Quick Tips on How to Get Work as an Extra in Movies or TV
In the early 2000's when I decided to get into acting, I was fortunate to join the (extras) cast members in "The Alamo". I have very fond memories of that production experience and by the end of it all I walked away with many new friends, set experience and a nice hefty paycheck. Well, it was hefty to me back then, I was only 20.
I never aspired to be a background actor but the opportunity was there and I took it. Not only did being around professional filmmakers teach me valuable lessons I would use in the future but it reinforced the dream I had of being an actress and making movies.
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This experience motivated me to keep going until I was a principal in a production.
The people in the movies that never speak or have more than 1 second of on-camera time are called 'extras' or 'background'. Can you imagine watching a movie without extras? The scene in the movie would be incredibly flat and boring.
New and aspiring actors often start by working as an extra in movies or tv. If you aren't convinced if you should work as an extra, let me show you why you should consider working as an extra in movies and how to get into acting this way.
Why Work as an Extra in a Movie?
Working in a movie as an extra is a fun way to get into acting and gain experience from working on a professional movie set. You’ll get paid to work as an extra in large productions.
Usually, extras are paid minimum wage or .25 to .50 above minimum wage plus overtime. Networking opportunities are everywhere. Every time I took up gigs as an extra I met a wide variety of people. Most of these people were also aspiring actors who were there to gain experience on the set.
I met many aspiring directors as well, who were more than happy to answer questions I had about working in independent films. Then you’ll meet professional extras. These people work as extras all the time, they are patient and more than willing to share tips and tricks of the trade with you.
The Job of a Movie Extra
On set extras fill the background and turn a 2-dimensional scene into a realistic everyday busy scene. In all honesty usually, extras sit in a room apart from the set and wait until called on set. You might be on set for a few hours up to 8 or 10 or more. Sometimes you’ll see famous actors up close and sometime from afar, but whatever you do, don’t bother them.
How to Get Work as an Extra
Most of the paid extra opportunities will come from larger Hollywood productions companies. To apply, you will not need a resume or professional headshot.
You will have read the breakdown carefully and submit the information the extras casting director needs from you. Typically extras casting directors need either a resume or an application that they will provide, body measurements, a headshot photo and body photo.
Casting directors will ask for your availability, your age, and your proof of residency. They always want to work with local-hires because they will not reimburse your gas, travel or hotel expenses.
Working as an extra is a fun and easy way to dip your toes into the film industry as it will show you just how tedious and hard filmmaking can be for an actor.
After you have worked in at least 2 to 3 movies or television shows as an extra it's time for you to start aiming for roles in theatrical plays or independent films.
Once you have more experience with actual acting, you should be ready to start looking for your very first agent.
Becoming a professional working actor takes time and a lot of hard work. Be patient, take acting lessons and work as an extra then you can decide if acting is truly for you.
Have you already worked as an extra? Leave a comment and show off your time on the set! If you have 'extra' advice (see what I did there?) to share, leave it in the comments too!
Thanks for reading!
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