At Steiner Studios, November 20111. It’s not hard to become an extra. I assumed that before becoming an extra, I would need to mail my resume and headshot to casting agencies and attend several open call auditions. Since Philadelphia is not a major movie center, I figured it could be a few years before my efforts paid off. But the process is actually so much simpler - if you’re willing to travel. Apparently, experience isn’t necessary and opportunities are plentiful. Since booking the Pan Am gig earlier this week, I have been contacted by casting companies about extra work on Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit, The Dark Knight Rises (the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy) and The Silver Linings Playbook (a feature film starring Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro).
2. Extras aren’t volunteers. I’m actually going to get paid to hang out on the set of a TV show! Of course, I am not a union member and the pay isn’t great. (I’ll make $100 per 11 hours worked, not including the six-hour commute from my home to Brooklyn.) Still … I’m going to get paid to hang out on the set of a TV show.
3. Extras are booked at the last minute. I guess there’s a reason that extra work is easy to get. It requires two things most people don’t have: large blocks of free time and a flexible schedule. Official call times are available only after the previous day’s filming has finished. Opportunities are generally posted online a day or so before the shoot takes place. I have even seen afternoon gigs posted the morning of a shoot!
4. Not all extra parts are created equal. Extras are meant to be seen and not heard. However, not all extra work is the same. Background extras aren’t much more than scenery. They may sit in a restaurant where the lead characters dine, or walk by stars on the street. But their faces may not even be visible and they are not listed in the credits. Featured extras are given more prominent positions and are actually recognizable on camera, but they do not speak. If an extra is given a line, he or she is immediately upgraded to the position (and pay grade) of actor.
5. Extra work doesn’t necessarily lead to acting roles. From what I’ve read, it’s easy to become an extra but difficult to make the leap from extra to actor. Extra work is often looked down upon by actors, even though many actors work as extras. In general, extra work doesn’t involve acting and isn’t listed on an acting resume. However, beginning actors may be encouraged to do some extra work to learn about the business and observe the workings of a set.
6. Finally, I want to share this hilarious music video about life as an extra. It is a parody of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Enjoy!