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So You Want to Be a Movie Extra?

Updated on December 21, 2018
WH Thomas profile image

I am an emerging writer from Vancouver with numerous children's books available and several books in my new "A Better You" series.

So You Want to Be a Movie Extra?

How would you like to make a few hundred dollars a day sitting at a bar or walking down the street? How about watching a hockey game or dancing at a gala event? What if I told you that you get free food too? On top of that it would be fun.

Are you interested?

This is all a reality when you become a movie extra.

Being an extra.

Every movie and tv show needs background actors. These are the people that bring the scenes to life. You can have a set filled with furniture and props but without people, it’s empty. Look at your everyday life. You go to the store or the bank or the park and there are people all over the place. There are over 7 billion of us; we’re everywhere. It would look pretty strange if you watched a movie or a tv show and only the principle actors were in all the scenes. Pretty boring too.

That’s where you and I come in.

We are the lucky few that get to spend a day on set and experience the film industry from the inside. I have been working as an extra off and on for 20 years. I’ve been in over 200 productions and it is still a great experience. I’ve worked as little 2 hours to over 15 hours in the hot sun to the rain to the cold snow.

How do you get started?

That’s the easiest part.

All you have to do is search online for a local extras agency. You can also find them on craigslist. Some have an online signup and some you have to contact them. You don’t have to worry about your height or weight because they need all sizes. It’s the actors that come straight off the cover of GQ. For the rest of us, we just need to look like everyday people. Sometimes though we get to wear costumes!

There are so many reasons to be a background performer and I’m going to list them for you:

  • Free food
  • Fast money
  • Interesting day
  • See the magic of film making
  • Free food
  • Make friends
  • Play dress up
  • Get on set experience
  • Free food

Notice something repetitive on my list? Yup, FREE FOOD!

Part time $$$

It can be a great side job. That’s what I use it for. I can make $400+ a week in my spare time while still running my other businesses so I find it to be an awesome way to bring in extra cash. If you are non union then it’s minimum wage. If you are union then it’s minimum $200 per day. Becoming union takes acting credits and many people do background work while pursuing acting. If you want to know what it takes to be an actor then check out my article: So You Want to be an Actor?

It is hard to make a living off just extra work but some people do it. If you can get into the inner circle at your agency then you could get several bookings a week. Maybe even everyday. You can also get continuity on a show so they need you for the whole season. Stand in work is great too if you are willing to work 10-12 hrs everyday.

There also is no real commitment. It is a show by show gig. When you do book a day on set then you need to show up and expect it to be for the whole day. After that you are unemployed again until the phone rings.

How great is that?

There are a few things you need to be an extra

Wardrobe

You need to have a couple suits or fancy dresses. Nice causal and sporty outfits are necessary too. Also winter jackets and a summer jackets as well as lots of footwear options. Most of what you need is already in your closet but should have a few additional options. Formal wear is a bonus as well. You want to make sure you’re bookable and you need the wardrobe to work. Most casting agents want 3 clothing options for their specific look. You will also get the opportunity to wear the production’s wardrobe and costumes.

Cell Phone

Most of us have this little electronic marvel in our pockets. Your agent will be calling, emailing and texting you at all different times so make sure you can be contacted night and day.

Spare Time

If you want to work then you need to be available. If you only have one day a week free then you may not get much. Having good availability is the key for being a great extra because your agent knows they can count on you.

Good Attitude

You need a calm demeanour on set. There are big personalities and lots of egos in this industry. You can’t let it affect you. You will be corralled into tight spots and asked to repeat the same moves over and over and over. There are line ups for signing in, getting meals, using the washrooms and signing out. You need patience and perseverance to make it all day on set.


All in all it’s a great way to spend a day. You can be social or bring a book. Make some friends or catch up on your other work. There is lots of down time in holding so get ready for that. “Hurry Up and Wait” is the mantra and believe me, it’s true.

So there you have it. You want to be a movie extra? This is everything you need to know from someone in the know.

Good luck and if you see me on the next blockbuster, come and say hi!

© 2018 WH Thomas

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    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Carrie Lee Night 

      3 weeks ago from Northeast United States

      Interesting :) I have always wondered how it works :) Thank you for sharing :)

    working

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