Be an Extra and Be in a Movie

Want to be an extra in a movie? Whether you just want to be in a movie, learn how things work on a film set or just need extra money, being a movie extra can be a fun experience and learning how to be an extra is easy.

Just follow the steps below:

1) Learn what an extra does and what you need to be a movie extra

Click on the link above to know what it takes to be a movie extra and what you’ll be doing.

2) Submit Yourself To Extras Castings

Click on the link above to know where to submit your picture to be in a movie in Los Angeles, New York, or elsewhere.

3) How to Be an Extra on a Movie Set

If you want to know how to be an extra, it also helps to understand what happens on a movie set and what is important during filming.

When you get to be an extra for the first time, you will get a call time and instructions on where to go and what to bring.

Most movie extra calls are early in the morning (as early as 6:00 AM). When you arrive on location, follow the signs that say BACKGROUND, EXTRAS or HOLDING. Holding is the place where extras wait to go on set.

Once you go on set, you will be told where to go and given directions. Then there will usually be an extra rehearsal before they start shooting. When the cast and crew are ready to shoot, you will hear 3 words in order:

  1. “Background!” – This is your cue to start.
  2. “Rolling!” – This means the camera starts rolling.
  3. “Action!” – This means the actors begin the scene.

You can just keep going from the moment you hear “Background” to the moment you hear “Cut”. This will go on from take to take until you hear…

“Checking the Gate” – A good sign you may be done for that take, but you won’t be sure until you hear that the shoot is moving on.

Below are a few other tips to help you be an extra that keeps getting called back to work:

Be an Extra

The last thing a director wants is to lose a take because an extra is looking into the camera. As much as you may want to be in a movie, being an extra means staying in the background. The principal actors are the ones the focus is on, and movie extras who look into the lens or try to stand out to be seen on screen usually end up being sent home or not hired again. Actually, the best way to be featured in a movie is to act professionally on set and without doing too much.

Act without a word

Another very important thing during filming is sound. A loud noise or too much background sound can ruin a take, so if you want to be an extra, it’s good to learn how to act silently. For example, if you’re in a restaurant scene, you may be asked to pretend to have a conversation but not actually speak. You will also be asked to eat your pretend food quietly by not clinking glasses or silverware. Understanding how important sound is will make you look more professional.

4) How Much Extras Get Paid

If you want to be an extra because you need extra money, you’ll make much more as a union extra (ie. an extra belonging to either SAG or AFTRA. At the time of this writing, SAG Extras make $142 minimum a day and AFTRA Extras make $147 a day minimum.

That means that if you work 8 hours or less, you will make $142 – $147 dollars as a union background actor. Since most films shoot for more than 8 hours a day, you can expect to make more than the minimum quite often. After 8 hours of work, union actors are paid one and a half times their normal hourly rate. After 12 hours of work, they are paid double time. After 16 hours, they get a full day’s pay every extra hour they work.

So if you work on a movie 13 hours, you’ll be paid a minimum of $248.

Union actors also get additional pay for:

  • Meal penalties (a penalty every half hour lunch is delayed).
  • Working in wet conditions or smoke (for example, if you’re in a smoky bar or rainy scene).
  • Wearing a lot of body make-up or complicated hairdos.
  • Prior costume fittings.
  • Wardrobe changes and special wardrobe.
  • Working with their pets, car or props.
tip to be an extraOwning a period dress or police uniform will be helpful if you need extra money and extra work. SAG actors get $36 extra dollars a day for bringing their police uniform. But check with both the union and police in your area, as a special permit may be necessary and strict regulations apply to when and where you can wear and even carry a police uniform.

What About Non-Union Actors?

There is no standard rate for non-union extras, so every job will be different, but rates run between $50 – $150 a day for films, music videos and commercials. Short films and low-budget films sometimes pay nothing but provide meals, copy and experience for beginners.

So How Do You Become a Union Extra?

Well, by starting as a non-union extra, being professional and on time, and fostering good relationships with crew members who will want to work with you again and again.

Since a lot of union work for extras comes from SAG projects, many background actors focus on getting SAG Membership first, which means getting 3 SAG vouchers (you can learn about how to get SAG vouchers here).

Can’t join SAG?

If you plan to be an extra in Los Angeles, you may be surprised how much work is available for AFTRA members in the last few years. AFTRA is an open union, so you can join anytime, as long as you can afford the initiation fee of $1,600.

Doubles and Stand-InsIf you want to be an extra, trying to get a job as a body double or stand-in is a good way to make extra money, work more often and get your SAG card if you’re non-union.

A double is someone who replaces the actor in shots where the actor is not recognizable (you usually need to be the same height, body type and hair, at least). A stand-inis a movie extra who goes through the blocking of the real actor while the crew adjusts the lights and set.

The minimum union pay for a double is $152 a day and $157 for a stand-in. Many stand-ins and doubles work regularly throughout a film shoot and can even follow an recognizable actor around from shoot to shoot as their official stand-in.

Ready for principal work? If you don’t want to be an extra anymore and are ready for speaking parts, take the next step – learn how to be in a movie and become an actor.