Whether you want to become a well-known actor or you just want to make a few bucks in the movie industry, there’s no better way to get started than becoming a movie extra.
There are always a ton of gigs available, many of which pay pretty good. Getting paid as a movie extra can sometimes earn you up to $200+ for the day, and in some cases, you can even network with some important people in the industry.
If you want to earn some great money in your spare time and/or jump-start your acting career, then this post was designed for you.
In this post, I’m going to talk about the many ways to become a movie extra as well as the best job boards online that can help you snag an awesome movie extra gig.
What exactly is a movie extra?
By definition, a movie extra are the people you often see in the background of a movie, usually not doing any talking. They are what makes a scene feel authentic. After all, who would want to film at an empty mall or stadium? They need people like you to make the scene seem real.
For example, you could be part of the crowd at a baseball game or a person simply walking by on the sidewalk. It doesn’t take much to be one, and again, it’s a very popular way many of the well-known actors/actresses you know today got their start.
It’s one of the best ways to get yourself on a film set and even make a few bucks for the afternoon.
And, best of all, since you don’t have to speak, acting skills aren’t often required, so you can put away that resume.
Generally, who gets picked is often based on your look, most of which can be found in the job descriptions, all of which you can read before even considering.
What is required of me?
As I quickly mentioned, most casting agencies will be looking for a certain look, not so much experience. So, if they were filming a war movie, then they may be looking for younger men, ages 18 to 24, for instance, not a 65-year-old grandmother. It really depends on the movie they are casting, but again, you can read all about it in the description before showing up to cast. They are almost always looking for a certain look.
Aside from meeting the look, you will also need to be a legal U.S. resident as well as have headshots in some cases. If you don’t have one, then it’s important to at least get one or two as these agencies will want to see your style before contacting you. Most of the time, a simple headshot session will cost about $100, but if you want to be very frugal, you could always consider having a friend help. There are a lot of tutorials online that can help, particularly YouTube. Headshots do matter as this is what gets you a call most of the time. They need to know what you looklike.
In the end, as long as you meet the look, reside in the U.S. legally and can produce one to two good headshots, then you will meet the criteria 99% of the time. It’s then up to the agency to determine if you’re a good fit or not.
As movie extras are lower on the totem pole, there won’t be much expected of you.
How much can I make?
As with any job, there are a ton of variables that can affect your pay. One of the biggest, however, is your union affiliation.
If you were part of the Screen Actors Guild, then there are minimum rates, all of which can be found inside this official guide. In short, you should expect anywhere from $115 to $185+ per day as a union member, but this can greatly vary depending on so many factors. It could be much more if overtime is involved.
If you’re not part of a union, then you should expect a minimum wage rate, which varies on your state laws. In general, this can range from $8 to $10+ per hour, but it could be much higher than this. Since most jobs last all day, you should walk away with $80 to $110+ easily.
In the end, it really varies, but you should expect to make at least $100+ for a full day’s worth of work or about $10+ per hour, no matter what your union affiliation is.
How to Find Movie Extra Jobs
TIP: If you do find a job of interest, it’s so important that you follow all of the directions. As these casting agencies go through hundreds, sometimes thousands of submissions, yours will be thrown in the trash immediately if you fail to follow any directions. If you can’t follow job directions, they will assume you can’t follow set directions, either.
The following companies/websites/tips are a great way to find a movie extra gig. As they are constantly being updated, be sure to check daily as you never know what kind of job may be suitable for you. While most options are free, some have premium features that can offer you more “perks.” It’s really up to you to determine if it’s worth it or not.
Backstage.com is probably the largest movie job portal online, and the great thing about it is that you can view jobs right away and filter out the results that cater to you.
Here’s what the search engine looked like me, for instance…
In each job description with your search, you can see the roles the casting directors are looking for as well as compensation details. You can also view more information in regards to the rehearsal and production dates.
You can apply to most jobs for free, but if you want to become a “Backstage member,” you can view additional information details, including key submission instructions. This is optional, however.
- Website: Backstage.com
Mandy is another job board, similar that to Backstage, offering a ton of movie extra job opportunities and much more throughout the United States. Below is just a sample of the thousands of postings I saw…
On the website, you can filter by the job title, location and even job type. And, on each description, you can then view what the casting director is looking for as well as the pay for the day. Look out for the “urgent” jobs as this could be your best bet for landing a gig as they are desperate for the help.
Joining is 100% free and is only takes a few minutes to set up your profile.
- Website: Mandy.com
Project Casting works much like Backstage, wherein you can find out which casting calls are open in your area. The only thing I didn’t like was that the website isn’t as organized as Backstage, but it does a good job updating current gigs.
Nonetheless, it’s an option.
To find a job catered to your area, I would recommend scrolling to the footer and then selecting a city nearby. You can also filter your results by the company as well.
- Website: ProjectCasting.com
Actors Access offers a database filled with tons of acting opportunities, from non-union to union-based gigs.
The database searches the most popular regions in the United States, even parts of Canada.
Signing up is 100% free and only takes seconds to do.
- Website: Actors Access
Find a Local Talent Agency
Most of the websites I mentioned above cater to a national audience, in which you can narrow down to your liking. That’s fine. However, there are other options that you could consider that are more local to your liking.
Depending on where you live, there could be hundreds of local talent agencies, such as those who reside in L.A. or NYC, or you may be lucky to find one if you live in the middle of Iowa. As there are so many of them, it would be nearly impossible for me to list all of them in one post.
So, to find these local talent agencies, consider searching “casting agency + <your zip code>” to see what’s available. In doing so, please make sure you review the company more in depth to ensure you’re not getting yourself into a scam many of these companies are known for.
Join a Database
This one kind of ties into finding a local agency as they can do it for you, but try your best to get your name into a database if possible.
These databases are filled with people like you who are looking for a movie extra job. When companies want to cast a movie, they often reach out to these agencies and ask them for a specific demographic.
If you fit the bill, the agency will contact you and see if you’re interested. In this case, you don’t have to do much work as they come to you!
Search for Casting Calls Online
Aside from working with an agency, you can also search for casting calls directly in your city as well.
For instance, when I did this, here’s what I found…
The results you see will greatly depend on your location as a farm town in Nebraska will not have nearly as many movie extra opportunities as NYC or L.A. would.
Again, if you’re going to use any of these websites and/or apply to a casting job, just make sure you’re dealing with a reputable organization. In general, as long as you don’t hand over your credit card information and/or sensitive personal data, you should be safe.
Check out Social Media, Too!
If you were to find an agency that you like, be sure to follow them on all of their social media pages as some companies update these profiles more than they do their own websites.
To find these profiles, most will link directly on their website.
And, as my last option, you may want to check out the “Gigs” section on Craigslist.
Search for “casting calls” or “actors/actresses” needed to see what may pop up in your town. Keep in mind that most of your movie extra jobs will be found in Los Angeles, Atlanta or NYC. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t find one in your hometown. It only takes a minute to check.
While you may find limited casting calls, there can be gems here and there.
If going this route, though, make sure you dive in deep and know what you’re getting yourself into as scams are aplenty on this platform.
- Website: Craigslist
The Day of a Movie Extra
If you’re able to land a movie extra gig, that’s great. Most sets are similar, but there can be some discrepancies in some. Nonetheless, you will see some similarities in routines, which I will explain below.
At the Set
If you land the role, the casting agency/contact will send you information about your filming day. Usually, it’s straight-forward just noting the time and place as well as what you need to bring. In the case it involves a costume, then you may be asked to come in a few days before the filming even starts to get measured. In this case, you just show up and follow the directions as specified. If you ever have questions, be sure to ask so that you don’t show up late and give yourself a bad name.
Once on the set, you will park in a parking lot near the set, usually with a “code word” that the movies use. You won’t see much in regards to the movie as they won’t want the public to know what’s being filmed. Most parking lots are far from the studio, so you will need to get bussed in most of the time. When you get to the set, you will then mingle in a waiting area, usually with all of the other movie extras.
During the waiting period, a production assistant will meet with you and have you fill out any paperwork necessary, usually a W9 form as well as some NDAs. At this time, if you’re wearing a costume, then you will be sent to a wardrobe area to dress. They may also do your makeup as well.
Generally, expect to wait a few hours while waiting for the filming to actually begin. Yes, being an extra is usually an all day affair that can last from five in the morning until nine at night. This isn’t unheard of!
When it’s time, you will be brought onto the set, where you will be asked to do whatever it is. From sitting to walking on a sidewalk, your role as an extra is to become background prop essentially. depending on the acting, you may have to repeat the scene over and over again, leading to a very tedious experience. This won’t end until the director is happy with the scene.
The Do’s and Don’ts
While you’re on the set, the film crew will talk down to you most of the time. After all, you’re the lowest on the totem pole. While this can be annoying, just show up, do as you’re told and go home. Doing it without complaint can lead to more gigs.
The set is often loaded with snacks and drinks which are not meant for you. Do not attempt to even get near this food spread as you will be yelled at, even if you’re just taking a glance. These snacks are only available for the actors and crew. If you’re worried about food, they do feed you. It’s just in another area usually.
Lastly, don’t even think about talking to anyone while on the set. While it’s tempting to get an autograph or even talk with a director, this is a sure way to get banned and even blacklisted from any opportunities in the future. Again, show up, do your job and go home. As an extra, no words should come out of your mouth.
The people you work with are either having fun or are taking their jobs very seriously. Just have fun with it and don’t let the other extras talk you down.
Make sure you bring all of the appropriate documents to the set. Usually, two forms of I.D. or a passport will do. This is necessary to work on the set!
Arrive at least 30 to 60 minutes early to give a great impression. As long as you follow the directions given to you ahead of time and check in, you greatly increase your chances of getting called back.
Becoming a movie extra can be a fun way to make cash on the side or even jump-start your acting career. It’s also a great way to mingle with a film crew in your area.
Who knows? Someone could spot you and it could lead to a bigger role in the future. You never know.
Either way, if you love movies and you love making money, consider trying it at least once. If you live in a bigger city, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a role where you can have fun for the day!
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