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April 2, 2008

How To Become A Movie Extra

By Joanne Redder

You are a star - at least potentially, and you want to let the world know it via the big screen. Of course, you have no formal acting training nor do you have an agent, but you just know that the camera lens is going to love you and that this is your destiny.

That’s great, congratulations! Unfortunately, chances are that you’re going to have to start small and get a feel for how movies work from behind-the-scenes before you become the next Scarlett Johansson.

But how can you get started as a movie extra? Well, I’m glad you asked, otherwise, this article would have ended here.

What does a movie extra do?

More often than not, a movie extra doesn’t do much besides stand in place or walk past the lens during filming. There are no lines to be said and no extraordinary behaviors needed.

Sometimes, for big-crowd scenes, you may be asked to yell or run, or dress up in certain garb, but chances are that none of your friends will spot you when all is said and done.

How much do movie extras get paid?

How much money you can make as a movie extra all depends on the employer, whether or not you’re in a union, and whether or not the film is a non-union one.

If you’re not part of the actor’s union, pay varies from $7 an hour to more than $50 a day.

If you are part of the union and it’s a union film, then the employer must abide by the SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) agreement. If you would like more information on how to join SAG, head to and check out the information provided on Background Actors (movie extras).

How can you find movie extra work?

It’s not tough to find movie extra jobs, but it may be somewhat tough to land them. There are a few websites that list movie extra jobs in specific areas, although most that are listed take place in, you guessed it, Hollywood.

Some online venues you can check out include:

• (check the tv / film / video section in your area)

Of course, a “move extra casting calls” search on Google wouldn’t hurt either. With a touch of creativity, you’re bound to find out where and when movie extras are needed and you can head to the location and get your fame on.

You can always register with a casting call company in person, for which you shouldn’t pay more than $25. And finally, you can register online at websites like

What awaits movie extras on set?

To prove that you know what you’re doing, once you get accepted as a movie extra, there are some things you should ask.

First, find out if you need to wear anything special for the scene. Next, if the movie is set in a specific time period, study up on it via the Internet. Even though you don’t have a speaking role, it’s always good to know what’s going on when the director yells “Action.”

Sometimes, your workday will be 12 hours long, but worry not because there will be plenty of catered food on the set. Of course, you probably won’t be in the same line as or eating alongside the stars of the film, but nevertheless, you will be fed breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

You will likely spend a lot of time doing nothing, so it’s a good idea to bring a book or magazines to keep yourself entertained.

Although it’s not forbidden for you to walk around the set, remember that, even if you’re the most beautiful woman in the world, it is possible to annoy those who are trying to do their jobs, so do your best to stay out of people’s way and avoid asking a million questions.

Movie extra set etiquette

As an employee of the set, it is in your best interest to make sure that you and those around you have a pleasant experience, and in order to make that happen, keep these tips in mind.

Movie extra etiquette tip #1
Don’t harass the stars

If Clive Owen and Rachel McAdams are the stars of the show, feel free to tell them that you enjoy watching them or that you admire them, but do not harass them or beg them to help you break into the industry.

Movie extra etiquette tip #2
Don’t gorge on food

While the food is there for your eating pleasure, there are plenty of mouths that have to be fed, so don’t gorge on everything until you can’t breathe. Eat until you’re full and leave some food for others.

Movie extra etiquette tip #3
Don’t bring a camera

As tempting as it may be, bringing any mechanism that captures images (including a cell phone) and taking pictures can get you thrown off the set and leave you out of a job, so resist the temptation.

Movie extra etiquette tip #4
Close all of your gadgets

All your electronic items, including your cell phone, your iPod, your handheld, and anything else that might disrupt taping, must be turned off. Remember that you’re an extra and a slip-up as minor as this can get you fired.

Movie extra etiquette tip #5
Don’t look into the camera
When you’re finally called to the set, do not look into the camera unless you are directed to do so. Not only will this confirm that you’re an amateur, but you’ll probably get cut out of the film altogether.

Movie extra etiquette tip #6
Don’t break character

Even if you think that the camera’s off of you and that you can relax, don’t. You should stay in character up until the moment you hear the director yell out “Cut.”

Movie extra fame

The minute you say a word on film, you become an “actor,” and that should be your mission, unless, of course, you’re more the silent type and enjoy the movie extra experience.

The pay isn’t great and the time on set may not even be all that fun, but the experience is well worth it, no doubt. Action!

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