Here’s some advice from background actors or extras to help you find your way to film:
Jobs for background actors or extras appear on Craigslist.org and on area film commissions’ websites. One website — MyCastingFile.com — now lists casting calls for several companies.
“It’s like one-stop shopping,” said extra Maria Stambaugh.
After getting initial gigs, you can get on a casting company’s email list. Then the jobs come to you.
Some less-than-reputable companies will ask you to pay for a chance to be in a movie. Don’t ever pay, said Katie Williams, director of Film New Orleans.
“There are some casting companies that charge a fee to be in their database,” Williams said, and discourages people from doing that.
You don’t need a professionally shot photo to get a job.
“They actually hate professional head shots,” said Carole Turner. “Being a movie extra, you are the lowest man on the totem pole. It’s called background for a reason because you’re just supposed to make the environment real. They want the stand up against the wall, no make-up kind of picture.”
“Everybody should know they need to have some breakfast in their stomachs,” said Stambaugh, because you don’t know when you’ll get fed.
A waiting game
Come prepared to wait. Stambaugh brings a bag filled with things she needs to make it through a day of waiting to shoot.
“You bring a book, some granola bars, a little water bottle you can refill,” she said. “You bring little snacks. I bring candy, I bring things I can share and make friends with. Bring some work you’re doing.”
Leave valuables and expensive clothing at home. “You can’t bring a laptop and feel secure,” Stambaugh said. “You don’t have time to go and lock it up in your car.”
“If they want you to bring jewelry for a scene,” she said, “bring costume jewelry, bring clothes that if it walks away, it would be alright.”
Continuity — ensuring that all the takes match up — is the most important concern for extras. When the crew shoots a scene multiple times, they need all the background actors to remember where they were at the beginning, Tom Sheppard said.
“Know where you were and where to get,” he said. “They pay the production assistants to tell you where to get, so if you know where you were, they’ll appreciate it.”
— Kyle Peveto