A movie extra (or background actor) is the person in the background of a movie scene with a non-speaking part. They could be walking down the street, eating in a restaurant or just being part of a crowd. And yes all of those people you see in a movie are movie extras. No training is required and all ages, sizes and shapes are needed. Any special skills you have only increases your chances of getting work (dancing, golfing, skateboarding, etc.). Expect to make about $170 per day.
Usually movie extras do not have talking parts but there are occasions where a talking part is available. Once you get a talking part, you are on your way to getting higher pay work. The more work you do, the better your chances of getting a speaking part.
A movie extra does not need to be part of the SAG/AFTRA union but you will want to eventually join this union if you can. You do that by getting three vouchers when and if you replace a union worker who possibly didn't show up (hard to do), or if you can get a speaking part (also hard to do). Basically the AD (assistant director) is in charge of the extras, so buddy up to them.
But there is plenty of work for non-union extras with good pay while waiting for a chance to join the union. The best places of getting extra work is in your major cities where many films or TV shows are made (Hollywood, NY, Las Vegas, Nashville, etc.). And don't count out commercials as they pay great and will get you noticed.
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Calling all movie-extras and background actors