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Milena Smit and Miki Esparbé in a take leaving the fictional SUR newsroom. Ñito Salas
On set with Netflix's The Snow Girl 2: a day in the life of an extra
Special feature

On set with Netflix's The Snow Girl 2: a day in the life of an extra

Three SUR journalists get to experience working on set as the crew film scenes of the lead character's return to the newsroom to investigate the murders of two girls

Friday, 2 February 2024, 16:51

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It is currently the most talked-about series for television. Netflix has not yet announced its return among upcoming releases, but season 2 of The Snow Girl has returned to the scene of the crime. Back to that dark, rain-soaked Malaga from the first season, with the same main character taking the lead once again for season two. This is an adaptation of acclaimed author Javier Castillo's sequel to The Snow Girl - The Soul Game. The tenacious journalist Miren Rojo (played by Milena Smit) returns to the SUR newsroom to investigate, with the help of a new colleague, Jaime (Miki Esparbé), the torture and death of two teenage girls. A tough, dangerous case that has the full support of the newspaper's editorial team, so much so that three journalists signed up for a part, albeit only as extras. All to help uncover the bad guys and, while we're at it, we'll see if we can take a photo with the lead character.

7.30am: Thunder rumbles twice across the skies over Malaga city. A bad day for shooting, except this is the sequel to The Snow Girl where it rains a lot. The amount of rain led to criticism of the first season for being set in a place where it never seems to rain. Still, rain is falling in drought-stricken Malaga and it comes in handy for today's filming.

8.10am: All extras have been summoned to Gran Café in El Palo, formerly Casa Pedro and now the fictional headquarters of Diario SUR. One side of the building has lost its typical yellow hue to the distinctive red that bears the newspaper's logo, alongside plaques announcing all of the products produced inside (SUR, SUR in English, SUR Deutsche, Oferplan... just as in the real newsroom on the other side of town). Inside, the rain has added to the chaos of all the extras crowding in as they shake umbrellas and coats. It is a complicated day with up to 30 extras.

"From now on, you have no names, only characters."

These are the words of Ángela Oliva, production coordinator, who proceeds to sort us into groups as though we were back at school. On one side, all passers-by; a little closer are the youths by a bench and Milena Smit's stand-in; at the back are the grandparents, drivers, the gypsy woman and the kiosk owner; further back, workmen, a father with his children and, on the other side, the SUR reporters who, in this case, are real journalists from the paper. It would have suited our crime news hounds Juan Cano and Irene Quirante down to the ground, but in their absence, it's up to Ana Barreales, the writer of this article and our much-needed photographer, Salvador Salas, to stand in for them.

Salvador Salas steps into wardrobe with his camera, as always.
Salvador Salas steps into wardrobe with his camera, as always. José Doblas

8.35am:After sorting us, it's the turn of make-up, hair and wardrobe. The storyline is set in 2021, and we had been texted some instructions for the 'uniform'. Those of us playing journalists have pulled on whatever we'd wear any workday. The best-dressed is Salas, or Bori to his friends. He has brought cameras to hang around his neck for his role as SUR photographer. He has nailed the character. Seems like he was born for this. With just one glance his sartorial style gains their approval.

Ana Barreales, the first extra to head to hair and make-up.
Ana Barreales, the first extra to head to hair and make-up. Salvador Salas

8.44am:Time for a spot of glamour. In front of a mirror surrounded by light bulbs, they slowly but surely apply make-up to the troops. "There are days when there are only four people to fix up and others when there are thirty, like today," they tell us between the swishing of brushes to leave a matt finish so we don't shine on camera. They have given Ana Barreales a "chuflo" (aka messy bun updo), although she thinks she looks better with her hair down. But she doesn't object. Another thing to hide is tattoos. They ask all the extras if they have any and where. Almost all the younger ones raise their hands and get checked over. Such caution is due to the fact that if a tattoo is visible on screen, it triggers a copyright issue and that is why they are avoided unless created for the plot.

9.15am: From the moment you arrive there is coffee for everyone, plus pastries and sandwiches. On the street they have been preparing to shoot the first scene for some time, while production HQ in the Grand Café is buzzing with technicians and other staff. They hand round a list with all our names, not our characters, for signing, to prove we really are present and correct. Then they warn us about confidentiality and no use of mobile phones on set. We would have done this for free - playing at being SUR journalists in The Snow Girl 2. However, all work on a shoot must be paid work. Basic day rate as an extra - this applies to pretty much everyone present - pays 53.99 euros net for nine hours of filming (eight hours of work and one for breaks).

9.30am: Action. Actual filming begins. It's no longer raining. They take the large group of passers-by to Avenida Salvador Allende for the first scene. The rest of us fetch another coffee.

Filming starts on the first scenes scheduled today. It’s no longer raining.
Filming starts on the first scenes scheduled today. It’s no longer raining. Ñito Salas

10.04am:The waiting around goes on and the constant looking at one another creates a sense of camaraderie. Ana and Bori start talking to the gypsy woman, who's not a true gypsy, and she, unlike her character, has a name, Mari Carmen Tenllado.

"Do you read palms?", asks Salas hesitantly.

"I read anything and everything, but it'll cost you."

That's what you call getting into character.

10.39am:The passers-by return to the room for the extras. They tell us that they have filmed a dozen shots with the main characters leaving the building and getting into a car. "This is fun; I fancied doing this, but I'm not working. If I had a job I wouldn't have considered it," says Arón León, one of the extras.

10.43am:Milena Smit and Mike Esparbé enter the Grand Café heading for make-up. Let's see if we can grab a quick photo, although this place looks like Calle Larios at rush hour. It's time for a break - well, a sandwich break. "Eat now as there's nothing to eat until lunch," advises the production coordinator. So those who haven't yet done so get up to go for a hot pork butty. Thus far, some of us have done nothing but eat. You certainly don't go hungry on a shoot. "Take some sandwiches to the police stopping traffic," is heard over a technician's earpiece. As I said, on a shoot, at mealtimes, everyone eats.

11.05am:After all that refreshment, the passers-by return to their starting positions. We journalists are told that we are up next and there's no hiding that nervous smile. But the grandparents get to go first. In any case we are taken out to the street to be ready. Twenty minutes later they remember we are still there and tell us to wait back inside. False alarm. On the way back we are reminded of that popular adage about film-making: "Well, they don't pay you to act much, just to hang around between scenes." "Or just call it waiting," says Ana with a cynical grin.

Milena Smit and Miki Esparbé chat outside the newsroom. The actor finishes off his lollipop.
Milena Smit and Miki Esparbé chat outside the newsroom. The actor finishes off his lollipop. Julio Vergne

12.11pm: "Come on, time to film the journalists," they call out to us on the back row. In seconds we are on set. The cameras point at Smit and Esparbé sitting outside the SUR newsroom. This is not our scene either, so we have front-row seats to all the filming. They rehearse the scene. Milena arrives while her partner is talking and twirling a lollipop. All goes well and the actors high-five each other. Now for real. "Quiet, cameras rolling, action." Director David Ulloa asks them to go again after saying "cut", and more of the same for several takes. It reaches the point where Barreales begins to worry: "He's going to run out of lollipops!" Indeed, by the last take only the stick is left.

12.23pm: The journalists and the gypsy wait for our moment to finally step on scene. "At this rate I'll be going home without selling anything," says Tenllado, with her red flower in her hair, her quilted housecoat and her sprig of rosemary in her hand. Mari Carmen works on and off at Limasa or as a home help, and she showed up for the casting because a friend of hers encouraged her. Bori tells her that we are journalists.

"Of course, for the filming."

"No, no, we really do work for SUR," Salas tells her.

"Yeah right, mate, and that's a plastic camera."

"Absolutely not, it's really real. Shall I take your picture?"

"You mean it? Will I appear in your paper? How exciting!"

So Bori takes her picture with a promise to give her her 15 minutes of fame.

Mari Carmen Tenllado, the gypsy extra with her rosemary in the promised photo now in printara el periódico.
Mari Carmen Tenllado, the gypsy extra with her rosemary in the promised photo now in printara el periódico. Salvador Salas

12.54pm:Finally we get to do our scene. Assistant director Patri positions us at the traffic lights on Avenida Salvador Allende, in front of the fictional façade of SUR's offices. Milena Smit is going to drive past us and then we cross to the other side of the pavement. Crossing with the leading lady, but it's not a face-to-face encounter, not even sharing a glance. What did we think? Even the camera is behind us, some ten metres behind. "Like all the extras, in the end they'll just see an ear," concludes Barreales. Indeed, the extras, by definition, provide the volume, the setting. But just think how real those ears are going to look.

Francisco Griñán, Ana Barreales and Salvador Salas awaiting their cue, “Action!”
Francisco Griñán, Ana Barreales and Salvador Salas awaiting their cue, “Action!” Julio Vergne

1.10pm:Milena drives by once, twice, three and even four times. So we walked over the pedestrian crossing once, twice, three and even four times, keeping that ear in shot. "Reporters, move four metres back," yells Patricia in the following scene where we have to enter the newspaper building. So we do the short walk again, one, two, three takes.... "Let's change," is the order given to film a third scene with Smit getting out of the car.

2.45pm: "Lunchtime!" Ángela gathers together all the extras who have scattered along the street and we set off together to San Ignacio football ground. There is no match on, but they have set up the catering tent there. A temporary dining room that gives an idea of the scale of this production. More than a hundred people reporting to this eatery, or rather, luxury eatery. Four starters and a couple of seconds to choose from, bread, drinks, dessert and coffee. Not too bad at all. Courgette gratin and cod on a bed of oven-baked potatoes tasted divine. We ate as well as the cast.

Back to starting positions once more, the car carrying Milena Smit‘s double passes in front of the journalists.
Back to starting positions once more, the car carrying Milena Smit‘s double passes in front of the journalists. Julio Vergne

3.45pm: Of course, no time for post-lunch chit chat. Exactly one hour's break and we're back. We resume our positions at the traffic light so that Milena Smit's green VW can pass by again. But, surprise surprise, this time the camera is in front of us, although high up and somewhat far away. Our faces will be seen as well as our ears. When the car passes, we see that Milena is not in it, she's been replaced by her stand-in. That means you can't see her face from where the camera is positioned so, by default, neither will you see ours. Despite this disappointment, we crossed by the traffic light giving our all once, twice, three times. Our shining moment of glory. Yes, it's only half a second on film, or it might even end up on the cutting-room floor, but that's unimportant.

4.33pm:"Cut!" There are still some scenes left, but we journalists are done for the day. The scenes inside the newspaper offices are filmed indoors in Madrid, so they thank us, they collect our passes and we head off home. Well, actually, we're going to the newsroom - the real one. After all, just like the secret loves of Ava Gardner, the story must be told, even if we didn't get that photo with Milena Smit.

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