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GUEST POST BY DANIEL: On How to Get Extra Work

July 6, 2012

Daniel is currently working at one of the most prominent extras casting agencies in the country, and has also cast his own (award-winning!) projects with his casting agency, Hats Off Casting. He also just so happens to be my darling husband 🙂

Today he’s sharing with all of us his best tips for getting the most background work!

10 Ways to Increase Your Chance Of Getting Extra Work

We work in a business that is not easy, and most actors don’t realize that most of the time the reason you don’t get the job is completely out of your control. I am currently in the world of Extras casting, and though some things are beyond your means there are ways to improve your chances of getting work. I present the top 10

1. Register with extras casting agency. The best way to get extra work is by making yourself visible, and what better way to do that than to join the casting agencies club known as their Database. By registering with a casting agency you get your own little profile with a picture, and info about yourself. It is a reference tool that the casting directors use when you submit to projects. Your profile gives us an idea of your attributes, your abilities and most importantly an idea of your work history. 99% of the time a casting director will cast the actor that chose to allow us to know them by registering over the actor who just sends a picture submission. Think of it as a dating website. You would never choose to go on a date with the person with a photoshopped picture, no information and a note that says I never get picked.

2. Know your type and dress for the part. When you register for a casting agency you get a picture that will help determine how you are cast. You can help determine what you are cast as by knowing the types that are suitable for you and dressing for those roles. If you are an 18 to look younger type then I advise wearing something that makes you look more like a teenager. If you are an UES type wear upscale attire for your picture. Wardrobe choice can give you more control than you realize in helping the casting director choose what roles to cast you in. I do have to say though that you have to be realistic in determining your type. If you are 5’4, weigh 110 pounds, and wear glasses you will never be cast an FBI agent… I should know .

3. Submit to projects that you are appropriate for. This is an extension of wardrobe choices and knowing your type. If you are reading a post calling for an Upscale Wall Street type and you are completely covered in tattoos, and the only nice outfit you have is the red tuxedo you got married in, chances are you should not submit yourself for that role. The key in submitting for projects is to know who you are and to play to your strengths. I know actors don’t like to be type casted , but as long as you are getting the work it shouldn’t matter. The actors who work the most are the ones who embrace who they truly are in every role they play.

4. Keep your ears open at all times and follow the instructions that are given to you. Consider a shoot to be like a meal made up of several ingredients and each shoot is a different recipe. No two projects are ever exactly the same and you will always be unaware of the whole recipe. The ability to become familiar with the ingredients are to listen to details. When you are told something it is important, and you following what you are told ensures that the meal is made flawlessly. Listening to instructions is a concept that is taught to us as children and when you show you can repeatedly follow directions you will always be a strong choice as an ingredient in the main course.

5. Be on time and on time is being early. Punctuality is such a vital aspect of an extras job. Projects are always, and I means ALWAYS under a time crunch when it comes to their shooting schedule. When you are late for a shoot, it affects not just the schedule of the scene you were in, but the entire day. Punctuality does not go unnoticed and can even be rewarded through other work, potential wavers .. or that desired bump that everyone always hopes for. Your first impression starts the moment you walk in the door, make that first step on time.. better yet make that first step early so the casting director doesn’t have to play the nagging parent calling you 12 times in 5 minutes trying to find out where you are.

6. Do not call into an agency asking if work is available, or making a stink that you have not been cast. I know background work is not the most appealing, but it is still a competitive market, and for every breakdown that goes up there are hundreds of people who submit. There are not enough roles for everyone that submits and not everyone fits every role. Casting directors are given specific instructions for the roles they have to cast and it is a casting directors job to follow those instructions down to the last detail. If you are a female that is 5’0 and you are calling in asking why you have not been cast in a show that is currently looking for male body guards the casting director is going to take that as you are not paying attention to the breakdowns being posted. What was once a seemingly harmless call that you thought was pro-active is now a hinderance to your credibility and ability to follow direction. Casting directors know what they are looking for and if you fit the bill they will call you.

7. Make yourself as available as possible. Casting directors understand that you won’t always be available for every job. I will say though that those that are called and are usually available are the ones that will be called for future jobs. If a casting director calls you several times in a course of a month and every time you have a conflict that casting director will sooner or later stop calling you for jobs. Why should they keep trying to get you work when you are always unavailable? There are BG actors that are go-to people because they always seem to show a flexible schedule. For every yes you make there lies a future job to take.

8. Extras Casting Directors have to find all types of things on a daily basis and the more skill sets, wardrobe options, and props you have the more versatile you make yourself which puts you in demand and this ladies and gentleman are where the pay bumps are. You get paid extra for props you bring to set ( your car); you get paid extra for bringing wardrobe changes (homeless wardrobe w/business suit change, but this only applies to those in SAG-AFTRA); you get paid extra when you can pole dance (Portraying a stripper who can pole dance). So if you have 2 pairs of bellbottoms, own rollerskates, and can do a split in those skates not only do you get the job but you just doubled your daily paycheck. The rarer the skill set the more money you will be paid.

9. So you are a union actor and look like Matt Bomer. The only problem is you have no idea what project he is working on and what agency handles that project. If you do your research you would know the answer to both questions and could potentially be used as a Stand in or Body Double (This is once again a chance to make more money people — doing stand in work pays more than doing just BG, again though you would have to be a member of SAG-AFTRA). My point is that the more you know about what you are doing the better chance of landing work and being paid well for it, that requires doing the proper reasearch. Nothing looks more embarrassing for you when you call an agency asking to work on a show that not only don’t they work on, but is done on the other side of the country.

10. The absolute best way to your chance of getting work is just to be professional. Act appropriately, ask questions if you don’t understand something; call the casting agency if you are running late or can’t make the shoot ( at a proper time, not 20 minutes after you were supposed to be on set); bring the proper wardrobe; listen to instructions the PA’s give; Don’t ask for autographs while on set; don’t ask the AD’s for waivers. Be the professional that you are expected to be, and trust me you will be called again for more work, but don’t call us we will call you.

Thanks for your insight into this part of the business, Daniel! Please leave him comments to share your thoughts and thank him for his time!

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