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Ekstra: How To Be An Ekstra According to Ate Vi

A tribute to all the <em>ekstras</em> in the world still dreaming of a speaking line
by Gelo Gonzales | Aug 15, 2013
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Ekstra, that indie film starring non-indie legend Ate Vi about the challenging life of bit-players in the entertainment industry (and that’s putting it lightly), was one of the biggest winners in the 2013 Cinemalaya festival. It took home the Audience Choice and Best Screenplay Awards, along with the Best Actress Award for Ate Vi; was the festival’s top-grosser; and will be packing its bags for the 38th Toronto International Film Festival to be held from September 5 to 15.

Yesterday, August 14, the film opened nationwide, validating what the recognitions and box office returns hinted at: It’s clever, entertaining, and filled with memorable performances—and not just from the titular superstar.

Above everything else, Ekstra is a comedy of absurdities. The poster immediately makes that clear:

It's like saying Si LeBron James ay Sidekick ni Dwyane Wade,” or Si Floyd Mayweather Jr. ay Talaga Namang Napaka-Humble.” Like the poster’s tagline, these claims would make anyone with a sane mind crack up, just as they might when they see Ate Vi fight passionately for the chance to play the role of Marian Rivera’s maid while fawning over Piolo Pascual. Seeing her in a film where industry peers Cherie Gil and Eula Valdez are treated as royalty, whose whims dictate the flow of a shoot while she and the other ekstras are barely even fed is fascinating, amusing, and absurd.

What isn’t absurd is the acting of Vilma Santos. We don’t know what we can add to the praises already heaped on her by the Internet, but this Vilma Santos is quite something. As Loida Malabanan—forever ekstra and a mother doing all she can to pay for her daughter’s tuition—she trades in grand, emotional outbursts for something more nuanced. In a day’s worth of shoot, we get to see Loida enjoy the little victories, find dignity in her work, ham it up as a part of a crowd in shock, panic in the face of pressure, and get her heart broken. She’s the kind of character you’d root for.

And she's inspired us to try out being an ekstra some day. From watching her, we've learned a few things to make sure we can be the best ekstra ever. Here they are below:

1) Never be not on time

Your fate as an ekstra lies in the hand of the talent handler as she will be the one to recommend you for a scene. She's the herd master who keeps everyone in a pen, and the one who's going to call your name when the time comes. That time will never come though if you are late for your call-time, because, according to her, even Susan Roces and FPJ were never late.

    When you see this man waving that yellow hanky wildly, just keep calm and pray he's in a good mood

2) Get ready for impromptu auditions

Always be in character, advises Loida/Vilma. That way, when the director needs to see who can play a role that requires more than the usual busy-busy-han crowd acting, you're ready to bust out your skills and prove that, yes, you can handle being in front of the camera for more than three seconds.

NEXT: Making extra money on set and character flexibility

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