You don’t have to live in Hollywood or New York or have a theater degree in order to get hired out as a movie, TV or theater extra. That’s because extras are increasingly in demand as the world of live performance and film expands into the following areas:
- Reality TV
- Product/service commercials
- Product/service testimonials
- Tutorials and how-to’s
- Dance clips
- Singing clips
- Stunt clips
Also, consider the vast amount of marketing collateral (e.g., store flyers, political ads) that you receive and/or view on a daily basis. Much of this collateral features actors and models, which can similarly be categorized as extras.
Small businesses and large corporations are increasingly turning towards actors to feature their products, to model their clothing lines, and to provide live product demos at malls, conferences and trade shows. While such work isn’t as glamorous as say, being on the set of the latest Jack Reacher thriller, it is steady and frequently available. And the pay for even one day of work on set can easily exceed what a typical person would make at a desk or home-based job.
Even better, movie/theater extra work can typically be found in your neck of the woods, and even if you live in a small town or rural area.
What makes an extra an extra?
Unlike unionized actors who usually belong to the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) or the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), extras are temporary, non-union actors who don’t usually hold speaking parts and who are not named during the credits.
As such, most extras are dispensable and interchangeable. However, that doesn’t mean they are unpaid.
Consider that an extra putting in eight hours on a major movie production could walk away with $500 for that single day. Even smaller productions requiring just a few minutes of casting footage could net the extra a quick $100-$300.
How to get started as an extra
To get your foot in the moviemaking and acting door, you should register with several dedicated theatrical and cinematic job boards. Some examples include the following:
Backstage– This website accepts all applicants and provides them with access to several online casting call and audition areas. Traditional acting gigs are posted here and range from TV and dance auditions to big-time movie spots. These casting calls occur primarily in major cities like Atlanta, L.A., Chicago, New York, Miami and Las Vegas.
Casting360– Here, you’ll find all kinds of casting calls, from traditional acting and modeling gigs to photo shoots and body double needs. Also, the posted jobs are available in many different states and cities.
ExploreTalent– Here, not only will you find advertised support roles for major film, theatrical and TV productions, you’ll also be able to connect with a community of aspiring actors, directors, talent scouts and agents.
Once you start inputting even a few of your profile details, you’ll get emails such as these:
NowCasting– This website enables actors and would-be actors to post their profile photos, videos and resumes and peruse casting calls. More established actors can scan the site for agents and promoters.
How to improve your odds of being cast as an extra
You won’t excel as a movie or theater extra if you’re shy or a wallflower. The showbiz business relies on outgoing personalities who are noticeable even if their job is to remain unnoticed as a mere extra. So, what can you do to increase your odds of being noticed?
Complete your profile.
Backstage, Casting360, ExploreTalent and NowCasting offer extensive member profiles that need to be filled out completely so that they have better odds of getting noticed by scouts and agents. That means you’ll need to submit professional head and body photos, write a description of who you are and what you do, and maybe even include a short video for good measure.
Include your skills/hobbies.
Make your profile stand out by describing your skills and/or hobbies. For example, if you play the violin, be sure to mention that in your descriptor. If you juggle, water ski, perform acrobatics, etc., such skills can get you quickly hired on for challenging scenes.
Sign up to multiple casting sites.
Much like with freelance job boards, your odds of finding work you like and getting hired increase if you sign up with multiple casting sites. It only takes one or two ‘breakthrough’ gigs to get going in this business, so if you’re liked, you’ll get additional work via word-of-mouth referrals.
Don’t pay for any gigs.
It shouldn’t cost you money to land movie, theater and other film gigs. If a scout or agent tells you otherwise, walk away. There are numerous scams and scammers in this business who will bleed you for hundreds or even thousands of dollars if you let them. Unfortunately, the movie business, much like other freelance businesses, is rife with scams.
Lights, camera, action, and you
Being portrayed in film, theater or TV isn’t as hard as you think; furthermore, once you get a few gigs under your belt, you’ll likely be cast in additional and longer scenes. Some extras even go on to make a steady income from weekly to monthly appearances.
Finally, showing off your film and theater appearances to your friends is a great way to make them jealous of your ‘hob-nobbing’ with the Hollywood set.