professionalism intact."

"Most of the time, if you're on the set and you're working, you don't really have a lot of time to chitchat with actors and actresses because usually they're on the set filming or rehearsing," Burns noted.

However, based on his experiences, the stars are not at all snobbish about talking to extras when the opportunity arises.

"I would say 90 percent of these actors and actresses will come up and say 'hey, how you doing, good to see you' – those kind of things," he said.

Someday Burns would love to have a line or two in a scene, but for now, he's content to help fill the background when the director yells "Action!"

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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