How to Be in a Movie
Want to know how to be in a movie?
There's three ways to be in a movie:
Let's look at each possibility.
1) Become an actor
There's a lot of stories out there about movie stars who made it overnight, but the truth is that becoming a working actor usually takes a lot of hard work, time and dedication (and a little luck too). Go on IMDB and read the bios of your favorite actors. You'll be surprised how many went to acting school or struggled for years before making it, regardless of their talent.
That's not to say you shouldn't try to become an actor if that's your passion. Just keep in mind that as you try to be in a movie with a speaking role, you will be competing with many actors who have a lot of experience in both films and theater and strong acting training.
To give yourself the best chances of succeeding as an actor, follow these steps to become an actor. You'll want to get an acting degree or at least go to acting class, get a headshot and resume, find an agent and go out on auditions. You don't have to do any theater acting if you only want to be in a movie, but actors with theater training tend to have longer careers in both fields. You can also get started by watching these acting videos.
2) How to Be in a Film as An Extra
You don't need an acting degree or any training to be an extra. All you need is time and flexibility. If you live in New York or Los Angeles, you could work on dozens of different movie sets over time. It's a good way to learn how a movie is made, watch professional actors work, and it can be fun to be in a movie and then see it on the big screen.
Just know that in most cases, you won't see yourself in the movie. Extras are background actors and as such, are unrecognizable most of the time.
Sometimes, directors choose an extra to say a line or have a little silent interaction with the leads. You can then become a featured player or a principal player, which means you may get a screen credit or at least a real acting credit, but this doesn't happen all the time. Even when you get a line, the scene can be cut out of the film in post-production.
Watch almost any film and you'll see extras in all the scenes where the lead characters are not alone.
For example, in a movie, two actors are walking down the street having an argument. The pedestrians walking by them are extras. Often, the drivers of the cars driving by are extras. Now the two characters enter a restaurant. All the other patrons eating at the restaurant or waiting for a table are extras. The waiters are extras too, etc.
Movie extras make a scene real by acting like regular people in the background. That's why they are also called background actors.
Imagine a restaurant scene with no one but the lead actors. It would feel surreal, not believable. Now imagine a film crew just went into any restaurant to film. Not only would it be too loud to pick up the dialogue of the lead actors, but most patrons would be looking at the stars perform, which wouldn't make the movie very believable either.
So what do you need to be in a movie as an extra?
To be an extra, you don't need to be any particular age or have any particular look. Just like in real life, producers need extras of all backgrounds, ages and types to be in a movie.
What you need is to be flexible with your time, so you can take work at a moment's notice.
To be in a movie can also be pretty demanding physically. You have to be able to work long hours (often 12-16 hour days), sometimes standing for a long time, sometimes sitting waiting around.
You could be in a film shooting in the winter to portray summer and vice versa, which means you could be over dressed or under dressed for the weather conditions.
"As a background actress in New York, I had to walk in and out of an upscale restaurant at the beginning of a scene, wearing summer shoes and a spaghetti strap dress. That meant waiting outside in the freezing cold before the director called "Background" over and over."
How to Be in a Movie as an Extra
You don't need to go to acting school to be an extra, but you do need to be able to do a few simple things:
To keep your background acting performance consistent, give yourself a little back story as an actor would. For example, if you're walking down the street, decide where you're going and why you're in a hurry. Or let's say for example you've been asked to smile at a lead actor who is on his knees proposing in the street. Decide what kind of person you are and why that would make you smile.
If you're ready to be in a movie as an extra, learn how to get extra work.
Try to be a stand-in
A stand-in is someone who takes the place of the lead actor while the crew adjusts the lights and prepare the set for shooting. This is a good gig to have, as you will work more regularly and get to know the crew with time. If you act professionally, a director may just keep you in mind to say a line when the opportunity arises.
Want to give background acting a try? Read more about being an extra.
3) How to Be in a Movie You Make
If you really want to be in a movie, the only sure thing is making your own film. It may not win an Academy Award or become a blockbuster, but you will have given yourself a chance to follow your passion and have something to show for it.
Your movie can be as simple or as sophisticated as you want it. You could go to filmmaking school to learn all the stops first and become an actor-director, or you could start with a small camcorder and mike.
Here are some tips to get you started on how to be in a movie you produce:
Now you're ready to shoot and you know how to be in a movie you made! This is a very quick introduction. You'll need to do more research before you get started and have a plan for editing and releasing your movie.
We will have more information on how to be in a movie and how to be in a film you made in the future, so sign up for our newsletter for updates!
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