I was an extra in a Coldplay video, sort of

05:19, Jun 20 2014

I was a Coldplay extra, no really I was. Although less a ''bit-part actor'' and more in line with the definition of ''extra'' that suggests ''surplus to requirements''.

Still, I'm there, at two minutes 28 seconds in the distinctly low-budget official music video for A Sky Full of Stars that Coldplay shot on Sydney's King Street on Tuesday which was released on Thursday. No doubt it will be played on weekend morning video hits-type shows for aeons to come. Crucially, my name also appears in prominent four-point type in the credits.

Truth be told I made it for about a second (OK even that's stretching it), leaning against a lamp-post in the fuzzy distance, wearing my black Wiggles T-shirt and trying to look so uninterested that the security forces swarming ahead of the cameras and Chris Martin would leave me alone like some grimy King Street prop. I succeeded, which might not be a compliment.

Chris Martin of British band Coldplay, filming a music video on King St, Newtown. Photo: James Brickwood

But hey I'll claim it; hand me the beluga caviar Mr Spielberg, or any kind of free lunch. I'm starving on this journalist wage.


The experience was interesting but about as far from the idea of being in a pop video as you could get, and certainly had parallels with most of Coldplay's songs. First the anticipation at news it's coming up, then a lot of confused waiting around before a brief flash of excitement followed by flatlining as the Pythonesque reality sinks in: suddenly, nothing happened. 

Coldplay fans know the band's music isn't life-changing but they don't care: at the Enmore Theatre show on Thursday evening there was a lot of love for Chris Martin and for the band's radio hits (Clocks, Sky Full of Stars and especially Viva La Vida) but for much of the gig the audience stood about nattering through the songs or concentrating on getting an even better video of the endearingly-likeable Martin amidst the cool lasers.

Coldplay's manager Phil Harvey tweeted on Monday evening he was looking for extras to appear in the official clip for A Sky Full of Stars. Hopefuls were directed to assemble at the Courthouse Hotel in Newtown on Tuesday by 11.30am. Enormous bouncers wearing black sunnies ushered nervous teens and twentysomethings into the garden bar, tapping a clicker until it registered the required 250 people just before 11am.

Various music video directors stood at the top of the stairs barking confusing instructions to the extras like "go crazy but not too crazy" when the band appears and "Newtown is fiull of eclectic people so be careful with your belongings".

When a member of the 50-odd production crew for the clip handed me an orange wristband and a contract agreeing to sign away my "image, likeness, appearance or performance in the video ... absolutely and in perpetuity throughout the universe" I thought: 'what could possibly go wrong?' For a start, not having a pen on me. Step one, journo fail. Luckily the Courthouse garden bar is a popular hangout for well-resourced but disengaged students so spare pens were plentiful.

Coldplay's contract for the fans who appeared in the video for "A Sky Full of Stars". Photo: Peter Vincent

You can't deny the fascination with at least the idea of being in a music video: would someone with a megaphone, backwards cap and cravat point at me and shout: 'You! You've got something ... you are perfect for this scene."

That did not happen, but still, it was fascinating watch the behind-the-scenes action. Several senior production crew (backed by men with oak tree-arms) are negotiating with journalists to step back from Martin's planned route from Mary Street.  'We want to make a film clip that looks natural and doesn't have all these extra elements in it," she pleads, by which she surely means huge television cameras and immaculately-dressed TV reporters standing out like real estate agents at 10am on a Saturday morning. 

Groups of girls dressed as if they want to be promoted up the queue for the Ivy nightclub are marching up and down the footpath lest they miss their chance, but the majority of the extras are being moved around the route and positioned to where they are needed to create the required crowd scenes. Mostly, they are being held back, as am I. The dream is fading.

Eventually, agreement is reached for Martin to do a mock run-through so camera crew and photographers can get what they need. Martin and the band are unsurprisingly polished, but unpretentious and enjoying every moment of it. The frontman  hardly looks heartbroken after his on-again (possibly) off-again separation from star wife Gwyneth Paltrow. He is smiling and high-fiving grinning fans, especially curious locals stopping in between trips to the bank and IGA supermarket. The camera crew keenly follows Martin's easy rapport with them.

At this point I realise King Street's normal bustling population are not under any such control and probably have the best chance of a cameo. I cut off my wristband and position myself against a post outside the Zanzibar hotel (known to locals as the Moroccan-on-inn). Martin and co sweep past me three times.

In the slightest possible sense of being an extra I made it, although I'm not sure I'll be telling my grandkids about it, lest I get the reaction I'd deserve: 'Grandpa Pete is banging on again with that crap story about the time some band walked past him while he was asleep against a pole'. I wasn't, it just looked that way.