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I Was An IT Crowd Extra

I really thought I'd written this up already but I've looked through my LiveJournal and through the Notes on my Facebook page and can't find anything. Possibly I've read reports from so many of my fellow extras that I've forgotten to write my own piece.

Now that the episode I was in has aired and is indeed on the Internet for all to see, I don't believe I'm breaking the non-disclosure that I signed on my two days of filming with the crew of The IT Crowd.

It started with a tweet, never thought it would come to this! A good friend of mine, who'm I have never actually met, re-tweeted a message from one of the Channel 4 production companies that was a call out for geeks and nerds.

Marty has a fantastic imagination and an interest, some may say an obsession, in sci-fi, podcasting and bears. He'd copied the message from Channel 4 and sent it out to all who would listen. The post asked for people to send in pictures of themselves dressed as geeks. Now, as the geeks among my readers will realise the term "geek" actually spreads across a very wide range. You could be a sci-fi geek, a maths geek, a car geek, electronics geek and the list goes on. The term "geek" is pretty much a modern replacement for fanatic. As the program is called "The I.T. Crowd" I assumed they wanted I.T. geeks. With over 20 years experience in I.T I consider myself to be a computer geek so applied. At worse I'd get no reply, at best a chance that my elbow may be seen on the T.V.

You have to remember, at this point, although I'd heard of the show I'd never actually seen "The IT Crowd".

A couple of days after emailing off my picture I got an email back saying that I'd be contacted with location and timing information in the following week. Time to go to Four On Demand and catch up with the first three series of the show.

The date was set, March 11th, location a car park in Ealing, West London. Looking on Google this did seem the most unusual choice for a filming location, especially having just seen how much of the first three series were filmed in the office?

I'd been to Ealing a couple of times before but not via public transport. I had to change a couple of times and ended up walking the last mile and getting to the car park early. Thankfully the local KFC had a view of the street leading to the car park.

Even as I sat enjoying my finger licking good chicken I saw a raised concentration of people wearing glasses. A t-shirt with an Atari logo here, an awful tie there. The geeks seemed to be migrating to the area.

A man with stuck down hair and awful side parting walked up the road to the car park and stood waiting on the corner. As more people started to show up I finished my chicken poppers and made my own way up.

iPod Touch in hand as I approached those waiting on the corner I asked "So who used Google to find this place?" to which the shy bunch of geeks pushed their collective spectacles up their noses and nervously looked to each other for support.

None of us knew what to expect. People walking up this quiet back street in West London would cross the other side of the road at the site of a large group of people then as they get close realise this was probably the least intimidating crowd ever.

I immediately felt comfortable with the group. We were talking technology, games and comedy right from the start. The fact that we all used Twitter showed a common interest in technology and as it turned out the fact that we'd all seen The IT Crowd showed a common appreciation for the work of Graham Linehan.

After waiting around for a while we were shepherded down to a waiting trailer. Now in a confined space and shuffled around from the people we'd settled with we got to know more of the geeks.

Earlier that day Google had released the extended Street Map coverage of the UK and a small group of us were excitedly looking for our own houses and places we knew on our mobile toys.

The wardrobe department came into the trailer and looked each of us over. Not knowing which form of geek sheek would be called for I'd stuffed my backpack with ties shirts and computer related t-shirts. The t-shirts weren't called for but a couple of my ties were handed out as the costumes were made up.

As the geeks were getting comfortable with each other, some young women dressed in night club attire came into the trailer and joined us. These girls it turned out were with an agency. They'd been in make-up during the morning.

At this point we still had no idea what was going on.

Moss And Roy Behind The Scenes We walked back down to the car park and into a door leading to the lower level. The level was dimly lit and while we were aware of filming equipment around the area there was little to actually shoot.

The group was split up into smaller groups and stood between metal fences. The assistant director came out and explained to us what we needed to do. "When I call 'Action!' I want you to all run from over here to over there, screaming and waving your arms". OK so that was clear then.

One of the agency girls turned to me "I didn't get all dressed up like this to run around a car park." she said.

As we were all looking at each other in confusion a loud Irish voice rang out. "Hang on, hang on." called Graham Linehan as he came out from the shadows. Now here was a face many of us knew. "First of all thank you so much for coming this is really good of you all." Ah, praise already and we've not even done anything. "What you've got to imagine is that there's going to be like a fight. You remember in school where you'd all run out into the playground to watch a fight?" we collectively nodded, thinking back to when it was most likely one of us getting beaten up that was actually the cause of the chant. "So you run over to this corner and wait for the fight to start. OK, thanks." And he disappeared off into his little corner.

"And..... action" we ran, we flailed, we screamed. This is a low ceilinged car park, I'm over six feet tall. For me to flail my arms above my head in a low car park is not a good idea. I scraped my knuckles on the concrete ceiling.

"Welcome to Street Countdown!" yelled Benny Wong who played the character Prime in the episode. So our acting began.

"And cut! And reset!" All back to position and then we did the same thing over and over and over.

Once they'd gotten enough footage of us running and screaming we were then positioned in a semi-circle where the face off would take place. Richard Ayoade (Moss) and David Crow (Negative One) were bought in to the set. I was pulled over to be a border to the frame, ah the elbow on TV that I'd been expecting.

"The first rule of Street Countdown is that you really must try and tell as many people as you can about it. It's a rather fun game and the more people you tell about it the better." Benny builds up the crowd. Again another cut.

By this time Graham has come out of his dark corner and is helping Benny with his motivation and explaining what he wants from the scene. "A sketch about Countdown and Fight Club, real topical comedy!" he laughed.

The assistant director had placed me at the edge of the frame but Benny needed me to move out of the way for him to get in to the set so he told me to wait for him to touch my back then move to the right.

As with the previous scene we repeated over and over.

And so this went on for the rest of the afternoon, into the early evening.

At one quiet point one of the extras was reading Twitter when he swore. "Somebody has let it slip about the new series of Red Dwarf." he said.

"That would be Robert Lewellyn then?" I asked. It turned out that the extra was also the script editor and was tightly involved with Red Dwarf.

At the end of the days shooting again Graham thanked us all and promised that the next day would not be so cold as we'd be inside. We all went our own separate ways home.

Lots Of Waiting Quietly Friday morning started early. We all met up in a night club which must only have been closed for a few hours after the clubbers from the night before had left.
We sat around the dance floor talking about our experiences and what we thought we'd be doing today. Most of us expected to be doing the geek slow shuffle on the dance floor just as a background.

It became apparent that the film crew were setting up in the V.I.P lounge. Once they started recording we had to all be silent. Even though we were not in the same section of the club even our talking would get picked up by the microphones.

The assistant director came down and asked some of us to stand up on the raised dance floor and in the DJ booth. No sooner had I been positioned than Graham called over the radio to the assistant director. "Can you bring me that tall chap in the yellow?"

"Darren would you mind coming with me?" she asked. I had to admit to being surprised that she knew my name. I didn't remember ever telling her. I was left standing at the top of the stairs away from the dance floor but not on the set as the assistant director went to get Graham.

"Hi Darren, I wonder, could you just read this for me?" Graham asked, handing me a script.

"But," I paused "I'll have to get something out. Can somebody watch the bar?" I read, with no idea what this meant.

Graham looked down, as he often does. He's tall and I know the problem of constantly having to stoop down when talking to people. He scratched his head. "You see I quite like the idea of having a geeky waiter." He said to me. I felt like he was asking me what I thought.

"Give it a try?" I said. Like my opinion really mattered.

The assistant director came back with a handsome looking actor in the costume of a waiter. He was at least six inches shorter than me and smaller in build.

Terrence The Waiter"Could you two just change costumes?" Asked the assistant director. The shirt didn't fit so I had to roll up the sleeves and use the apron to cover the fact that it didn't reach my jeans. The waist coat was a velcro monstrosity that was several sizes too small. A couple of wardrobe ladies appeared with safety pins and I was fitted into the costume.

I was bought onto set and stood right in front of Richard and Chris (Moss and Roy). This was very strange. I'd watched all three series of the show in the space of a week and now I was face to face with them.

"This is Darren, he'll be playing Terrence. Lets give it a go and see how we get along." Said Graham then he hopped off to his bank of screens.

The assistant director pulled me back a step. "OK so when I say action take a step forward to your mark." She looked down "Can we mark here with some tape please?" She called. A stage hand leapt from nowhere and stuck a length of tape on the floor.

At this point the camera's were under my elbow to my right pointing at Chris and Benny and under my elbow to my left pointing at Richard. So what they wanted was geeky elbow shots? I was wondering quite why they'd changed the agency actor for me if this was going to be another elbow shot.


"Hello Terrence. Glass of milk, straight up." says Moss. "Prime?"

"A Ribena for me." says Prime.

"Roy?" asks Moss.

"Uhh, I'll have a beer." Says Roy.

"Alcohol free beer surely?" questions Prime.

"Uh, noooo" Says Roy.

"Get him what he wants." Commands Moss.

"But." I interrupt.

"Just get him what he wants." Moss asserts.

"I'll have to go out. Can somebody mind the bar?" I'm flustered.

Roy And Mos On A Night Out"OK, that's great." Says Graham as he's coming over. "If you could just slow it down a little." He says to Richard. "Darren, that was great but don't try to act it, just say the line." This was the only direction that Graham gave me.

Reset and repeat, four maybe five times.

Once happy with that the camera's were moved around. "Can I have someone on the mark for a reference?" asked the camera man and the assistant director grabbed me by the arm.

"Just stand here for a bit please Darren." she asked.

The HD camera was moved to point in my face and my fellow extras were bought up to stand behind me. I was quite comfortable with the idea that I was being used as a reference for the next take.

"OK if you'd just step back." said the assistant director and I took this to mean step out of the shot. "No, just a single step back then when I say action you step forward and deliver your line." Oh! So we were still filming the same scene and now the camera was going to be in my face...

With the new camera set up we repeated again a further four or five times.

BOOM! guy.After I finished my line I couldn't go back to being a geek so sat behind the cameras as the next few scenes were filmed. I sneaked a picture of Moss and Prime just as they were recording what I'm sure will become a classic IT Crowd line "I came here to drink milk and kick ass and I've just finished my milk."

As the day drew to a close we all exchanged Twitter and Facebook details and then the countdown really did begin for when our episode would be on air.

Watch the episode on www.channel4.com

We also discussed this on our podcast back in March when I actually did the filming. Give it a listen, you never know, you may even like the show!
Dumbed Down Life - Show 66


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 4th, 2010 04:45 am (UTC)
You ought to link to this at theitcrowd :-)
Jul. 4th, 2010 10:02 am (UTC)
(btw the icon's from The IT Crowd titles. My only IT Crowd icon :-)
Jul. 4th, 2010 08:13 am (UTC)
Came over here from theitcrowd - that's amazing! So you're the barman in that scene, wow. It's really good to hear about your experience then. :D
Jul. 4th, 2010 08:19 am (UTC)
It was a great experience. Richard pretty much kept himself to himself between scenes, often reading a book.

Chris was a little more outgoing chatting with a few of the extras and did a little shopping as he wasn't in so many of the shots.

Benny Wong was really nice and would often give little directions and pointers. This annoyed the assistant director a little "Oh do what ever he says." She said to me at one point, rolling her eyes.
Jul. 4th, 2010 08:19 am (UTC)
I love this episode :)
You're a great bar tender!
Jul. 4th, 2010 08:23 am (UTC)
Thank you. It's very strange to see myself on TV. The way that it's cut it almost looks to me like I was added in after but I can assure you I was no more than three feet from the wonderful Richard and Chris.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 4th, 2010 08:22 am (UTC)
It would be very hard for me to give a fair view on the episode as I'm now quite biased. I didn't get to see the whole episode until it aired on C4 on Friday. The first two episodes were shown at BAFTA last month but I didn't realise that was going to happen until too late.
Jul. 4th, 2010 08:31 am (UTC)
That was a great story :D
Jul. 4th, 2010 08:36 am (UTC)
Jul. 4th, 2010 08:32 am (UTC)
Awesome :]
Jul. 4th, 2010 08:37 am (UTC)
Thank you.

I do wish I could have met Jen and Richmond too.

Did get to see more of the cast a few weeks later when I went to see the filming of the first episode at Pinewood Studios.
Jul. 4th, 2010 09:56 am (UTC)
That was a great read! I loved this episode, and it was awesome to hear about your experience on the set!
Jul. 4th, 2010 10:10 am (UTC)
Thank you. It was a lot of fun. I've since read the Graham Linehan is one of the nicest directors to work with and I have to say that it was an absolute pleasure.
Jul. 4th, 2010 10:48 am (UTC)
wow! That's so exciting!

I thought you were quite funny in that scene.

(here from theitcrowd comm)
Jul. 4th, 2010 12:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I have to say that the online experience, staying in touch with the other extras and even getting a Tweeted "thank you" from Graham after the show aired has made this something to remember.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 4th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
GLinner Tweet

I couldn't face the guy who's part I took. Apparently he had read the line a couple of times before Graham asked for me to come up.

I've always thought about joining an amateur dramatics club but never ever thought that I'd appear on TV and to be on a cult series like this is just beyond dreams.
Jul. 4th, 2010 01:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like it was a pretty awesome couple of days.
Jul. 4th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
It really was, though it's not something I could do for a living. Need something consistent for work, not auditioning and hoping for parks every few weeks.
Jul. 4th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
Very nice -- and you'll probably get a page of your own on imdb.com.

Watched series one of the show on tv-links.org before it closed down and never know when the IFC show it over here. And due to legal reasons, I'm unable to view the link you posted, so will have to keep an eye out for it.
Jul. 4th, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
I've a couple of geeky friends who may well add me to IMDB, that would be cool :)

If you know how to use proxy site and can pretend that your computer is in the UK then you can watch all the series on either channel4.com or on YouTube/4OD
Jul. 4th, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
Lucky! That is all.

I &hearts Chris O'Dowd!
Jul. 4th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
Very lucky.

My wife if a big fan of Father Ted and when I told her that I'd spoken to Graham she was really excited.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 5th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
I am SUCH a geek that I hardly ever watch TV, I'm more likely on the Internets somewhere.

I'm also finding that many of people I know who work in IT have heard of the show but never watched it!
Jul. 5th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
Wow! I loved that bar scene (and the concept of a super secret club for Countdown winners/true geeks). AND THAT WAS YOU! Truly, wow.

May I link this outside lj - Tumblr? Thanks!
Jul. 5th, 2010 08:28 pm (UTC)
Link away! I'm considering writing a spin off story for the IT Crowd community :)
Jul. 5th, 2010 10:19 am (UTC)
Wow, so you were the bartender! Sounds like you had a great experience and I enjoyed reading this report :D
Jul. 5th, 2010 08:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It was a great experience and it's only improved by the interest that I'm now getting after the show has aired.

Who knows, maybe I'll be at Comicon signing autographs :)
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( 32 comments — Leave a comment )