How to become an extra
Whether you are an aspiring actor, or just want to be seen in your favourite movies or television shows and series, being an extra is the perfect start to get familiar with showbiz, and on top of that you often make some extra cash. So, what does it take and how do you become an extra?
extras get to rub elbows with the celebrities without having to memorize lines or attend acting classes
extras get to rub elbows with the celebrities without having to memorize lines or attend acting classes. If you are an aspiring actor, being a background artist can give you some much needed experience and maybe even a few networking opportunities.
The biggest thing you'll need to bring to the table, whether you're a would-be Hollywood superstar or not, is patience. A good an extra might be required to do the same thing repeatedly, and there can be long periods in between takes, when there is nothing to do but wait. If being an extra still sounds like your kind of fun, read on to learn how to break into the world of background acting.
Finding a job as a an extra is like trying to find any other type of job: it takes a little time and persistence. The first thing you need is to know where to look. Here are few resources that list jobs for extras:
- Online extras directories
- Casting agencies
- Walk-in on-the-spot castings, usually for bigger productions
- Classifieds in niche media and newspapers
The fastest and easiest way is to register with a credible extras directory. There are lots of scams out there "promising" to make you a "star" in general, make sure the directory you join is focused on extras.
A casting agency is a firm that specializes in supplying directors with actors for movies, television and other similar jobs. Many casting agencies also have their own limited extras directory, but to increase their chances of finding the right person, they still turn to the best extras directories for most of their extras casting needs, both to place ads and casting calls and to search for extras directly. So does studios and production companies.
So, to become an extra, register with an online extras directory. Complete your profile detailing your features, background, personality, experiences, and supply a couple of images in different natural poses. Then production companies and casting agencies can find you, without you having to do anything further. And if you want to increase your chances, also monitor the ads and casting calls that the same site should be announcing, then apply for the ones that you find interesting and would suit you.
Remember, you don't have to be a star or trained actor, the right (often imperfect) look and attitude will do. And if you are really serious about getting into acting, taking some acting classes, got to say your first very own phrase in a production, then you can start to complement your extras jobs with actor auditions. And who knows, maybe one day you'll join the list of former extras that became movie stars.
extras do's and don'ts
Once you have landed your first job, make sure that you are ready for the job. This will ensure that your first job as a movie extra is not your last one. Here are a few tips to make your job go smoothly:
- Arrive on time.
- Pay attention and follow directions.
- Find your contact person immediately. This may be the assistant director, the extras casting director or some other contact person.
- Remember, this is a job. Do not bring your friends, pets or a camera.
- Follow all wardrobe instructions and requirements. This may mean wearing your own clothes and bringing extra clothes.
- Bring a book, crossword puzzle or something quiet to occupy your time during long waiting periods.
- Bring a jacket and a pair of comfortable shoes to wear when not on set.
- Socialize. Make friends with the other background actors to get tips or referrals.
- Don't ask the stars for autographs. They are working, not making a public appearance.
- Don't look at the camera.
- Don't talk or move around when the director is filming.
- Don't follow the example of the following movie clip :)