How To: Be An Extra In A Movie

By  | 

shaun of the dead extras zombies“So, you want to be an extra in a movie?” says the first line of every website about becoming an extra in a movie including this one, but only because I want to warn you about the many, many sketchy “companies” out there that want to get you “cast” in “movies” for “free.” They really want to send you a ton of spam emails and make you pay to see any actual info but not tell you that until you're five pages into their websites. Here at Crushable, we aren't going to actually cast you in anything so you know that all you're being told here is real talk from an experienced actress extra.

That's right. I once was an extra. It was for a CW pilot called, Body Politic that you might remember from nowhere because it was never picked up. Being an extra taught me a few things. That Minka Kelly is gorgeous in person. That there are people out there that do extra work ALL THE TIME and so they all recognize each other and its really weird. And, that being an extra is pretty interesting and a cool way to make some extra (ha!) money. It also taught me the useful stuff below that will help you become an extra yourself!

Finding Work

Doing an online search for extra opportunities is fine, just be careful because there's a lot of garbage out there which you'll find when searching something as broad as “extra opportunities” or “I want to be an extra what do I do?” if you're one of those people that uses annoyingly long search phrases. Your best bet is to search more locally. As in within your town/city/state/somewhere you're willing to travel to. Does your city have a newspapers and local television stations? Yes, it does. Look on their websites (or in the newspaper itself!) to see if there are any current casting calls. Your state's film office website is also a great place to look. Say you live in Richmond, Virginia, like I did when I was an extra. It makes much more sense to search “casting calls Richmond” specifically. Or if you live in a small town, but are willing to travel, search a larger city within your state.

The locations you have access to are important because you do not necessarily have to be in or go to New York or LA to be an extra. Movies are made all over and some cities take to them better than others. To go back to my Richmond example (which is proving itself to be very handy!), Richmond is a very old, historic city with buildings that make good stand-ins for DC, statues of Confederate generals, and other fun stuff like that. This means it makes for a good film set. Ever heard of a little movie called Lincoln? Filmed in Richmond! (Partially!)

Get A Headshot And Resume

Or a photo that is passable as a headshot through email and something approximating a resume.

When you find extra work, the listing will likely ask you to email in your headshot and resume. Assuming that you've never done any acting before, you won't have an acting resume, but instead of not mentioning this at all in your email, offer up your normal resume because it has your contact info. At the very least, be sure to send your contact info in the body of the email. They'll also probably want your age range (ages that you could feasibly play), weight, height, clothing size, hair color, etc. If you do want to make an acting resume, include everything I mentioned above as well as any special skills. Do you speak Spanish? Are you trained in martial arts? Add it!

As for the headshot, if you don't have a professional headshot, just use a photo that clearly shows your face. No full body shots necessary. Actually, if they ask for that, they're probably creeps. Don't not look like yourself. We've all seen The Millionaire Matchmaker where the ladies show up looking nothing like their headshots and then Patti Stanger freaks out at them. “Where's the girl in the pictcha?!” Learn from The Stanger and look like yourself in the photo. Don't wear crazy makeup or push your boobs all the way up to your chin.

Sealing The Deal

If the casting director likes what they see, they'll email back or give you a call. When I was called, the person sounded pretty rushed and was basically like, “Are you sure that you have office-looking clothes and can be here at 7 am tomorrow and stay all day long?” And I was like, “Uhh… I think so… I mean, yes! Absolutely!” You have to be willing to commit a good deal of your time, so if they ask you to come in, you should be free for the entire day. If they give you directions for what to wear, follow them. So when they say to wear neutral colors, it's because you are just an extra and therefore don't matter so you can't stand out distracting everyone from the stars. Once they cast you, as long as you don't act like an idiot, you'll be fine and well on your way to enjoying free snacks and some extra (ha! again!) cash.

Wear your hair naturally or at least in a way that can't be horribly ruined by the elements. I straightened my super curly hair, not knowing I was going to end up outside in drizzle for a couple hours. This lead the on-set hair touch-up person to make some “What are we gonna do with you?” comments and put some greasy pomade on my hair.

Wear comfortable shoes. You might end up being on set upwards of ten hours which is great because after a certain point you get paid time and a half, but not great if you decided to wear heels or too small shoes.

Bring a book, Gameboy, music device, or printed out Sudoku puzzles because there's a lot of waiting around.

Talk to people. Some of the other extras might recognize each other from all working on Evan Almighty (true story), but there will surely be some people there that are also first timers and not awkward to strike up a conversation with. If you forgot the previous tip, you can both complain about your uncomfortable shoes.

(Photo: IMDb)