I Was An Extra On Geordie Shore And It Went Exactly As You'd Expect
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Hold on, I hear you thinking, an extra for Geordie Shore - how can this be? After all, Geordie Shore is a 'reality television series'. Why on earth would they need extras for what is in essence a completely factual and in no way contrived MTV reimagining of the lives of some nice young people from Newcastle (and nearby Middlesbrough)?
*Look away now if you think Geordie Shore, Made In Chelsea, WWE or the Tooth Fairy are real.*
Basically reader, while the above shows may purport to be real (some more than the others) the truth is they're about as real as the lips and tits they're comprised of.
When I was a student though, I was poor and looking for ways to make easy money. Reality TV was not one of those ways.
That said, I answered the ad for extra work on 'an MTV production'. I had no idea what it was. It turned out to be an advert for a new series of Geordie Shore.
I supposed I'd planned a grander TV debut. But I needed the money. How much money. You'll find out and, just as I did, you'll probably think I'd been totally done over.
Let me set the scene. It is the year 2011, or possibly 2012, I'm not quite sure.
Evil is destroyed and reborn, as Osama Bin Laden is assassinated and Little Mix win X Factor... Or if it's 2012, the Queen is celebrating her diamond jubilee and London is hosting the Olympics.
I am a fresher at Newcastle University. Whatever time of year it is, it is fucking dark and fucking cold. I am very rarely in lectures, because I chose to study media, and I am instead very frequently in the pub.
As such, I am also very poor. The email - for 'paid extra work' - didn't specify how much I would be paid or what the programme was, but as my Geordie hallmate kindly pointed out: "It sez an MTV production by the River Tyne where you've gotta dress for a naaayt oot; whadya think its fo' ya' reet doughnut?"
Despite being warned that I would be contributing to the ongoing scourge of society, I decided to go along in my finest going out attire - partly because I was curious to see behind enemy lines, partly because I wanted that money.
Upon arrival, it was made abundantly clear in the most brutal fashion that my interpretation of 'finest going out attire' was drastically different to that of a Geordie Shore production stylist.
I was back of the line of anonymous shiny drones herded into some sort of seating area in the corner of Riverside nightclub, when the stylist jutted out his arm in front of my waist.
"Oh no no. Did you get the email? You're supposed to be dressed for a big night out!" he laughed, as though there had been an embarrassing misunderstanding, which ironically there had been, but not in the way he thought.
The stylist then thumbed through a railing of frankly hideous garms, occasionally flicking a repulsed glance in my direction, while I stood like a lemon in front of all the other extras in my wrinkly t-shirt and unwashed since 2010 jeans.
"Here, give this a go," he said, handing me a super skinny fit grey felt jacket, a thirty-yard-long mauve scarf and a v-neck t-shirt, the 'v' of which drooped down to just above my belly button.
I glanced briefly at my smirking 'colleagues' as I donned the V-Tee and shrugged the hideously tight jacket over my shoulders.
"Errr, that's not how you put on a jacket," he chimed.
Turns out I'd been doing it wrong all these years, and I was about to be schooled in how to get dressed by a pair of elbows with an attitude problem.
I then cocooned myself in the massive scarf, but of course got that wrong too.
"No, no, noooooo," he whined irritatingly, as he adjusted my scarf into three large saggy loops around my neck, making me look like Saturn and all of its rings.
Then, the final indignity - a gentle powdering of my face as I made my way to the last seat in the mannequin bin.
My spirits lifted over the next few hours though, as I did absolutely fuck all but speculate what exactly my hourly rate might be. I also wondered when the stars would turn up. I'd never really seen more than glimpses of the show before, but enough to know that I didn't like it and that all the people in it were orange, ripped, plastic or a combination of the three.
It was only when they were called to shoot a scene that I realised I'd been sat next to the 'fellas' for the past hour; they were much less massive than they seemed on TV, but just as orange.
I watched on through the glass for the next few hours as the scantily-clad stars pretended to dance on the roof of a limousine by the riverside (the club is aptly named). I say pretended to dance on a limousine, that's not actually true - they did dance, it's just that the limousine was actually a big box, which would later be transformed into a limousine through the power of green screen or whatever it is they do.
Sorry to ruin the magic of TV.
Eventually, the extras' time to shine/merge seamlessly into the background had come. I'm not sure what time it was, but it was very dark and very cold. We passed the 'stars' at the club entrance, as they headed in and we headed out.
Sophie (as I would later learn she was called) shrieked, 'Ahhh fuck'en 'ell am freeezin' - ma' nipples could cut glass!'...or words to that effect. It seemed the characters at least were fairly accurately depicted in the programme after all.
A red carpet with railings was laid out along the riverside, leading up to the limousine/box. Our job was to whoop and cheer wildly on cue from behind the railings, which would then all be put together in post-production to make it look like we were worshiping the stars as they danced on the limo.
This was fine, as I had forged a bond by this point with another extra who also loathed Geordie Shore, and we took the opportunity to shout profanities throughout the general whoopery that surrounded us.
We were also shot from long distance cheering from the Tyne Bridge, which was presumably supposed to give the impression the entire city had been consumed by spray tan crazed zombies.
I was then hand-picked as one of the super buff extras who had to vault over the railings of the red carpet and sprint towards the limo.
To be fair I was proppa enjoyin' maself like, until they handed out the signs. Utterly revolting signs. Mine read, 'Gandhi, Mandela, Gaz'.
At this point, I took some time out mentally to consider whether what I was doing was evil. I was soon torn from this introspection though by the director, and the fact that I REALLY NEED THAT MONEY.
We were working on some stills and the director said he needed more hair in the foreground. One of the crew re-positioned a thinly-haired man in front of the camera and the director bellowed, 'No! Not a baldy, I said I need more haaaair".
I was then summoned from the crowd to provide foreground hair, which is ironic, seeing as though freshers signalled the start of my steady decline towards the complete balderdom I live with today.
I was positioned directly in front of the camera with the purpose of offering just a millimetre or two of hair at the bottom of the shot. This meant ever so slightly bending and extending my knees at the director's behest, which was bloody agonising, particularly when you consider my nips were also glass-shatteringly cold by this point.
Gaz was stood with the director behind me, wrapped up all snug in a massive coat.
"Get that off then ya c***," I said enviously and inappropriately. However, you have to appreciate this isn't as inappropriate as it sounds, much like in Australia, the C-bomb can almost be used affectionately in Newcastle.
"Na' waay a've already done ma bit ya c***," he replied, in what was actually quite a friendly interaction between the two of us. I think we're probably mates now.
Like Alan Partridge, I was to have the last laugh two years on though, in my final year of uni, when I spotted Gaz on a night out. My friend hatched the plan and we went over.
"Excuse me, can we have a picture?" my friend asked. "Shooah," he replied, unsurprisingly not recognising me.
My friend then wrapped his arm around my shoulders and gave Gaz his phone. The look on his face was worth the whooping.
But back to 2011/2012, and the end of a long and eye opening day as an extra. I reckon it was about a 12 hour shoot, but I may be exaggerating. It felt that long.
I'd been speculating with my now fully-fledged extras buddies about how much I could expect to be paid. All those hours - I'm going to be quids in here.
The speculation got me very excited indeed, as most of them worked for agencies and were paid hourly rates of at least £12 per hour. That's more than £100. Easy money.
But when I went to the bloke to get my pay, I was handed a £20 note. Just the one. Twenty pounds. For a full day.
Tragically, I was still quite happy with this. I worked out that it would get me 12 trebles in Newcastle. I was a king.
However, when I went to say my goodbyes to my extras buds, they were shocked and appalled. They said I should go back and kick up a stink, demand more money. I told them I would and said I would text them next time I was out.
What I did next was absolutely not go back kick up a fuss and I also did not text them next time I was out. But I did 'forget' to return my vile costume, which I hid underneath the overcoat I had arrived in.
I found the stolen clobber on Google when I got back to halls and was crestfallen to learn they were worth in excess of £100. Still, expensive or not, they were still fucking horrible and thus never worn again.
They're probably still in my attic somewhere actually. If you're interested, get in touch - £50 for the lot.
I did buy 12 trebles though.
As for the advert, I think it must have got 'shit-canned', as I think they say in the 'biz'. The most I saw of it was an image online of the gang dancing on top of the limo, but I couldn't make out any of my hair in the foreground.
Must have bent my knees too much.