If you want to know how to become a film extra, you’ll be glad to hear that the process is actually relatively straightforward.
All it requires is some determination and, yes, the odd bit of luck.
That’s why we’ve decided to put together this guide. Our inside knowledge of the industry puts us in a great position to advise on how to grab your own role (no matter how small) in a film.
How Do You Become a Film Extra?
There are many people out there who have successfully made the role of a film extra their full-time career. And if you have aspirations to do the same, there’s no reason you can’t make that a reality.
However, for most people, film extra work is something they do ‘on the side’ or as a secondary form of income. Therefore the first thing to do before you head into this world is to consider how much you want to make it your ‘thing’.
Take these points into consideration:
- Being an extra often requires super-early mornings to be on set on time;
- There’ll be lots of waiting around while you wait for your turn to appear on screen; and
- The pay isn’t amazing, and there’s not really any such thing as ‘climbing the career ladder’ as an extra.
The above points aren’t intended to put you off, but they are a reality check.
Assuming you still want to make some money – either part or full time – as an extra, you need to start by finding where they hire extras in your area. Google reputable agencies who look for background performers and speak to as many as possible.
Signing up with an agency is the first step to getting work as an extra, but don’t expect the gigs to come rolling in immediately. Hang tight, confirm you’re always available, and see what comes in.
Do You Need Acting Experience to Be an Extra?
Not at all. It’s rarely, if ever, a prerequisite of being an extra, and for one very good reason.
It doesn’t involve much acting.
Sure, you’ll probably need to ‘do’ something in the background which makes you look like you’re acting normal. But we’re all pretty good at that – you don’t need to be an actor to play yourself.
So, if you have any fears about being asked for previous acting experience when approaching agencies, banish them now. It’s not needed.
What Does an Extra Do in a Movie?
The role of the extra is pleasingly simple.
For most productions, extras are required to make scenes look authentic. For instance, in a coffee shop, the production team will want people in the background drinking coffee, chatting with friends or working away on their laptops.
Extras very rarely speak. The closest you’re likely to get is miming speaking with another extra.
However, on the odd occasion, you may be asked to do something a little more, but we should stress again that this is pretty rare.
How Much Do Film Extras Make?
Most film companies will pay extras by the day. It’s rare to be paid by the hour, although you might find that’s the case in certain circumstances.
The standard pay for an extra can vary anywhere between £80 to £120 per day. And a day really is a day; as noted earlier, you’ll do lots of hanging around while waiting for your turn to appear on set.
Do Film Extras Have to Audition?
This very much depends on the production in question.
However, it’s quite rare for extras to audition for parts. This is because there isn’t really any acting or speaking required – you’re just asked to stand there or go about what looks like your normal business.
The only thing that comes close to an audition in the world of film extras is being hired based on your experience (sometimes) and looks. The latter isn’t intended to be prejudice, either – it’s simply required in instances where a certain ethnicity might be needed to make a scene look authentic.
Can Extras Talk to Actors?
Generally, no, and it’s likely to be in your contract, too.
Talking to actors, or asking for photographs or autographs during your time on set as an extra is best avoided. This isn’t because of a ‘mightier than you’ mindset, either, it’s simply because everyone is there to do a job.
Can you imagine what it would be like it Tom Cruise was suddenly accosted by every extra on the set of his latest film for a selfie?
If you do break these rules, you’re likely to be dismissed from set immediately.
Do Extras Wear Their Own Clothes?
Usually, that’s the case, but it again depends on the budget of the film in question and the genre.
For instance, if you’re due to appear as an extra in a medieval blockbuster, you probably won’t have the clothes to bring for that period and regardless, the budget will be big enough to ensure all extras are dressed appropriately.
It’s best to check the contract for any extra work to see what the requirements are in terms of clothing, because there may be certain stipulations or requirements that might impact your ability to appear as an extra.
Do Extras Ever Become Actors?
Absolutely. In fact, some of the biggest names in Hollywood started off as extras.
Brad Pitt, Megan Fox and even James Dean are believed to have started their careers as background performers.
That doesn’t mean it’s a sure fire route to superstardom, though. In fact, it’s unlikely you’ll become a famous actor from doing some ad-hoc work as an extra. Those who have managed that leap to fame will likely have experienced a fair bit of luck and an undying loyalty to the craft which resulted in endless hard work and attempts to be noticed by acting agencies.
Can Being an Extra Lead to Acting?
As noted above, some of the biggest actors ever started their careers as extras, but it’s not a free ticket – it requires loads of hard work and the experience of constant rejection and disappointment. No, really.
However, if you’re committed enough and want to make acting a full-time job, working as an extra can be a great stepping stone.
The more you do it, the more you’ll get to know some very useful contacts in the industry, and that might swing a few doors open for aspiring actors.
The key lies in keeping all lines of communication open with the people you meet in the video production and film industry and looking beyond film extra agencies for potential work as an actor. Just set your sights far lower than the next Brad Pitt!
The advice above is aimed at becoming a film extra, but as noted from the outset, this is an industry that spans into TV too.
Therefore, if you have your eyes set on becoming an extra in your favourite TV series or the next big box set, the tips above should serve you well.