038 · How To Be an Extra in a Movie or TV Show

Are you looking for an activity that will allow you to create memories that you can tell your grandchildren but also to show off to your friends? Or maybe even give you the opportunity to work with actors and actresses that you appreciate! In addition to earning money, being a background actor can offer you all of this as well.

What does being an extra entail?

You’ve often seen scenes in movies where the main character is walking through a crowd of people on a street or in a crowded restaurant. These many people who surround him, but who are not part of the plot of the movie, they are extras! That is to say, people who are present to give a realistic aspect to the film but who are not really actors.

There are several kinds of extras:

  • the basic figuration, where your face must be clearly visible and which is used to simulate a mass effect (for example, travelers on a station platform).
  • The silhouette is an exercise in figuration where the character is close to the main actors and can even have a few very simple lines.
  • Finally, there are also the doubles, who replace the main character in the scenes that he refuses to do, such as naked appearances (we do not see your face), and the “light double” who is used for technical settings.

Extras are generally sought after for movies (cinema and TV movies), TV series or shows, short films, music videos or even (we think less often) in advertising campaigns. The possibilities are numerous!

Who can become an extra?

Basically, it’s open to everyone. You don’t need a degree nor have a particular appearance or skills. Of course, sometimes recruiters impose physical criteria that correspond to the themes of the film (for example, if it is a scene in a high school, younger people will be sought after).

You also need to have certain qualities, such as patience. Indeed, extra work is more difficult than you might think: The days can be very long (they start very early and end very late), so you might have to turn over some scenes a dozen times, you might spend hours doing nothing, and the weather conditions might not be pleasant… You also have to know how to listen to the instructions you will be given and be able to bear the sometimes difficult mood of the film crew.

Other elements that may be important: It is preferable to live in a big city, where there are many such offers, and to have a not-too expensive means of transportation if the shooting takes place far from your home.

Finally, be prepared to be sometimes disappointed because although you are paid, it is possible that your scene is cut in the editing.

Who to contact?

If you are interested in this kind of job, you can first consult job websites or visit more specialized sites such as:

There are also pages on social networks such as this one, but the best is to do your own research on Google. However, be careful because there are many scams: If someone asks you for money for any reason (e.g. to create a photo book), this is often a bad sign, so beware!

And before applying, ask a friend or photographer to take some nice pictures of you (avoid bad selfies), and don’t hesitate to prepare a CV and a cover letter because some people will ask you for them.

Extras in a movie As you can see here, extras are needed all over the world. Image : HippoPx

How much can you earn?

For the US, according to this article, you can earn $170 USD for an eight-hour working day—if you are paid according to the 2018-19 Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists salary schedule. It is not uncommon for your scene to be shot for more than a day, so the pay can quickly become interesting.

About the other countries:

  • UK: The standard pay is usually about £50-100 / $100-150 per day (source)
  • Canada: “The hourly rate as a background performer is $15 per hour with an 8-hour minimum for Non-Union performers” (source)
  • Australia: The national average salary for a background actor is $27/hour (source)

For other countries, I advise you to do a Google search, but be aware that the salaries indicated can vary greatly depending on different criteria (complexity of the scene, work time, talent level, type of role, etc.). The best thing to do is to discuss it during the casting and before signing anything.

Conclusion

As we have seen, the work of an extra performer is not always easy and sometimes requires a lot of patience and goodwill (waiting time between each scene which are often shot several times in a row, bad weather…), but it is not a difficult job, and it even has some pleasant rewards. And who knows? Maybe you will be spotted by a director who will see the star in you…

EcoTips

Environmental and climate change issues are more than ever at the heart of the concerns of this 21st century, which is why I am proposing a few ideas that will enable you to limit the negative impact that the implementation of this idea could have.

These solutions that I suggest are sometimes largely insufficient to compensate for these negative impacts, such as carbon offsetting. Unfortunately, there is not always an ideal and 100% efficient solution, far from it. And if you have others, please do not hesitate to share them in the comments below.

Overall, there is nothing environmentally harmful about this activity. The only point you should be careful about is the way you will travel to the different shooting locations. Use public transportation (train-tram-bus…) as much as possible, or even better, go by bike if available.

Pros

  • A job where you don’t have to think too much
  • Chances to meet real stars
  • You can show off to your friends
  • Free coffee all day and access to the buffet

Cons

  • The hours of waiting and the repetition of scenes can quickly become tiresome
  • Part-time work, in most cases
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Legal and administrative aspects of the ideas you'll find on Sweekr are rarely discussed because they vary greatly depending on the country you live in. I would advise you to check with your local adminitration before starting any business. Keep in mind that if you make money, the state will ask for "its share" in order to guarantee the proper functioning of schools, hospitals and other public services. Therefore, you will probably have to acquire a micro-entrepreneur status, or any other similar.

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