Blog: Ben Harris

On being an extra on a film for the first time, shot in your home town, and wanting to continue acting

Hero image

Camera rolling. Sound. Speed. Action.

These are the words you hear on a film set. None of that Hollywood nonsense of “lights, camera, action”. I found this out last year during my time filming ID2: Shadwell Army. My first ever acting job. My first ever acting anything.

Before March 2015 I wasn’t an actor, never acted and never thought to try. That was until I spent 11 days filming ID2. These were 12-13 hour days, sometimes well into the early hours, but they flew by. I loved it – shooting over weekends and bank holidays during Easter, in houses, on the streets and on boats, balancing around my regular day job. Still to this day, I don’t really know what drove me to apply for an extra’s role, but I’m so glad I did.

I play the role of George in ID2: Shadwell Army, the right hand man of the far-right Dave, played by Neil Pearson. The story revolves around Mo, an Asian copper infiltrating the hooligan world using the Shadwell Town firm as a way in. Mo soon discovers there is more at stake and begins to lose himself and questions his own alliances the further down the rabbit hole he goes.

If you were to look at my employment history, my education or any hobbies, nowhere would it suggest acting, performing arts or theatre. It never crossed my mind that I wanted to get my face out there. When I was going through the final years of school, I wasn’t the most confident but I never let it get in the way of anything. I just stayed in my comfort zone.

Perhaps going to the audition was a challenge of confidence, so I took it.

I was getting home from filming in the streets of Hull at gone midnight, going to bed, waking up and going to work for 8am

I auditioned once by myself and once with a professional actor, who previously worked on Emmerdale. I didn’t realise at the time but we were auditioning for the same role. I had no idea what I was doing. The whole time I was thinking: this is a little elaborate for a film extra. It was nerve-racking and I never expected anything from it! It was only when I arrived for my third audition that I was handed a script, a contract and sent down to costume for a fitting, with introductions along the way. It was an insane whirlwind that I struggle to recall, even now. I think there was maybe cake somewhere.

Across March and April I was getting home from filming a shooting scene or a fight scene in the streets of Hull at gone midnight, going to bed, waking up and going to work for 8am. Each time I did odd days filming it would feel like it never happened. I’d be sat at my desk remembering bits and pieces of the day before and smiling to myself, trying desperately to convince myself that it really did happen.

Even now, in the run up to the release, it’s not quite sunk in.

One thing that everybody said about filming with the crew in Hull was how amazing they all were. I had no reference point – this was the first crew I ever worked with. They made everything work and remembered all the things you didn’t know you needed, like Terry’s hand warmers, which were lifesavers shooting in the cold rainy nights. I made a lot of friends on set and gained a better understanding of the entire process because of it. They were awesome and I owe them a lot.

It was strange seeing Hull from a different perspective for a change. I’ve lived here since I was 12 and I discovered places of Hull I’ve never been to before, like the hidden side streets of the old town. Even stranger was seeing it on the big screen and how it was transformed to replicate Amsterdam. I have since come to learn a lot about the magic that goes into making a film and some tricks of the trade.

The director, Joel Novoa, and Sally Hibbin, the producer, took a chance on me and I hope I didn’t let them down. I’ve seen the film twice and I’m still not used to seeing myself up there, but I hope that I did a good enough job for them whilst I convince myself I’m good enough to carry on down this road. I’d like to think I have chance to continue acting. Just saying that out loud still seems like a foreign concept but I’m slowly getting my head around what I need to do next.

I’m being asked more and more: “What advice do you have for other aspiring actors?” And I say the same every time: enjoy the journey, wherever it takes you. Auditions should be a pleasure as you get to showcase who you are and what you’re capable of. Make friends, as they will likely be a way into your next audition or job and, most importantly, stay humble. This is all good advice given to me that I’m trying to stick to. Hopefully it will help others too.

ID2: Shadwell Army is in cinemas and on digital from 12 August and DVD/Blu-Ray from 3 October. Ben Harris is front, right in the main photo

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