So you wanna be in pictures?
Many people would love to see themselves on the silver screen or even the TV screen. For fans who just want to be in a movie for the experience of it all being an extra may be just the ticket.
So what exactly doe an extra do?
An extra is kinda like a human prop. It does not require any special skills but may require a certain look. Production needs extras to fill in space. You can’t film a ball game scene with an empty stadium or a club scene in a dead venue. That’s where extras come in. Production uses extras to fill in city streets, stadiums, clubs, restaurants and anywhere else there should be a crowd.
It is not glamorous work and in most cases it is pretty boring as there can be many hours of waiting around. Extras are normally not allowed to socialize with the actors and are kept separate until needed for the scene.
The next question most ask is….
How much can I make as a movie extra?
Unfortunately, not that much. Extras are not actors and do not have contracts. For the most part non-union extras are paid an hourly wage which is close to the minimum wage in the area. Yes, here in the U.S., most extras will make about 8 bucks an hour. Minimum wage is standard for extra work and anyone promising much more is most likely trying to scam you. Extras can expect to work anywhere from 6 to 12 hour days and anything over 8 hours should be overtime which pays a bit more.
Some extras get upgraded to featured extras which means they may be noticeable in the film and maybe even say a word or 2. Featured extras can make anywhere from $100 to $300 a day for their part.
Basically, the harder the extra role is to fill, the more you can make. For example a 100 year old woman, a fire breather, an Indian chief, a 5 year old who can ride a horse, an acrobat, etc.
Most extras are hired locally
Unless you live in an area that has a good amount of filming going on it may be difficult to find work as a movie extra. Due to the low wage extras earn it usually does not make any sense to drive really far and most production companies will not hire people who live out of the area because they may be unreliable.
Movie producers do not pay expenses such as travel for extras and most people do not want to spend $100 on gas just to make $60 for the days work… minus taxes.
Being an extra is defiantly a very part-time job. Movies do not have steady work for extras because they normally do not want the same people to appear in different scenes so most extras can expect to work only one or two days on any movie set.
So now, how exactly do you become an extra?
It’s quite simple actually. In large cities like Los Angeles you sign up to an extras casting company like central casting. In smaller areas, you attend open casting calls for extras or send in a photo. Open extras casting calls are usually well publicized in smaller cities. Also, these days many extras casting companies have websites and Facebook pages that list what they are looking for and submission instructions.
Things to remember when applying to be an extra:
Only submit to the casting call with the email provided or through the instructions provided. Do not send in submissions to general emails or personal ones for casting directors as they may be discarded.
Most casting calls for extras ask you to put the role in the subject line, be sure to do that and only that.
They will want pictures. A standard practice is 3 pictures, waist up, full body and side view. The pictures do not need to be professional but should be clear and current.
Make sure to also include your measurements and stats such as height, weight, suit / dress size.
Include your availability. Availability is hugely important to extras casting directors. They cannot hire people who can only work an hour or two. They are looking for full day availability because they can’t guarantee you’ll be done by such and such time. Do not lie about availability because if you flake, or need to leave early, they will NEVER use you again. This is not a job for someone that needs pick up their kids from school at 3PM.
Once you send in your submission, do not expect to be contacted if you did not get the job. Remember, they deal with 100’s to 1000’s of submissions and will only respond to those they will use.
Casting directors are looking for certain types. Sometimes you may fit and other times you wont. Don’t get discouraged because chances are eventually, something will need someone who looks like you. Be patient, some productions are looking for people for tomorrow while others are looking to fill a scene next month and keeping photos on file until needed.
When you are right for the part, they will contact you.