How to Be a Movie Extra
By Steve Gillman
Many years ago I had a chance to be a movie extra. A friend
and I were fourteen years old and on Mackinac Island in Lake
Huron while Somewhere in Time was being filmed there (an
early Christopher Reeves film). They were accepting anyone who
applied as extras. But we were camping there illegally, making
logistics tricky since they would be filming for days. And we
would have had to wear clothing styles from the 1800s while standing
around in the hot sun in a crowd. My friend tried to talk me
into doing it, but with no luck.
Now that I have done the research for this page and see that
extras are actually paid... Well if I had just known that...
In any case, it can be a fun job, and there are benefits beyond
the usual low pay and the opportunity to tell your friends about
the celebrities you see. It is also a way to be close enough
to the action to learn the ropes, in case you have hopes of being
an actor. There are rare instances where acting jobs come more
directly from working as an extra, although extras do not have
lines and are not usually considered when characters are cast.
You also might find other jobs that you hadn't thought of
and could enjoy. Maybe a talking to a cameraman will lead to
a job, for example. Plus, you usually get paid quickly (that
day or at the end of the week). And yes, there will be casting
directors, writers, agents and producers around the set, so it
isn't a bad place to network and hang out if you do hope for
an acting career.
How Much Can You Make?
Most extra work is non-union, and can pay as little as minimum
wage (a little over $7 per hour as I write this). Sometimes you
will be paid a flat fee ($50 for the day is common) for however
many hours the shoot takes. If you get a union job the pay will
be according to the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) agreement says.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Talk to people once you have a job as a movie extra. talk
to other extras and to anyone else, to se what other movies might
need your services.
When you are on the set you will be working under an extras
captain, second assistant director, or "extras wrangler."
This is your boss, and he or she will be very specific about
what you need to do, where you need to stand, walk, etc. Follow
instructions as closely as you can if you hope to get more work.
Qualifications / Requirements
There are no requirements, although for many movies they need
a specific category of extra (you won't get hired to be in a
crowd of young students if you are sixty).
Check the news to see if there are any movies being filmed
near you. Then contact the closest casting agency to see if they
are providing extras for the movie or if they know who is. Call
and offer your services. There are also companies which specialize
in providing extras for movies (see the resources below). You
may be able to sign up for work through these.
To learn more about how to be a movie extra, check out the
Hollywood - A fun website with articles and a free "Ask
An Entertainment Professional" service.
Casting - This casting company has provided actors and extras
for many major movies.