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10 Things I Learned from being a TV/Movie Extra.

November 8, 2013

I’d only done extra work once in University, many years ago.  Then I was non-union and I did a huge high school prom scene with about 300+ extras and Rose McGowan. I hated every moment of it and swore I would never do it again.  However… two month ago we found ourselves short of money and I was looking into work I could do on a freelance basis, that didn’t require me to get another job.  And well… I found myself as a Central Casting Extra!  Was my experience artistically fulfilling?  No. Was it fun?  More than I thought it would be.  Here is what I learned from my 3 recent extra gigs.

10 things I learned from being a Central Casting Extra! In random order..

  1.  You are a number.  Literally. You no longer have a name.  You are assigned a number and everyone will constantly ask for it and refer to you as it.  From, “Hi.  What is your number? Here is your prop.” to “What is your number?  Make-up is ready for you.
  2. Act Fast if you want to book extra work.  I responded to postings on Casting Networks and only got responses if I submitted within 30minutes of the posting.
  3. Playing dress up is fun!  One of the films was a period piece and being put in full 60s wardrobe, hair and make-up was very fun.  I wish I could share a photo but I had to sign a confidentially agreement.
  4. Don’t bother spending $5 on a Starbucks latte to bring to set.  There will likely be a full cappuccino bar in craft service! See #5.
  5. Food on Big Sets is awesome! I mean really awesome!! Indie Film is my passion but wow the food cannot compare.  Even on the films I have produced, I was very diligent to feed crew and cast well. I’m committed to taking care of people but most indie budgets don’t allow for the gourmet spread on big blockbusters sets.  We’re talking fish, 3 different meats, a slew of veggie options, an expansive salad bar, pasta bar, dessert bar, cappuccino bar, and a juicer to make to-order juices.  I don’t exaggerate when I say they were some of the best meals I’ve had in the last 6+ months! 
  6. I have never felt so protected by SAG-AFTRA. I love my union.  I got extra money for meal penalties when we went over 6hrs without a meal.  I got extra money for a nighttime premium when we shot later than 8pm.  I got extra money for bringing in 2 of my own outfits. I felt very taken care of.
  7. What did extras do pre smart phone?  Read books probably.  But you can’t squeeze a book in your 60s style purse!  You can’t squeeze your book into your pocket!  I  was remarkably productive on set – I responded to a lot of emails, checked social media and various Indiegogo campaigns,  watched several episode of Mildred Piece via HBO GO on my phone, I even did a rough draft of this blog!
  8. Don’t forget your phone charger! You will use your phone a lot.  See #7.
  9. Choose Extra Work Wisely.  I don’t submit for TV shows that I’m committed to getting co-stars/guest stars on as I don’t want to create a conflict in casting. Even in background casting they don’t want you working more than once a month, unless you are part of their core background – such as background actors you see frequently playing classmates in a high school class for example.  I certainly don’t want to be an extra today which then creates a problem when I’m up for a costar next week!  I also know that being an extra on a set of a show I really love, would make me feel depressed and defeated.  Films are a little different, as casting for background is usually very last-minute (generally the day or 2 days before) long after principal casting is finished.  As I’m not cast in the film anyway, I don’t mind doing extra work on it.
  10. Clint is cool! In the last month I have stood next to Clint Eastwood, Chris Rock and Peter Bogdanovich and watched them direct.  Watching their radically different style was very cool!

What are your thoughts on Extra Work?  Let me know in the comments below.

Talk soon,

The Mothering Actor Signature

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2013 5:59 pm

    We must have worked background on the same Clint film… He IS cool 🙂

    • The Mothering Actor permalink
      November 11, 2013 4:05 pm

      Small world! 🙂

  2. Kami permalink
    March 17, 2017 1:19 pm

    Hi. I love your post. I recently got cast as a pedestrian (Extra) I’m an upcoming movie, and I am excited about this opportunity, but was wondering what’s it mean to be a pedestrian?? Like when people go to see the movie will I be too blended or possibly be seen?

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