How can I Become a Movie Extra?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

There are some very easy steps to becoming a movie extra. It first helps if you live in a city where a lot of films are made. New York City and Los Angeles are two key places for extras. However, lots of films are also made in San Francisco and because of costs, many films are now shot in Toronto. If you live in one of these major cities, extra work is frequently available. You may also be needed to work on television shows and it is considered inappropriate to ask what you will be working on.

Many films are made in New York City.
Many films are made in New York City.

Most casting agencies that employ extras do not charge for this service. In fact, don’t pay for this service since there are many agencies that are free, and they tend to be the most reputable. You can find numerous agencies online that can sign you up for movie extra work right away. You may need to provide a headshot and show ability to work and be paid in the US. “Pay” is a somewhat relative term for most positions. Some people can make minimum wage and others will be paid nothing. Some extra casting agencies guarantee a certain amount of pay, however, and some areas do have standardized levels of pay for extras.

Work for extras can be found in Los Angeles.
Work for extras can be found in Los Angeles.

You do not have to be gorgeous, or movie star thin to be a movie extra. In fact most filmmakers strive for realistic looking background people for their films. Sometimes a few extra pounds, or an extra large nose can actually land you a job. However, if you are so gorgeous that you might upstage the stars of the film, you may not get a job. Ordinary is best.

Some production companies requires their extras to provide headshots before they can be hired.
Some production companies requires their extras to provide headshots before they can be hired.

You do have to be extraordinarily patient as an extra. You may be required to walk past the same bench 50 times, or repeatedly take a sip from a glass of water. Since films involve many takes, expect to repeat activities and learn how to take directions well. The movie extra who can follow directions is likely to get more work in the future. Those who decide to divert from the directions are likely to find themselves bounced off a set.

Movie extras may even land a small speaking role.
Movie extras may even land a small speaking role.

Also be prepared for long hours. A scene could be filmed for 8-12 hours at a time. If you don’t get paid, you also won’t be getting any overtime. Being a movie extra can be fun, but don’t expect it to be a job that will provide you with a generous income.

Los Angeles is one of the main places to go for those wishing to be movie extras.
Los Angeles is one of the main places to go for those wishing to be movie extras.

If you are lucky enough to get a spoken line, you can qualify to join the screen actor’s guild (SAG). The screen actor’s guild actually does require employers to pay reasonably well for extra work, and if you get regular work, you may be able to make a living. However, most SAG members make about $3000 US Dollars (USD) a year, so don’t give up your day job.

It may be great to ogle your favorite stars but approaching them when you are a movie extra may also get you fired quickly. In general, respect the privacy of stars and only respond to them if they speak to you first. Stars have enough hassle with reporters and certainly don’t need questions or voracious fans on a set. It’s okay to admire from a distance, but definitely keep your distance.

If you live in a small town, you can watch the entertainment news to find out if anything is filming nearby. Sometimes directors will have open casting calls for extras in small communities. For example, the relatively small town of Petaluma, California has been the location of a number of films, among them Peggy Sue Got Married , American Graffiti and The Explorers. Keep an eye open for casting calls, or register with an agency and specify where you can work. You just might get lucky!

Directors may hold open casting calls for extras.
Directors may hold open casting calls for extras.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I worked as a film extra in Toronto during the 1990's. I was with an agency by the name of "Toronto Casting." Can anyone tell me if this agency still exists?


I'm a 40 year old male NY immigrant looking to do some movie extra work without upfront fees.


@dinelli: What is the name of your agency? I live in Montreal and I would love to appear as an extra in movies.


I am a 55 year old retired nurse and I would love to do movie extra work, maybe a little acting. No acting/modeling experience, just loads of life experience. Any ideas?


I would suggest registering with an extras casting company. Also you want to have a diverse wardrobe. Think cop shows and doctor/hospital shows. If you own scrubs, a police uniform, EMS NY uniform, suits, etc., you will have a better chance of being cast.

Also athletic gear, jogger, sports etc. If you have a dog or a car, you'll get lots of work as an extra in NY as well.


Hey dinelli, which casting company did you sign up with? I really want to find a top notch talent agency to sign up with, thanks!


I hear that Revolve Talent is a pretty legit agency. they helped me and my girlfriend get on set! It's not that hard being an extra in toronto. The problem is that you should really get to know your agency and agent before signing anything or paying more than 100.


It's a scam! they want money to post a pic of me on their portfolio? Scam!


Is 19 too late to start a career in acting? I have little experience but will put forth the work to do what it takes.


Were can i find casting agencies in the Los Angeles area that are free?


Is there a listing for the "free" agencies for each state? Too many here in OH want 1-3,000 dollars for "services".Thanks --F


Looking to actually find a service that will put me or others out there for no charge up front. Anyone out there? Extras not much $ anymore. I'm interested, are you??


Hi guys. I have a restored 1977 Rolls Royce. How do I go about getting it in a movie?


That's a great article. For Canadians, I know the best way to become a movie extras is to sign up with one of the city specific movie extra sites.

Of course, you'll have to live in or near of these three cities to make it worth your while. I live in Montreal and am signed up and have appeared in 3 movies last year.

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