- Locate where acting extras are hired
- Get a headshot
- Join an agency
- Advise the agency of your availability
- Get hired
The difference between the extras here and in France is the French extras read books. Actually, they hide the book and pretend that they’re acting. Here (in Hollywood), you can see everybody wants his break.Berenice Bejo
Whether you are looking for a way to get started in the entertainment industry or you just want an experience of being on set, being an extra allows you to gain insights into how movies are created. If you interested in becoming an extra, here are tips on how to see how your favorite film is made.
Who is an extra?
Acting extras, also known as background actors, play a role in the background where they do not speak. The purpose of acting extras is to make a scene appear more authentic. Background actors are the ones who are usually in the background of a shot; looking busy or could be for example walking down a street or at a football game packed with fans. Without acting extras, movies would look unreal and boring.
Being a background actor is not always an easy task. First, there are days when you will be required to work early in the morning and leave later in the evening. Second, there are times when you will stand for hours on set without anything to do. Lastly, the pay is not the best. However, despite these challenges, being a background actor is a good gig if you are a beginner wanting to learn how film sets operate.
Here are the guidelines on how you can land a background actor role:
- Locate where acting extras are hired
- Getting hired as an extra
Locate where acting extras are hired
Your location should not limit your opportunity to be a background actor. You can check online to see if there are open roles of acting extras near you. You can also sign up with a reputable extra’s agencies. It is worth noting that extras agencies often require membership payments.
To sign up for an extra agency, you need to have a headshot. Acting extras’ headshots do not need to be professionally taken like those of the main actors. You will also provide additional information like your age, height, hair, and eye color. Before making any payments to an agency dealing with extras, ensure you trust that agency so that you are not scammed.
To establish if an agency is legit, look at reviews left by other extras.
Getting hired as an extra
Once you have registered with an extra’s agency, the next step is getting a job. There are two processing that extras agencies take to get you a job. Most companies randomly submit you for work where filming is going on. There are companies where you avail yourself for posted filming ads. Such companies are often scammers, and you should be wary of them.
Getting an extra acting job requires a lot of patience. Once you get a phone call from your agency, you need to confirm your availability. Avoid hesitating since the opportunity will pass one to someone else if you are not available.
The following information is usually provided when you get a background actor role:
- The location of the shoot.
- The number of shooting days you will attend.
- The time for your shootings.
- How much your pay is.
- Contact number for on-set personnel.
Once you land an extras gig, there are dos and don’ts you need to observe.
Working as an Extra: Do’s and Dont’s
It is crucial that you arrive on set early. As soon as you arrive, check-in with the person in charge so they are aware you are present. Make sure you double-check what time you are expected to be on set. Also, clearly know the set’s location as to plan earlier on the route you will take and how long the journey will take you.
Double-check what you should carry with you to the set wardrobe and have an extra set of clothes in case you need to change.
Carry snacks and something to pass the time with
Although there is food on set, carry some snacks as you never know how much food is available and how often you will need to eat. As an extra, most of your day will involve waiting. You are allowed to bring a book or phone to read when you are not acting. However, make sure you are aware of what’s happening.
You could be needed on set at any minute, and you must always be ready. Another crucial thing you need to plan is bathroom breaks. In filming, time is money, and unnecessary halts in production cost money. You do not want to be the reason a scene cannot proceed because you must rush to the washroom.
Take a bathroom break in between scenes so that you are ready when they yell ‘Action.’ Inform the PA who oversees extras of your whereabouts, so it is easy to find you.
Avoid trying to stand out
There is a reason extra are known as background actors. Acting extras place in production is the background. If you draw unnecessary attention to yourself as an extra, the chances of being called back to the show are very slim. The focus should be on the main cast. You are there to support the production, not steal the spotlight.
Try to blend in and do what is required.
Avoid unnecessary interaction with the main cast or crew.
When on set, most actors are extremely focused, and making small talk with them could distract them. The best way to interact with the cast and crew is to engage with them when they initiate the conversation.
If there is a break and a crew member start a conversation, feel free to engage them. However, remember that the moment the camera rolls back, your conversation is no longer a priority. Do not take it personally; it is just part of the job.
As a background actor, you may be on the same set as your favorite actor. Remember, when on set, you are a professional, not a fan; therefore, keep your excitement in check.
Taking photos while on set is not appreciated. Unless you get permission from your PA, avoid taking behind the scenes photos. Also, make sure your phone is silent or switched off when the cameras are rolling. Vibration mode is not the best since the microphones can pick the vibration sound, and that could earn you a disapproving look from your PA.
It is crucial you are aware of what foods available for extras. There are productions that separate snacks and foods of the cast and background actors. Once you’re done eating your food, throw away the trash properly. Avoid littering the production site; nobody likes a dirty scene.
Try to remain positive
As an extra, your days can be long, and the food may not be the best. However, even when the conditions are not the best, try to remain positive. Avoid complaining or talking bad about other people on set. People do not forget an extra who was ungrateful or negative and they avoid hiring such an extra again.
The entertainment industry is small, and word moves around real fast. Therefore, be positive and remember you are there to gain experience. Make a good impression since the people you are working for may offer you opportunities in the future.
Advantages of being an acting extra
One of the main reasons people choose to be acting extra is to get networking opportunities. There are many people trying to get a break in the entertainment industry and you can interact with them as a background actor. The contacts you get might be useful in the future when they become successful in their niche.
Understanding the entertainment industry
When you are new to show business, you never fully grasp the inner workings of television and film sets until you are part of them. So much work goes into the production of films, from lighting, to props, and camera works. As an acting extra, you are exposed to all the work that goes in to create a movie or television show. You can also discover that there are production jobs that you are now considering that were previously not appealing to you.
Although it is very unlikely, someone might spot you when you are an acting extra and realize you can be more than a background actor. However, such occurrences are rare as directors are often concentrating on the main task at hand of filming the main actors. However, if a director’s eyes land on you, it might be your lucky break into filming. Therefore, if you want to be an actor, the best route is to audition to be an actor, not an extra.
All in all, the role of acting extra is unique. You get the rare opportunity to be part of a movie set and get to see what goes on behind the scenes. If you become an extra, make sure you have fun. Enjoy every moment you have on set and learn all you can. Remember to be positive and always ready to play your role.
You can follow the rule work, get paid, repeat when you are an extra. If your main goal is to become a professional actor, do not stick around for too long. Learn what you can and move on to acting.
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