Peter – tried something new
About half a year ago, we were at the filming. What do you still remember?
The whole technique behind it. I had no idea beforehand how often scenes are shot from different perspectives. I didn’t realize how complex that was.
There were rails on the ground, camera mounts, sound technicians and lighting technicians. Although it was more of a mid-budget project, the effort and technology was surprisingly large and impressive.
I didn’t expect to get paid a day rate either. As naive as I was, I thought at first, you’re pulling my leg (note: when Stefan, told him about the ” salary”). But I still wanted to go because I was curious.
Later I understood that the pocket money of 2000 to 3000 Baht was quite justified. We were so long waiting on stand-by, usually had to be there at 6 am and in the evening it went until 10 pm. You don’t do that voluntarily every day.
For me, it was a unique opportunity to try something new. Accordingly, I also applied for further film days and was there for a total of 12 shooting days.
What was the application process like?
I was supposed to send a short video of myself. After a few days without any response, I asked and got a rather vague answer: “We’ll find something for you. At that point, I already thought it wasn’t going to work out. But a few days later I was in action.
What were your roles and positions?
In total I was on the job for 12 days as a foreign diver, stand-in and double.
Foreign Diver: The first day was right at the waterfall (Khun Kon Waterfall). We had to stand in the tent behind the real divers and actors.
Stand-in: I don’t even know who I did this for. I was told to stand here and stay there. (Note: Stand-ins are people who stand right on the scene instead of the real actors until the cameras are set up, the lights are right, and the sound equipment is laid).
It was better as a stand-in because I was busier and also closer.
Double: The night before the last day of shooting, they said to me “Peter, tomorrow you’re a double.” That’s why I was allowed to sit on the bus with the actors the next day. I got a new haircut, got a make up, and had to put on Vern’s clothes. (Note: This is the British cave explorer from Chiang Rai).
Obviously, it was a good fit. The assistant director addressed me with “Hi Vern, already back? I was then on stand-by for the whole day, but was not used after all.
Did you have any contact with the actors?
Possible, if you were looking for it, because they were very open. In the end, I had the feeling that we were one big family. We also ate together, because that was how it went in the small team at the waterfall. Later at the cave this was no longer desired, but I realized that late. (Note: There was a very nice buffet for the cast and crew. The lunches for the after all more than 100 extras were in a tent less nicely presented).
The atmosphere was good. Even though there were no international stars, the faces are familiar in Thailand. It was a respectful, pleasant interaction. No snootiness.
Covid situation. We had to go to the hospital every week for the Covid test.
What was challenging was the long wait. Once we waited all day for an assignment and then were able to go home at the end without having been in front of the camera once.
Most of the time we were instructed what to do during the take. But sometimes we didn’t know anything at all. We were put in place and finished. For example, there was a situation during a long take in the tent where all of us – including the Thai extras – were standing around the table. The relatively small Thais stood in front and understood nothing at all of the minute-long dialogues. Accordingly, they were distracted and looked around or whispered. Only when the director complained loudly did they realize what had to be done.
This also seemed very unrealistic, because the many people at the briefing actually had no business being there.
Do you think the film will be realistic?
No. In the meantime, I’ve seen the National Geographic documentary, and I think it’s much more realistic. The real divers and emergency services also have their words to say there.
What do you think is the strength of this Netflix production?
It will be an entertaining story, maybe a little bit flat. I can’t imagine that this miniseries will win an Oscar.
Would you work on a film again as an extra?
Yes, definitely. It was a good time. I met interesting people and had good conversations. However, I don’t think we will get the chance again here in Chiang Rai.
Many thanks Peter, for these fascinating insights into working as an extra for Thai Cave Rescue.
Bruno – Rain, Mud, and Friendship
What pops up when you recall working at the Thai cave Rescue?
Before that happened I didn‘t have much contact with Farang (Thai word for Westeners) here in Chiang Rai. There I have met so many cool people I still in contact with.
The rain, we were soaking wet, and the mud.
How many days have you been at the production?
I have been there 20 days (or nights) over one and a half month. With long days. I remember only one day, when the sun came out and they couldn’t shoot because the weather was to nice for the rain and storm scenes. That was the only day they cut it short.
How did you get into it?
I read the advertisement in Chiang Rai Everything on Facebook. I called the casting company and they took me right away.
- American soldier
- Foreign Diver
- Rescue Engineer
Several times I had to stay soaking wet the whole day. After the first day I knew I had to bring clothes for changing with me.
- Khun Kon waterfall
- Valley close to the cave
They brought up a driller or Rock Grainder and destroyed all rice fields. A beautiful spot. It is a military area and not allowed to enter. One day it was pouring down. 100 people were trying to find a shelter under roofs. A lot of mud.
What was the worst part?
Every here and there I thought of quitting. There have been days and nights with only a few of us. They sleeping, me waiting for the time to go home. No scene shots, nothing to do. I felt like a tiger in a cave. The waiting was so exhausting. Sometimes it was 10 hours of waiting with just hanging around. From early mornings until late in the night, it felt like jetlag with my usual times of sleeping and eating mixed up.
I have seen a guy coming and leaving after two hours. Even without taking the money. To wet, to cold, he said. I just wanted to see how it is.
Did you meet the actors?
Several times I took our food to the set (Note from Stefan: Bruno’s wife makes the best focaccia in northern Thailand). The main actors liked it and so they remembered my name. But they are down-to-earth people. Very nice, totally normally.
How was the atmosphere?
It felt like Woodstock festival. A lot of people working, Trailers, caravans, restaurants. I looked a bit like a music festival without music. Especially when we were at Khun Kon waterfall. That felt like a party. We spent there entire nights waiting and smoking.
What will the feeling of this Netflix production be like?
To be honest I am not really interested in watching the mini-series. It doesn’t sound attractive to me. Spoiler alert: the kids survived. Hahaha.
It seems to be a family style series. I am glad I to took part. It was very interesting but I did not feel like being part of something special.
What was impressive to you?
The organization behind it. The movie did not impress me, but what happened behind it. There were hundreds of people and all of them knew their part. Everybody seemed to have something to do – beside us. Hahaha
Toilets were clean, food was served in time, refill was there. We get paid without delay. Everything was well organized. They took care of us. If we had complaints, they listened.
About other extras complaining
Some of the extras were kind of picky, selfish I would say. The organizers told us how many hours we would have to stay. They told us how we would get paid. what we have to do. If you are willing to do that accept that and shut your mouth. It was our choice to be there.
Would you do it again?
If I would not have to travel, I would do it. Yes, it was fun. I would definitely do it.
Of course, there were hard days. I mean it is a difference if you are an extra in a comedy movie on the beach or in a thunderstorm movie where you a wet all day. Well, yes it depends. hahaha
What was interesting for you what you not expected?
The Thais working on the set seemed to be well educated and open minded. May be because they are used to work with foreigners, they seemed to be more interested what is going on in the world.
I think they liked their job. Nobody seemed to have bad mood. Even the guys walking in mud the whole day to install the light were smiling. They make good money. When I talked to them they said they keep changing locations. They are in for a month, then off for one. Then in for 6 month and 3 off. When there are in a production, they don’t spend money. Everything is paid for.
Thank you so much Bruno for these great insights.
When the series is released, I will look for scenes where the two of them can be seen and show them here.
I write about my experience in the article Thai Cave Rescue – I was an extra