How to Be an Extra in a Movie – Rookie’s Guide

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Maybe you think it would be fun to be seen on the screen, even if it is not in the spotlight. Maybe your ultimate goal is to be center screen and headline in a film. One way is to become an extra in a film shoot. All of the people you see walking through the background in movies and television shows are called extras. They help create the feeling that the scene in a film is full of regular people going about their daily routines. So you may ask yourself: How to be an extra in a movie?

How do you get your foot in the door? There are some simple steps you can take and places to look. There are also keys to remember in order to be seen in a scene. This article will give you tips and useful information to assist you in your endeavor in finding out how to be an extra in a movie. You will also discover what to expect when you get the job.

how to be an extra in a movie

10 Tips on How to Be an Extra in a Movie

1. Socialize

One tip to keep in mind, especially if you are looking to advance yourself in the film industry, is to be sure to get to know those around you. When you score that job as an extra you are given the opportunity to create a network with other aspiring actors. Why network with others who are also trying to get recognized? Well, they understand where you’re coming from.

If later down the road they, or you, find other great acting opportunities, you can inform each other. It’s like having another set of eyes looking out for other prospects. Also, maybe one of you have incredible success and really enjoyed working with the other. They may want to reach out and help elevate the other as well.

2. Be There

You may have taken classes on how to be an extra in a movie or read books that coach you. Like many other careers, you’ll never get better knowledge and experience than when you actually get involved. When you get to experience life on scene, you get the feel for what to expect and what is expected of you. It also gives you a chance to develop a level of comfort that makes your acting look more natural.

Being on set will also create a reality for new actors. You’ll see what happens beyond rather than what viewers see on screen. When you watch a film, you don’t see prop set-ups, cameras, and equipment strewn all over. Thus, it will be less distracting when you do get on set. It may also help open up other opportunities on the manual side of film making that may interest you.

3. Keep Your Focus

Though it is not the most likely scenario, background extras do sometimes get discovered. Yet since it is a long-shot you should focus on something more than just hoping someone notices you. Keep in mind that you never know who is watching. Casting directors, writers, and agents may all be wandering the set. Therefore, do your best and be professional at all times. One of these integral people may see you and offer you a bigger part on set. They may even have other projects they like your look for.

So, getting into the industry, getting in some experience, and getting your name out there will help open doors in a much larger capacity.

4. Organize Your Path

Finding work for anyone in any industry can be a daunting task. This is no different for people finding ways of how to be an extra in a movie. Use every avenue to your advantage. Websites are great for scouring resources. Search for acting gigs near your location or as far as you are willing to travel. You can also go the good old classic route by looking in the wanted section of the newspaper.

No part, or production, is too small. Don’t forget to keep an eye on local advertising sites and ads. While you are an up and coming actor, remember there are also up and coming directors and producers. The budget may be small. But the experience you gain and the network you create can lead to greater opportunity in the future. Someone you work with on this level may later become very successful. They could even seek you out for more important roles.

Tip 5. Make Sure You Have Financial Back-up

The excitement of being in a movie is overwhelming. But when you’re first starting off learning how to be an extra in a movie, it may not be so profitable. Depending on the size of the production or its budget, will dictate what’s paid to the extras. Regardless, extras are usually paid very little. Thus, while being an extra brings much in the way of experience, fun, and exposure, it does very little for your pockets.

So, tip number five is find a second job while you are figuring out how to be an extra in a movie. Breaking into the scene can take some time. A secondary income can contribute to your undertakings giving you income for travel, headshots, and advertising. Some time may pass until you start getting better paying acting jobs. So do not look down your nose at having a regular, dependable second source of income.

6. Consider Headshots

While looking at how to be an extra in a movie, you may come across the term headshot. A headshot is a clear picture (usually on an 8×10) of a person’s face. Actors use them to help get work. As an aspiring walk on or background actor, you may not care or even need to keep headshots on hand. In fact, if you are not looking to advance beyond being on a set as an extra, I would suggest to save yourself the money and not to bother getting them.

However, if you are using the title of extra as a means to bigger roles, you may want to always keep a well done, professional stack of headshots on hand. That way if you find someone to network with, you can basically give them a calling card to get a hold of you. Plus, if someone sees you and thinks you are a good fit for a different role, you’ll be ready. Your headshot is like a resume.

director and script writer

7. Be Attentive

Be always ready. Pay attention to, and gather necessary information. While you are looking for gigs and starting off learning how to be an extra in a movie, ask or find answers to pertinent questions. Find out how much of your time is expected. That way if the work day is long you can bring something to keep yourself occupied.

Find out if costuming is necessary and provided or if you will be expected to bring your own. The more you can find out about the theme, the better. It will help you choose clothes what to wear and what not to wear (such as watches if it is a period piece). Ask if you need to show up early to meet with wardrobe or hair. What time is call time? You never want to be late for any job.

Tip 8. Read the Acting Guide

Read over the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) website. This is especially true if pursuing an acting career. You will be more informed of what is expected and how to be professional. SAG has even created a section for background extras and they give you steps if you choose to become part of the union. There is useful information and necessary forms that some films may require you to sign before they allow you to work.

On the site you can also find a weekly listing of casting agencies geared towards finding extras. The only requirement to view those lists is that you are a member. Thus, there is also an informative section that details the point system in use to become a member. It also includes how to earn points to gain entry.

9. Know Your Place

Remember that people in higher places have more on their plate during the film. Don’t think that you’ll find an empathetic ear if you decide to ask questions about how to be an extra in a movie. If you are looking to pursue better acting jobs, you want to remain professional. Now is not the time nor place to bend someone’s ear about your goals. Now is the time to get comfortable on set, stay out of everyone’s way and not be a nuisance. Remember, this is a job. You wouldn’t stop the boss in the middle of a meeting to see what you can do to get a raise.

More than likely you will look to the Assistant Director or Production Manager for instruction. They are your bosses and you should treat them as such.

10. Be Professional

I will say this again. Keep personal effects at home such expensive equipment or jewelry. If there’s a famous actor near the scene, keep your composure and do not bring a camera for a selfie opportunity. The actors are working too and may not be receptive to such behavior.

film concept

Getting to the Stage

Some simple but final tips you may overlook or not think of are:

  • Turn your phone off. You do not want it going off during a take.
  • Keep food and drink off the set.
  • Never look at the camera. You should look natural.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. There will be a lot more going on than just your part. You can ruin a take, miss a cue, or cause injury to yourself or others when dealing with being near equipment.

When you hear a movie is shooting in your hometown and is sending out a casting call, you may wonder how to become an extra in a movie. It is fairly easy to become an extra. You just need to keep your expectations in check and remain professional. This is if you take interest in becoming more than just a background player. If not, you at least get a unique experience you can tell your grand-kids about.

What are your acting experiences? Do you have advice to give others that are just getting into the acting arena? Please leave worthwhile information that may help newcomers travel the right path.

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