Extras. Electronic press kits. Behind-the-scenes videos. Whatever you call them, they ruin the magic of the movies. Actors have mixed feelings about them. My feelings, on the other hand, are “maxed” toward their use — only well after the movies are released.
Today’s viewers are used to watching behind-the-scenes clips from films and TV shows in production in which famous folks look relaxed — like normal people. Viewers enjoy them so much that producers could easily make completely separate shows that consist solely of those clips. Indeed, at times, they do.
But aren’t they destroying the “magic” of the movies? Don’t they ruin the mystique?
For example, it is in fact entertaining and informative to watch Alfred Hitchcock on the set of his 1963 film The Birds talking about the special effects used to create the terrifying (mechanical) birds, but it can really only be appreciated many years after the movie screened in theaters since it will no longer ruin the magic of the movie.
These “extras” are usually documentary-type clips meant to be used as promotional tools (that’s why they’re also called electronic press kits or EPKs).
At times, extended EPKs can replace the actual films they’re meant to promote, like in the case of Lost in La Mancha, a 2002 documentary that documented the many times that the film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, was shut down.
EPKs are also used as bonuses on DVD releases, are featured on “Coming Soon” TV segments, and are the inspiration behind many a Web article.
Certain EPKs are even requested by stunt people to review what went wrong on a particularly challenging project, and are used by aspiring film directors to sneak a peek at the specific style of a celebrated “helmer.”
As for the actors involved, the response is mixed from the four I contacted: Some are comfortable with “extras,” while others can’t stand them.
Behind-the-scenes filming was de-veloped in 1954 as documentary photo-journalism, and is credited to Hollywood photographer Bob Willoughby (1927-2009). These “extras” became very popular in 1977 with shorts like The Making of Star Wars.
Back then, techniques were created to get the most natural results from actors when not shooting. And with the rising popularity of home videos, the studios viewed the “extras” as one of a tape’s key selling points.
But still, don’t these extras make it harder for viewers to “believe” in, for example, a Superman that can actually fly when they just saw him hanging from a wire in front of a green screen with a fan aimed at his face to give his flowing locks a gentle wave and make his cape flap in the “breeze”?
Over the years, these “extras” have only become more and more invasive, and today’s viewers know practically everything there is to know about movie-making.
But it seems as though their day of reckoning might be coming soon. Following the demise of the home video, studios finally scaled down the production of “extras,” and TV outlets like Netflix are now even releasing new series without them. In retrospect, this is probably a good thing because, for the viewing public, seeing how movies are made is anything but magic!
(By Dom Serafini)