So you want to work as a background extra? Ok. Here we go.
It’s Silvia, the administrator again. I’d like to pay it forward for those who need a little extra cash or (see below). Post comments or questions and I’ll do my best to help you out!
I have been dreading making this post, but I feel that this post is very important for those of you starting out. Maybe you need extra cash (like I did). Maybe you want to network (like I did). Perhaps you need to see how working the camera and sets are done in real time and not on youtube or textbooks (like I did), or you simply want the free food (ok, I did too ). Either way, I’ll guide you to it as I go along.
First thing’s first, don’t take this job seriously. I’m fucking serious…Jessica.
There are a few things you need to know. For example, you will be constantly reminded that you are at the bottom of the food chain…No no. Like the BOTTOM. If you are aware of this, then that’s okay. I think some people have this ridiculous idea that they will become a background worker and the director or principal (main actors) will pull you out of the herd of cattle (rest of extras) and say “you, you’re what we are looking for..we want you to come and fuck our shit up”- please… (this never, NEVER happens….well maybe once every 100 years).
What you need:
- A human body ie: yourself.
- MetroCard (USA /train pass/travel)
- A car (they pay you for the gas if it’s used on set)
- A pet (if it’s well behaved and has its shots up to par, only if they request your pet)
- Massive outfit changes, like a suit, gown, normal clothes, uniforms, jogging clothes. All in neutral hideous colors (because the camera wants you to fill the space and not stand out)
- A photo of yourself. The agency will take a horrible picture of you. You will look like a recently arrested crack head who just got busted for smoking behind a dumpster
- Your ID (this is very important, you will be turned away if you don’t have proper ID (state ID, Resident Card, Passport, Social Security Card, etc)
- Drugs, lots of them. Xanax or Zoloft, people will push your buttons (this is a joke, the drug part anyway)
- If you’re Union, your Union card. If you are non-Union, a rope to hang yourself because they expect the most out of you and will get paid in dirt
- Go to Google and search background extras jobs (don’t ever pay for this, it’s free)
- For my New York people, go on (Central Casting New York) it’s free easy, and everything you need is on the website and hotline. The main office is in Manhattan take the N to 34 Herald Square
- For my LA people, go to Central Casting LA (same as above) all the details are online
- You should know your height, weight, eye color. Don’t lie, sometimes you will get fittings for certain time periods & it will piss them off and waste time. (who cares anyway in Hollywood, we are all giant whales because we are not a size 0)
- Special talents, write’em down if any (DON’T LIE – IM SERIOUS) like horseback riding doesn’t count if you did it once when you were five with your aunt Brenda. They frown upon it
At the end of the day, remember you are part of the bigger picture. I’ve always said this “Invest in kindness”. I know it sounds like a load of crap, but listen up. In this business, you can be a star one day and a nobody the other. It goes both ways and it helps to have friends, genuine friends. I cannot stress this enough. I see so many people that work background to make ends meet, to make money for their film budget, to finish up their film script (I do this when I am not used on camera). Actually, this is how I met a director who casted me on an Off-Broadway show and to this day we are great friends. We work together still!
So please, be kind to everyone you meet and be kind to everyone working on that one goal (the hit show).
Just imagine a huge scene in a movie where there is an explosion… and all you see is the explosion and like 5 principal actors running from the explosion …why only five?….
BECAUSE YOU HAVE PISSED OFF THE EXTRAS SO MUCH THEY WENT ON STRIKE AND NOW YOUR MOVIE IS SHIT BRUH. Think about it…
I’m not talking about the fake butt kissing fashion. Nobody likes a brown noser. Just be respectful, mindful and be you.
We (extras) are given numbers but, nobody really knows who WE ARE. There are so many people (in production mostly) who make the mistake of treating the workers like shit, that they don’t realize who they are dealing with. I’ve met teachers, doctors, actual lawyers and much more. Some do it because they are retired and want some fun money and others do it because they look for inspiration.
Anyway, this post is subject to edits in case others have questions they’d like to ask. So, I wish you well on your background journey!
Silvia Campos 🙂