How to be an “Extra” On Screen
Have you ever wondered who those people were in the background of your favorite movie or tv show? You know, the people who run from the giant monsters, are gasp during the big chase scene in the supermarket, or just the regular restaurant goers in the background a lighthearted date scene? You’ve probably heard these background people referred to as “extras” but actually they are usually only referred to by this title in plays, operas, and other off screen performers. On screen whether on television or movies these actors are usually referred to by several title usually including the word “background”. This includes background performers, background cast, background artists, etc. In some cases you might also hear the term “supernumeraries”. Whatever name they’re referred to, the thought might have crossed your mind that could become one yourself. Let’s explore what that might look like.
For starts let’s address the myth that it takes almost nothing to become one of these background performers. The part might be a major one or seem that important at all to the production, but a background in acting training experience is always a plus when pursuing these rolls. You might not have a lot of lines to memorize or a complex character to get into, but you still have to appear natural in your place on stage. You need to be able prove that you can follow direction and even be a reliable performer being punctual, and dedicated to the craft.
In addition to having some experience or formal training another great way to help is to become part of a group that represents you. There are many agencies for example that specialize in getting roles specifically for background performers. These agencies will give you an edge over the amateurs trying to represent themselves. They do, however, usually have a registration fee in additional to a possible commission on jobs they get you.
Life as an extra unfortunately isn’t as glamorous as one might think, or at least on the professional side. It might get you some much needed experience and establish some connection, but the pay usually isn’t high. The rates can be somewhat low and are usually left to discretion of the producers and directors. More often than no actors will be paid minimum wage. Some filming execs will even offer a “copy and credit”, which is a fancy of way of saying you’ll be making nothing. But at least your name will appear as “Random person #7” in the final credits, and you’ll have something to put on your resume for future gigs.
Becoming an extra is more of a challenge than people think, but it’s not impossible. While it might not be an illustrious career it may be a step in the right direction toward being a someday start (even if the star role is a bit player). With enough commitment and a little help, however, you might be on your way. As they say in the acting world, get in there and “break a leg”.
Register Free to be an Extra or Supporting Artist
At We’ve Got Talent we have more than 10,000 registered actors, performers, walk ons, promo staff and extra’s. You can simply register, it’s free by going to http://www.wevegottalent.co.uk/register/