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Being A Movie Extra FAQ

Updated on February 14, 2017
Actor Yusuf Bassir follow on Instagram flamedlotus
Actor Yusuf Bassir follow on Instagram flamedlotus

I am on a shoot tomorrow, when do I get the details?

ooooh my my haha, well expect a text or email anytime from when your booked to 9pm the night before depending on agency, in most cases you will get a text at some point during the day before your shoot. If you have not heard anything by 1700 it is good practice to call the agency who will probably tell you they have not received it yet.

What does it mean to be on a pencil?

Well in the grand scheme of things…not a lot! But basically when you get a ‘availability check’ email or text, if you respond saying yes I am available then you are ‘Penciled’ for that job. Your photos and details are then passed onto production who will either say naaaa or yeeeeha. Once you have been approved you will then receive a booking confirmation for said job…yeeehaaaaa!

Though certain agencies *thou shalt not be named* abuse the term ‘Heavy Pencil’ and drag you along till the bitter end sometimes till 2200 night before the booking and then release you from the job. They do this just incase production change their mind about you, which is all fine and dandy but not good when you are having to turn down other work you could have had.

I remember being on a production a feature film *thou shalt not be named* for what was at first promised to be month and half booking. After the first day I started getting ‘Please keep tomorrow free you are ‘HEAVY PENCILED’. Well hold on a minute course I am heavy penciled I’m booked on this job for the duration as first agreed with agency…surely? Then the ‘heavy pencil’ texts continued and getting released for the following day 9pm night before. Needless to say the month and half booking turned into 9 days….Cheers guys for the false promise of work.

Morel of the story take Heavy Pencil or any Pencil with a pinch of salt.

How long are shoot days?

How Long is a piece of string….NEXT QUESTION!!

What do I do in-between takes?

In-between takes could be 5 minutes or could be 5 hours so use your time wisely. Get a drink or some food if you manage to grab some from craft services. Bring a book with you to help pass the time, being an extra involves a lot of sitting around doing sweet Jack.

AND FOR GOD SAKE BRING YOUR PHONE CHARGER…don’t be that annoying guy that goes around “has anyone got an iPhone charger I can use” NOOOO DO ONE ARRRGGG!!!

Actor Kamil Lemie Instagram kamil_lemie
Actor Kamil Lemie Instagram kamil_lemie

What do I do if I don’t know what I’m meant to be doing?

Join the club…no one ever knows what they’re doing! Normally the AD will be running around like a goose on fire shouting at everyone so just listen to what he/she says and if in doubt just ask the person next to you or the AD if you can catch him/her (normally seen wearing shorts around early 20s…funky looking character looking all panicked)

Will I get a meal on set?

Normally yes and normally for FREEEE unless you’re filming at a studio like Elstree then there is a canteen with half decent prices.

The food is the best part of being an extra, when they call lunch you can expect a stampede charging towards the caterers…though you should slow down as moment you get there you will be ushered back to the dining bus to wait your turn till Cast and Crew have been served….oh yeah forgot to mention on productions being an extra is the bottom of the food chain (don’t take it personally just the way it is)…..though the wait is always worth it as most on location caterers are the bees knees.

On early call times you can expect a full English breakfast served for free and as always other options are available: fruit, cereal, juices etc

Not all productions are like this though….again *thou shalt not be named* on arrival at 7am was ushered like a sheep into the holding area (a cold damp conservatory), around 9am got into our costume had hair/make up done. Around 11am breakfast arrived (and I use the term breakfast very loosely) What could only be described as a black box of DOOM appeared and at once a stampede of hungry extras swarmed the box from which foil wrapped cobs appeared followed by a very sheepish AD’s voice saying 1 max per person.

Needless to say the AD’s commands fall on deaf ears as everyone grabbed what they could and like a fox on a hunt ran into the darkest corners to eat without being seen….oh and incase you’re wondering, yes the cobs were disgusting.

Will I be on camera?

HAHAHAHA…mybe if you eat all your vegetables and do all your homework.

But on a serious note most of the time as an extra you are a blur to be imagined, though on occasions you will get asked to do something creative in front of the camera (one time I had to use a piece of raw pigs liver and pretend it was a paint brush, and brush a women’s breasts as she laughed ever so delightfuly…yes it really happened.)

Can I talk to the actors?


Should I speak with the other extras?

Why not we are all in the same boat. You will find when in the holding area a certain social hierarchy will naturally develop, like a cool kids corner and an old timers corner…it’s highly amusing to witness if you are aware of it.

There will always be the really hot chick with all the mid 20s guys surrounding her like a dog on heat. In the other corner will be the “this one time I got to meet so and so” guys who like to boast about what they have been in and who they have met.

Then you have the head down reading a book if you disturb me I will kill you kind of extras, best to leave them alone…seriously keep away!

And of course you will always get that one guy..or girl that is trying ever so desperately to get noticed by the director. You can normally find them parading up and down doing silly yoga positions or shadow boxing the imaginary enemy (probably their ego) and at every chance they get trying to start a conversation with the actors….don’t be this guy…everyone hates that guy!

The general hot topic in most holding areas are as follows:

  1. Bitching about certain agencies
  2. Previous extra work, stories and tales from the past
  3. What work you have coming up…lie and pretend to have loads lined up
  4. What you do outside of being an extra…to which most say oh I am an Actor!
  5. Miscellaneous…Just random and bizzar conversations you overhear.

When will I get paid for the work I have done?

Good question…totaly depends on the production and agency.

TV is normally fairly quick from the BBC and can be matter of couple of weeks.

Feature films can be up to 3 months sometimes longer (though normally get paid after a month)

Commercials…GOOD LUCK they can take forever and a day (though not always). If you have been lucky to get a Buy Out this can take up to a year before being paid.

Can I make a living from being an extra?

Well if you live like a hermit and have no bills then yes sure why not yeeehaaa but to most people unfortunately not and you will need a back up income.

I’m tired and I am not enjoying the shoot, what should I do?

Suck it up and get on with it. If you complain to the agency I can guarantee you wont hear from them again. Bein an Extra involves long tiring days and being treated like a set prop because that is really what an extra is, a set prop that needs feeding. If you find it isn’t for you then simply take it as a learning curve and move on.


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