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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
How to be an extra / speaking role / or crew member in The Hobbit film
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merklynn
Lorien


May 28 2008, 7:23pm

Post #1 of 28 (6750 views)
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How to be an extra / speaking role / or crew member in The Hobbit film Can't Post

During the Barliman's Chat that occured concurrently with the PJ and GDT live chat last weekend, a lot of people were talking about how they wanted to be involved in the films. Many people sounded quite serious and determined to do whatever it takes but simply had no real knowledge of NZ or how to get invovled in the films. Fortunately I have worked in front of the camera in New Zealand before (TV commercials, shows, and films) and even had the option back in 2000 to be an extra in FOTR. I passed it up in favor of staying located up in Auckland and working on Xena: Warrior Princess, which was in its final season at the time. One of the many reasons I passed up FOTR was that the conditions, the hours, and the irregular schedule might have meant I failed to pull in a full work week pay check, since I would not be needed every day. Also location filming can be merciless when up against the elements. Some days can drag to 14+ hours. In fact, that is pretty much a usual work day.

Anyway, in retrospect, I should have gone for it and moved to Wellington. Now that I'm married to an American and living in the USA, I'm not sure I will ever have such a chance again, and I may have moved on from the bit of messing about I did as an extra for other career paths. But for those that want to know how to get into the film here is my guide...

1.) If you want to be an extra, speaking role you will need to find a way of locating yourself in New Zealand by late 2009 early 2010 when filming is scheduled to occur. You will HAVE to be available for many months in New Zealand with permission to work. There is practically no way you will be able to be an extra or featured extra if you aren't local and that basically means being near Wellington (New Zealand's capital). You can either try immigrating to NZ, doing a working visa, or studying abroad in NZ. For some of you who are already at university, I recommend looking into Massey University which has several campuses throughout NZ, with the most logical choice being their Palmerston North campus due to its relative closeness to Wellington. This solution may work particularly well for those that said they are pursuing film studies of some kind, as you can continue your education in NZ and also seek either an extra role or a crew role in the film while there. For more information just respond to this thread, but for now here is a link to Massey.
http://dev.massey.ac.nz/about/index.html

2.) What is it like living in New Zealand? Well since I have spent the last 4-5 years living in America, I can probably draw a decent picture of what it is like to live in NZ, since I have been able to look back from the outside in. New Zealand is a wonderful country that is only recently really catching up with some of the more "happening" places in the world, in terms of more things to do and keep yourself amused with. Better clubs, more hobby stores, better entertainment all around. Growing up in Auckland (the largest city by far) I was a little spoiled compared to many more rural areas of the country in that the larger pop meant more availabilty of hobby stores and snazzier cinemas, and restaurants blah blah. But Wellington seems to really be taking off too, and this is where you will most likely HAVE to be if you want a reasonable chance of being in the films.
The cost of living in NZ is insanely reasonable compared to the USA and UK. Food is cheap. Hardware is not so cheap. So a computer will cost you more than in USA largely because most of this stuff has to be completely imported from overseas as there is not enough industry to produce many parts locally. However housing is far far cheaper whether you are buying or renting. Unfortunately Wellington is practically tied for the most expensive place to live in NZ, not far behind Queenstown (which is in the South Island where they filmed much of the trilogy's location work). However, you have to balance the lower cost of food and housing, with lower pay checks. As an extra you shouldn't expect regular work either, or for too long since the films will probably be shot in under 6 months (per film most likely). You will not likely be working every day unless you are film crew. All in all, you should be able to get by on a student loan if you are studying along with filming work. It may be tough paying for the roof over your head just with the pay check an extra brings in though... so possible house pool. Ie several likeminded film crew / extras sleep under the same roof and share the costs. If you are a big enough fan and being involved in the Hobbit means that much to you then I think its a good idea.

3.) Contact a talent agency. There are several major talent agencies and the ones I used in Auckland (I ended up joining two concurrently in the end) also provided casting for LOTR based in Wellington, as a lot of extras were required. It would be best to get with a Wellington talent agency if possible, otherwise try an Auckland based one as most TV and entertainment stuff is happening in Auckland, including the Narnia films (their studio is down the street from my mother's house). Anyway, I would list names of agencies, but they may have died or changed since I was in this industry. Basically you just call them, they will then want to meet with you face to face at their office. Then they will most likely try to get you to undertake a "course" which will be spread over a couple of weeks and give you some pretty useless information but help them to get money from you. Unfortunately this is pretty much how the business works. You'll have to put out before you can get in. You will also have to go get professional photos taken for your "contact sheet" which is basically a 8.5" by 11" (or so) card with a big headshot of you on one side, and three various poses of you in different outfits on the othersie along with your statistics. They send contact sheets to the casting directors, but often with big movies your Talent Agency will sometimes just pre-approve you themself and send you to an audtion. You will not need to audition if you are going to be an extra, but speaking roles will have to say a few lines in front of the casting director and a camera. I will talk about how you get paid by your talent agency later.

4.) Be prepared for the following...
Extremely early morning call times. I would get call times like 4 AM to meet at a parking lot / car park where people would leave their cars and await a studio bus that would come and pick up cast and crew. Some studios and locations might allow parking at their site, but many will insist you park at a neutral location to not overburden studio parking and also for security. So I would wake up 3 AM, get to the pick up site by 4 AM, get to the studio location by 4:30 - 5 AM and sit around for a while as the breakfast catering is set up. I think breakfast was usually getting served about 5:30 or 6 AM (its been a few years) and as people finished their meals they would get pulled into costuming and dressed by the costume department ladies (usually ladies), and then sent through to make up (if necessary). They would add a little more tan to my face and shadow under my cheek bones to make me look a little tougher.. even giving muscle definition on my adequate biceps (which I sadly no longer have) to make me look a little more pumped. Make sure you get your food when you have the chance, and maybe even stash a bread bun in your costume somewhere if you can, since you will have trouble accessing your backpack or whatever your brought your personal stuff in. Turn off your cell phone and expect to have to leave it somewhere safe.

Be extremely conscientious of the film crew and the assistant directors and even the costume department. They all work even longer hours than extras do in setting stuff up and packing it away later. Don't mess with your costume. Don't laugh loud or chatter close to film crew, and NEVER talk during filming. Also, avoid silly things like what I did during a scene where myself (a Roman soldier) and others were tying Renee (Gabrielle from Xena) to a wooden cross. I was kneeling in the sand inside a castle courtyard and as I stood up I instinctively brushed the sand of my right knee, flicking it into Renee's (the co-star) eyes! I slinked away into the background even more so than usual after that.

Being an extra or featured speaking extra is not glamorous at all. You will find yourself sitting around bored stiff for long hours. One day in particular, myself and a group of Roman soldier extras sat near catering ALL day long because of a combination of tehcnical hitches and use of stunt men. So there will be times you do nothing all day but sit in a bizarre period costume talking to strangers. I even wound up in a brief relationship with one girl, and we kissed on set, before we finally saw each other at the end of the day without make up and in our regular jeans and t-shirts. She was still cute, but it is weird meeting people for the first time in fantasy costumes.

Don't be a smart asp and try to brown nose the stars. If they want to talk to you they will. Ted Raimi and Lucy Lawless both ended up speaking to me, albeit briefly... and usually during scenes where myself and a couple others were about to lead them onto the set as prisoner and escort.

5.) Getting paid. Getting paid for film might be different than commercials and TV, but I'm betting it is the same. Basically, you will not get paid until the film project you were involved in enters post-production. So the talent agency will give you a story along the lines of "we are waiting payment which will not come until shooting wraps". This isn't necessarily a lie, but your Agency will end up "failing" to tell you when shooting has wrapped. This is because the longer the lump sum from the studio sits in the Talent Agency's account, the more money they can make off it before having to pay it out. They strung everyone I worked with along like this consistently. Even extras from other agency's complained of the same thing. This is apparently the same in the USA and elsewhere. You have to hound your agency for the money you earned. I did not like doing this, and I did not get frequent enough work to warrant continuing as an extra. So I ultimately went back to an office job.

Last note... I had a fantastic time as an extra/actor and have many wonderful memories and anecdotes that will stay with me forever. I would love to re-experience it all, but I may have to do so through other fans who are more able to get to NZ in time. Fortunately you guys have nearly a year and a half to organize yourselves and get over there. I'm happy to answer questions as best I can.

Good luck becoming a Hobbit, or Elf, or Lake Towner, or Goblin!


(This post was edited by merklynn on May 28 2008, 7:28pm)


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


May 28 2008, 7:34pm

Post #2 of 28 (1541 views)
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Good on you merklynn. [In reply to] Can't Post

That information should be handy for a number of people.

I think you'd be surprised how much food and housing prices have risen since you left, but I'm sure that's happening in most countries around the world.

BTW a friend had just started a new job when she tried out as an extra for LOTR and was asked to instead train as a stunt woman (as he had horse skills). She thought about it but finally turned it down because the new job was a boost for her career. I wonder if she ever regretted that decision?

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


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(This post was edited by Ataahua on May 28 2008, 7:36pm)


grammaboodawg
Immortal


May 28 2008, 7:39pm

Post #3 of 28 (1394 views)
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You Tease!!! *twitch* [In reply to] Can't Post

And I thought I detected a bit of an accent in your posts ;)

Thanks everso!! *scribbles into 5-year planner* Mooove to Wellington. Got it :D



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ringbearer9
Lorien


May 28 2008, 8:20pm

Post #4 of 28 (1325 views)
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Thanks so much for the info! [In reply to] Can't Post

Even though I can't do this, I've been curious about it and you answered all my questions!

*Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed*


Elven
Valinor


May 28 2008, 9:01pm

Post #5 of 28 (1269 views)
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Thanks ... [In reply to] Can't Post

so much of your time in putting that together merklynn! Thats alot of great information you have given!
I will be following this up - certainly!

Cheers Elven x


Were off to Hobbiton finally!

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OhioHobbit
Gondor

May 29 2008, 12:26am

Post #6 of 28 (1275 views)
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That was most interesting! Thank you! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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Rosie-with-the-ribbons
Forum Admin / Moderator


May 29 2008, 5:49am

Post #7 of 28 (1241 views)
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Thanks for the information [In reply to] Can't Post

Fun to read how to act. I think that is probably really useful information. I won't be using it, I don't think I could give up my settled and comfortable live here for something so uncertain of being an extra, but it is fun thinking I could be over there and joining (although I also believe it will be very hard work).


Eledhwen
Forum Admin / Moderator


May 29 2008, 9:19am

Post #8 of 28 (1300 views)
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Thanks, and additional info [In reply to] Can't Post

Some of this is in the welcome sticky at the top of the page, but no harm in repeating ...

I came out here on a working holiday visa - these are available for quite a few countries including the US, UK and most of Europe (I think) and are valid for 12 or 23 months. For the longer visa you need various health checks, which cost more. You can renew from 12 to 23 months once you're in NZ, or upgrade to a general work permit if you have a permanent job offer (what I did). Working holiday visas are available for 18-30-year-olds. They allow you to work for a maximum of 12 months, usually for a maximum of three months for one employer - although the majority of people I know on WH visas have worked in one job for longer. Long enough for filming anyway.

To be paid for any work in NZ you have to have an IRD number for tax purposes (you don't need a job first). To get that you need a bank account, and for that you need an address! (But nothing else you don't already have, IIRC).

Merklynn's right that rental and living costs are higher in Wellington, but personally I think it's worth it as it's a lovely city to live in. And pretty accessible to get around - one of the better cities for public transport. Plus there are usually shop and bar jobs to tide you over until the casting call comes ... Cool

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Smeagirl/Girllum
Gondor


May 29 2008, 12:50pm

Post #9 of 28 (1238 views)
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Oh wow! [In reply to] Can't Post

What useful, interesting and helpful information! Thanks very much for posting this.

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Idril Celebrindal
Tol Eressea


May 29 2008, 7:14pm

Post #10 of 28 (1236 views)
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Thanks for the insider's perspective! [In reply to] Can't Post

It's fascinating to read about what it's like to be an extra on a NZ film shoot, as well as the ins and outs of working in NZ.

With caffeine, all things are possible.

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(This post was edited by Idril Celebrindal on May 29 2008, 7:14pm)


tattooed_dwarf
Rivendell


May 29 2008, 8:40pm

Post #11 of 28 (1259 views)
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Thank you very much.. [In reply to] Can't Post

for the info. I was one of the people interested about moving into NZ and get involved into these movies. Long and difficult working hours and hard working won't be bad for me, I've been in army for year and worked in foundry and I love unhuman conditionsCool I'm not just sure if I try to get work or just go to study... How difficult getting jobs from there are, for foreigner?


merklynn
Lorien


May 29 2008, 9:05pm

Post #12 of 28 (1247 views)
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Hmm.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, one of the Kiwis in NZ could answer that better than me. But NZ has been doing well in the last 10 years with lower unemployment and such. There are plenty of bar tending jobs, retail, and office temping may also be an option. It depends on what sort of work you are open to really. But as I suggested, finding someone else to share the adventure with you might make the cost of a roof over your combined heads more bearable.

It's definitely doable, especially given your military experience since you need to have patience and tolerate often miserly location weather conditions. Plus most of the time you will spend the day simply sitting around talking to other costumed extras. You should be comfortable socializing to really enjoy yourself and pass the time. The sets and costumes will very quickly become mundane. Even on a LOTR set believe me!


CreepyKrade
The Shire


May 29 2008, 10:46pm

Post #13 of 28 (1260 views)
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If I could rearrange my life... [In reply to] Can't Post

...I would probably do this. Blush I mean, why not? This is sure to be a spectacular duology. And to be honest, the way things are headed, I wouldn't mind spending several years away from States anyway...

After reading this thread, I actually suggested to some friends that we should move down to NZ, rent a house at the end of the year, and try to work in some capacity on "The Hobbit" films, (half-jokingly). Unfortunately, none of us are in the position to do so, but if we could, we'd probably make use of this guide. Wink

(This post was edited by Altaira on May 31 2008, 1:24am)


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


May 29 2008, 11:26pm

Post #14 of 28 (1311 views)
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We have very low unemployment levels, [In reply to] Can't Post

and there are always jobs around - especially in the summer months with orchard work (very tiring, can be unpleasant if you're susceptible to complications from jabs by branches, as one of my nephews found out, but you can earn a lot of money from it). We also have a big skills shortage - especially among tradesmen of any type and the medical professions, among others - so if you have skills to offer you're likely to find some jobs available (if all of your paperwork is in order).

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


JRandomRohirrim
Rohan


May 31 2008, 1:17am

Post #15 of 28 (1241 views)
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The Bottom Line: [In reply to] Can't Post

Extras just don't make much money.

I was an extra for 8 1/2 days in Pittsburgh for a local movie and made about $700 (after taxes). A nice chunk of change, but only because I lived here and didn't have to pay for travel or hotel. Except for the day I went home sick, I worked between 12 and 15 hours a day.

And what you look like matters. I would love to have been an extra when The Road shot here, but I hardly look like an emaciated post-apocalyptic survivor. So, I didn't even try.

On the other hand, I am pretty round-faced and not that tall...and I like my ale! But, I know I can't afford to go to NZ.

Hey - maybe the production company will have a contest to be an extra and pay to fly you to NZ. ;->


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overlithe64
Rivendell


May 31 2008, 2:19pm

Post #16 of 28 (1187 views)
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Great information [In reply to] Can't Post

For those who are serious its a great guideline...for those just thinking they'd pop over on holiday and be an extra perhaps an eye-opener. One day, I'd like to do on-set nursing, (medic) (nurse) ....but now is not the time....I could just see my Husband and sons as I waved good-bye to live in NZ....see ya guys! Ah, one day perhaps.

I am not obsessed... If I am, I am in excellent company.


Altaira
Superuser / Moderator


May 31 2008, 3:00pm

Post #17 of 28 (1176 views)
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Thank you!!! [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, this is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us.

TORn gets emails constantly asking this question which is why I put a blurb about it in the FAQ at the top of this Hobbit board. Your post has now been added as an official "Useful Link" at part of the answer to that question. Smile

Great job!


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Jonno2343
Registered User

Jun 1 2008, 4:33pm

Post #18 of 28 (1239 views)
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Thanks a lot. Just need a bit of help [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi
Thanks so much for this I have been spending hours trying to find any information on it,
I have the money to get over there and stay for a while.
Do you know of any good agencies to contact. I would love to do anything and I wouldn't mind not being paid, the experience is your payment.
I am really serious about this and so can anyone just point me in the directions of an agency?
I am presently in South Africa, but will be able to get over there as I have family and friends in NZ.

Thanks so much
Jonno


merklynn
Lorien


Jun 1 2008, 7:04pm

Post #19 of 28 (1369 views)
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Modelpool [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure if Model Pool still exist, but the contact info I have is below.

talent@modelpool.co.nz
Ph: 64-4 472 1230
Fax: 64-4 472 1280

I would simply do a search for Auckland talent agencies. Most are in Auckland and provide casting for the whole country. It might be harder to find Wellington based agencies online for some reason.

Again, you won't need to be in NZ until very late 2009, but definitely by 2010. Perhaps Guillermo can give a heads up to any fans willing enough to come to NZ and try out as extras, as to when they will be ready to start utilizing them when filming begins.


Jonno2343
Registered User

Jun 1 2008, 7:46pm

Post #20 of 28 (1165 views)
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Thanks [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks very much.
I wouldn't want to (or though wouldn't mind) being a talking extra, so I'm sure I would be able to get some part in it.
I don't care if I'm not even in the actually movie.
Just to be there for a day would be worth it.
Thanks again.
Jonno


Jonno2343
Registered User


Jun 2 2008, 1:03pm

Post #21 of 28 (1150 views)
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Modelpool disappeared [In reply to] Can't Post

I sent an email to them, but the domain name was rejected.
They have shut down it seems.
Thanks anyway, will look for others


tattooed_dwarf
Rivendell


Jun 6 2008, 5:32pm

Post #22 of 28 (1151 views)
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Sounds great.. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not just sure should I go to school there or try to find jobs. It's sad I'm not very highly educated so finding jobs with decent salary might be hard. Do you have lot of industry jobs there, cos that's were I have been working?

And I'm not just moving there to get into Hobbit, so I'm planning to move there in the beginning of the 2009. Then I'm already living there when casting starts. Maybe I even get into some other projects first so I would have some experience and might even lose some of my finnish accentCool


frodo33
The Shire

Jun 19 2008, 5:16am

Post #23 of 28 (1076 views)
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Very informative;-) [In reply to] Can't Post

I must say..I'd kick myself later if I didn't at least try Wink Thanks for the post...very nicely done!


simplyaven
Grey Havens

Sep 18 2008, 8:31pm

Post #24 of 28 (1036 views)
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Hmmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

It's been a topic of conversation in our family - a long trip to Australia and New Zealand. I'm pretty serious about giving the extra thing a shot...Thanks for the useful information. There is the visas issue, though. It's not working the same way for all countries and as we are over 30 years old, the WH visa doesn't work for us. It will take some time to get another visa - probably a few months, even 9 months according to the embassy schedules. Still, we are seriously investigatins for now, although I'll be the one to spend most time there.

I believe


Maravathar
Registered User

Jan 25 2009, 11:25pm

Post #25 of 28 (1005 views)
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Very helpful! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the information! It's nice to read this straight from somebody who has experience.

I'm planning to move from Canada to Wellington in January 2010. As soon as The Hobbit was officially announced, I knew that being an extra was something I wanted to work towards. Being finished school and not yet on a career path, I figured the timing couldn't be better!

However, I still have a couple questions. I realize they may be hard to answer, and you may not be able to, but any information would be helpful. :)

1) Is filming still slated to begin in early 2010? Or have things shifted earlier or later? I suppose this is something that will become clearer as time goes on, but I'm still curious. I couldn't find any hard information in the articles I read.

2) What do you think the chances are of getting a spot as a non-speaking extra? I'd be living in Wellington, have a working visa, be set up with a talent agency as you suggested, and be available at any time. Plus my stature and appearance would probably fit either Men or Elves. :) But I've heard that lots of people are doing the same thing I am, and I'm sure many locals are thinking the same way. Is it likely going to be a situation where those who aggressively pursue positions are the only ones who will get them? Or do they need so many people on these sort of films that someone focused but not obsessed on getting a position would stand a chance?

As I said, these are fairly specific questions, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask. ;)

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