If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life is how the maxim goes, but how realistic is that in the real world when it means taking risks, making difficult choices and recognising an opportunity?
We discover how four people have achieved their own version of living the dream, by following their heart and turning a passion into a thriving livelihood.

Writer: Paula Huburt – Photographer: David Field

Phil Beer remembers his first love very well.
As a little boy he would marvel at the glamour of Hollywood on the silver screen from the front row of the cinema.
“I virtually grew up there. My uncle was the usher at the local picture theatre so he’d leave the door open five minutes after the film started and we’d sneak in,” says the 65-year-old.
Fuelled by his passion to see how films were made, he became a movie extra. It’s a job that he has loved doing for the past 35 years.
Phil, who has an agent, is a favourite at casting sessions with his abundant mane of wavy silver hair and bushy moustache. His character-filled face has often landed him roles as a juror, councillor, a judge on a panel, dignitary and court clerk over the years, which is why he’s not allowed to cut his hair.
He has been in over 50 films including Charlotte’s Web, Chopper Read, Strictly Ballroom, and Ned Kelly. He also appears in scores of popular TV series – Underbelly, Australia on Trial, Howzat, Sea Change, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Neighbours, Blue Heelers, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and The Man from Snowy River.
“Between shoots on The Man from Snowy River, Andrew Clarke and I would listen to the cricket in a truck and sometimes Guy Pearce joined us,” he remembers.
His fondest memory was on set for the 1984 US mini-series Eureka Stockade which was filmed around Bendigo. He was used as a redcoat in the first scene and managed to clinch a number of different roles.
“It was what Hollywood should be. There were thousands of extras with a huge cast, big battlefields and crews up on cranes. That kind of opportunity only comes round once and I was fortunate to be in the big scenes with the main stars,” he says.
As an extra, he’s not always told the name of the production. On one movie set, he was instructed to keep clapping on the dance floor and this went on for hours.
“It was a weird looking set and you didn’t know what was happening.”
He found out later that it was Strictly Ballroom.
“I was really excited because a gem came out of it,” says Phil, who used to own a photography studio and is highly regarded for his own pictures.
Phil also rises to the challenge as a movie extra. On one set for the movie Father filmed at Werribee Sewage Farm, he agreed to strip down to his briefs for a trench scene even though the temperature was two degrees.
“After two hours having bullet holes applied to our heads in make-up, we were filmed falling into a trench. They chucked lime and sandstone to cover us and we had to lie there all day.”
“A lot can’t hack being a movie extra. I’m very lucky that I’ve built up a good name and I’m welcomed on set.”
He also shares his extensive knowledge of movies on the radio. Twice a week he presents a movie show on community radio station Phoenix FM and his program was shortlisted for a national radio award last year. He also makes his own films and is involved in local movie-making clubs.
But he’ll stay as a movie extra for as long as he can.
“It’s a hobby that has turned into a well-paid job. I’ve found my own Hollywood.”