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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!