When you work as a movie extra, you will be given a voucher by an AD (assistant director). This is your ticket to work as a movie extra and to get paid. This is not a "union" voucher but could be if you are taking the place of a union worker. Three union vouchers are needed to join the union.
The AD will tell you where to go and what to do. Just follow their directions. A scene starts with "Action" and ends with "Cut". If you hear the words "Back to one", they are doing another take. How many takes they do for a scene is up to the director. It could be alot and it could be alittle. Even as an extra, your expression and what you do during the scene could influence the number of takes. So understand what they want from you and what your role is during that scene. Oh yeah - please don't look into the camera (at least if you want to work again). You will need to practice not looking at the camera (it is harder than you think). See the section on etiquette for this and more.
WHAT YOU NEED
Pictures (various shots of you including head shots), resumes and business cards are needed. Your resume can list any film, TV or play work you did in the past. Casting agents will most likely want a head and body shot with your resume. Hand out your business cards to anyone that will take it (AD, other extras, etc.).
As you start out, your resume may be a bit sparse (don't stress over this). Just make sure to include your name, contact info and your stats (height, weight, eye color, hair color, etc.) as they could be looking for specific types of people. If you have an agent (not needed initially) then include that also.
Include various pictures of yourself in different outfits or wardrobes since you never know what type of extras they want. If you have wardrobes from different time periods, include that also.
Doesn't hurt to have training - looks good on your resume also. Look for local workshops, theater groups, meetups, etc. Learn how to do various things you see extras do in movies and TV (this is actually much harder to do than you think). Are they in a restaurant scene pretending to be eating and talking - practice that and record yourself to see how you look. Work with others to create various background scenes and then critique your work. Create your own local group to do this with other extras and add that to your resume. As you watch movies or TV, take notes as to what are the most frequent background scenes and then practice those on you own or with a group. This will give you an edge over other background actors.
Who Does What on a Movie Set
Director - the director is in charge of everything (enough said).
AD - Assistant Director(s) - they are an assistant to the director (aptly named also). They prepare the shooting schedule and organize the crew.
PA - Production Assistant(s) - they help out in multiple ways like keeping track of the extras and making sure they are where they need to be.
Depending on the size of the crew and complexity of the movie, there could be multiple AD's and PA's and you will most likely be dealing with one of the PA's.
HIRING AN AGENT
You do not need an agent to work as a movie extra. Just stay connected to many of the casting agencies (see our casting page) and search the Internet for casting calls for movie extras. If you want to advance your acting career, then our advice is to take limited jobs as a movie extra and sign up for acting classes and join any local theater groups (if available). You will need to expand your resume before you search for an agent.
SAG-AFTRA Card (Screen Actors Guild -American Federation of Television and Radio Artists)
You can join the SAG union once you receive three vouchers working as a background actor. But these vouchers must be for roles covered under a union contract. These roles are difficult to come by as most likely you will be covering for a union actor that did not show up. So the more jobs you get, the better the chances of this happening. However, nonunion work is more plentiful than unionized jobs (but they do pay less).
This is a great opportunity to learn other skills that could be helpful in getting additional work. Lots of information on the web to learn just about anything you want now (including acting skills).
The best place to find open casting calls and auditions is on the web. You will definitely need to be connected to stay up to date with the latest casting calls. Start out by searching for "movie extra casting agencies".
Central Casting is the leading casting company for extras. They will require that you take anti-harassment training. Take this training to remain eligible to be booked. Central casting is located in Los Angeles, New York, Georgia and Louisiana.
There are many casting agencies so check our casting agency page for some of them but definitely search the web and register with as many as you can. Some charge a fee and some are free Some agencies are exclusively for background actors and others for commercial work.
If you watch the credits after a movie, they will list the casting agencies. Take note of these and make sure to register with them.
Go to as many cattle calls (large auditions which do not require an appointment) as you can and constantly check various boards for auditions. Some of these may require an appointment so stay connected and on top of that. The more auditions you go to, the more your chances of getting a job.
Like any other job, this requires persistence, training and some hard work so keep at it and don't get discouraged.
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Calling all movie-extras and background actors