So you want to be an extra on set – Becoming an extra is not that difficult and really does not require any special skills or acting ability. Most extras do not have speaking parts and are “filler” in scenes.
If you are looking to become an actor or actress, working as an extra can give you some great experience working on set and supply a chance to meet other people who are also looking to break into the business.
Unfortunately, to become an extra you must live in a major market such as Los Angeles or New York or a city that shoots many films. There are a few states that have a fair amount of production going on. Some states offer incentives for production companies which causes production companies to shoot their films in those states. Besides New York and California, there is a good amount of production that goes on in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Michigan, Hawaii and a few other states. When those films are ready to shoot, they recruit extras from the local area. Since being an extra is a low paying job, extras are not normally hired from outside the local area or flown in.
If you live in a large market such as Los Angeles or New York, you will need to register with a background casting company before you can work as an extra. Registration is simple and most companies allow you to register online or in person. Most companies will also charge a small fee to add you to the database, anywhere from $25 to $40. The fee covers their time and costs in uploading your photos and information.
If you live outside of L.A. or New York, there may not be any background casting companies in the area. In smaller markets casting directors usually put out casting notices to local papers, TV shows, news stations and colleges. If you keep your eyes open, you should hear about it.
How to become an Extra – Information for on-set etiquette
- Make sure that you arrive on the set on time, with required wardrobe and/or props. It is better to arrive early than to report late.
- Be courteous and attentive.
- Fill out your contract or voucher with care, making sure all information is legible and appears on all copies. Keep your own records of hours worked, meal breaks, etc. Make sure you note all wardrobe and props supplied at the request of the Producer.
- Bring along some busy work. Part of working sometimes requires hours of idleness on the set.
- Never leave the set without getting approval from the Assistant Director.
- Smoke only in designated areas. This is a matter of courtesy.
- The professional Background Actor is always prepared to take down the reporting location, date and time of a call, as well as the required wardrobe.
- Once you are hired, you have been hired until released by the production company. In short, do not ask to leave early and do not leave early.
- Notify Casting Director of potential conflicts caused by other bookings immediately.