Below the Stars: How the Labor of Working Actors and Extras Shapes Media Production

Univ. of Texas. Jul. 2021. 216p. ISBN 9781477323076. $45. FILM
How do those people in the background of TV shows and films end up there? Fortmueller (film, Univ. of Georgia) answers that question in this thorough history of background actors and extras in the entertainment industry workforce, from the silent era to today. She dives deep, examining the push and pull between extras and industry executives as they came to agreements on favorable working conditions. Fortmueller offers intriguing details and anecdotes uncovered in archival materials, and at times the book reads like an entertaining work of meta-cinema, full of scandal and intrigue. However, Fortmueller tends to take an exacting and academic approach to set the record straight on the working life of extras.
VERDICT Although elements of this work will entice general readers, it will appeal most to those interested in the nitty-gritty of labor in the entertainment industry. Those seeking a more generalized history of extras should look elsewhere.
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