Lights, camera, me?

Lights, camera, me?

Did you know I was once an extra in a Disney movie about Shirley Temple? This is the story of how I stumbled into my 15 seconds of fame on the small screen.

Back in 2000, I was 23 years old and living in Melbourne. At the time, I had recently become obsessed with swing dancing. One day, a few of my dance friends and I were invited to be extras in a movie called Shirley Temple: A Child Star. I never imagined doing something like that, but it sounded glamorous so I jumped at the opportunity – or should I say, danced at it!

Becoming a Movie Extra

I was working as a physiotherapy assistant in an aged care rehab ward. I took a day of annual leave and drove to the big old hall where they were filming for the day. 

I spent hours sitting around in a tent waiting for hair and makeup. Then we girls crammed into a trailer to get dressed up in 40s style clothes - long dresses and high heels. Definitely not my usual stretchy t-shirt and flat shoes dance attire!

Dancing on Set 

My dance friends were couples who practiced together often. But I came alone, so they paired me up on the day with another swing dancer I knew. 

The music was fast, the floor slippery, and it was all I could do to stay upright, let alone look glamorous! With the lights, cameras and directions, it felt like another world. The strangest part was when they filmed dialogue and we had to dance silently - all you could hear was shuffling feet.

We danced...and danced...and danced some more. Then it was time to change and go home. They wanted me back the next day for school scenes, but I decided helping people walk again was more exciting than movie extra work. I’m more of a doer than a sit-around-and-waiter!

My Cameo on Camera

The movie came out in 2001 on TV and video. I still have it on a VHS tape in storage but no way to watch it. Eleven years ago I managed to digitize my brief dance scene and share it on Facebook. 

You can see my armpit go past the front of the screen about eleven seconds in, and my face flashing past in the background a couple times as I turn. 

My love of swing dancing from that time has stayed with me over the years and even worked its way into my fiction writing. If you want to read one of my stories featuring swing, check out my book "Don't Mean a Thing."