How to be an extra in a movie

How to be an extra in a movie

Not many people know much about being a Television/Film extra. Not only is it an integral part of Hollywood, it’s also a fun and exciting job, whether full or part-time. The steps are easy, the job’s never boring, and you get to see your mug on the big or little screen.

Registration: Do you have to audition to be an extra?

In wide markets like Los Angeles or New York, registering to become an extra is quick and simple. For a small fee, casting agencies will take your picture and/or ask for all the pertinent information like your height, weight, dress size, physical characteristics, special skills, etc.,. Sharing all of your diversified interests can mean being cast for a variety of roles. Agencies usually reserve certain days for registration, so it’s a good idea to call ahead for information. Once you’ve completed this process, you’re ready to work.


The typical method of casting extras is to use a call-in service and listen to recorded casting calls. You call in and hear a brief message describing the type of people needed(i.e. “funeral-goers” or “hip and trendy”) and the casting agent’s number to call, assuming you fit the match. When you call in, the agent will tell you if you’ve been cast or have been passed on. Don’t take rejection personally, you just may not have been what they had in mind. Once you’ve been cast, you’ll be given all the pertinent information like locale, wardrobe, start time, etc.,. Your wardrobe/make-up is expected to be ready by the time you arrive on the set.

Working as a Background Actor

Life on the set is fun, but it’s not a party. Believe it or not, it IS still “work,” and sometimes it may even feel like it. Some shooting days can last as long as 14 hours and require numerous wardrobe changes. Usually, a food services table will be made available for snacks and drinks and, in cases of extensive shooting, breaks may be given for meals. It’s no surprise that things like beepers, cell phones, and other devices that can cause unpredictable sounds are advised to be left home or turned off. A phone can ruin thousands of dollars of filming with one stray little “ring.” Sets are also usually closed, so don’t invite friends or bring pets to the location.

How much money can you make being an extra?

While the pay for being an extra is usually not phenomenally high, most will agree that doing it is not about the money. It’s great, interesting work, and some even see it as a backdoor into the entertainment industry(many high profile stars once worked as extras). Also, your pay can be “bumped” up by things like wardrobe changes, smoke on the set, or other on-set influences. At the end of the shooting day, you’ll be given a voucher for that day’s work. You should hold on to this voucher until you receive your check in the mail.

Benefits to working as an extra

As if appearing on screen wasn’t enough, there are plenty of benefits to working as an extra. The most highly regarded is the “SAG” voucher. If you happen to stumble across your “big break” while working as an extra, you can be given a voucher that qualifies you for speaking parts, and consequentially join the Screen Actors Guild(it also raises your pay significantly).

Other than that, the benefits will be apparent as soon as your first day on the set. You not only have tangible privileges, but you also get to meet some of the most colorful and interesting people you’ll ever come across.

Other than that

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