Starting as an extra
I have read that one of the best things a new actor can do is be an extra in a movie. I was wondering if you could tell me how to do this and what website is most accredited for finding jobs.
If you've never acted in a film, it is a good idea to take a few jobs as an extra just to understand how movie sets work so when you do get a job, you are already familiar with the lingo and the special requirements of on-camera acting. That being said, after you've done a few jobs, I would move on and stay away from extra work if you can. First of all, you will often be called last minute for extra work and have to be on set for long hours, so you could miss important auditions or even real acting jobs. Second, you don't want to be viewed as an extra by directors and crew members on set. It's true that once in a while an extra will be "upgraded" and get a line in a movie, but you'll get much more work as a serious actor training, looking for an agent and going out on film and TV auditions.
Still if you want to work as an extra for a while, where to look for jobs will depend on where you are...
If you live in New York
There are a few casting directors in town that specialize in extras. Off the top of my head, I can think of five (Grant Wilfley Casting, Sylvia Fay Casting, Winsome Sinclair & Associates, Amerifilm Casting, Kee Casting) but there are a few more. I believe all are free but some require that you register. Just check each company's website for details. For those that don't have a registration process or hotline to call, just send your picture and resume with the mention "Extra Work" on the outside of the envelope, then follow up regularly with actor postcards stating your availability for extra work.
If you live in Los Angeles
You usually have to pay a monthly fee to a booking service in order to have access to extra work regularly. Extras Management and Cut Above Casting are some of the larger booking service companies.
If you live outside of the major entertainment centers, just look for extra casting calls on websites like Backstage - The Actor's Resource or Now Casting.
Hope this helps! Feel free to post comments on this page to share your experiences on set once you start working as an extra.
Update: We now have a special How to Be an Extra Series!