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How To Be An Extra: 8 Tips For Getting Started

By: Tiffany Krammia

If you’re trying to find odd jobs to pay the bills as your pursue your acting career -- or if you’re willing to consider unpaid acting experience for your personal growth as an actor or for your resume -- you may want to consider taking some roles as an extra.

Extras are the people who act in the background of a movie, TV show, theater performance, or commercials. Working as an extra may involve actors playing a role like a businessman, retail salesperson, or restaurant worker.

These roles sound like fun, but actors don’t always know where to find auditions or whether or not they need to work through an agent. The good news is you can actually be an extra without being a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) or having an agent.

Here are some tips on how to get started and where to find auditions.

1. Pull together your resume. It should be tailored specifically for work as an extra and should include:

  • Weight

  • Height

  • Eye and hair color

  • Contact info

  • Experience related to the entertainment field or modeling

  • Hobbies, activities, and other special experience or skills

Check out this great member resume!

2. Although having an agent isn’t required, it can sometimes be helpful. You can check out Backstage’s Call Sheet online to find casting agencies in New York, for example. Sometimes you have to pay a small fee for representation, but if it’s more than $30 to $40 dollars, don’t pay it. Buyer beware.

Call Sheet has all the casting agency listings you need in one place!

3. Be flexible. If you’re difficult to work with because of scheduling concerns, they will skip right over you and go with an extra who is able to accommodate their needs. You may be required to work long hours as an extra.

4. Research and know the locations near you that frequently have use for lots of extras. Many large metropolitan areas are film centers, including New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, and Dallas. Some examples of where you can possibly find extra roles include:

5. When you show up, have a duffle bag with some different costumes and/or outfits. If they need a businesswoman, a mechanic, a retail salesperson, or a cook or waitress, you’ll be prepared. Make sure your costume items are quick and easy changes. Don’t carry your entire wardrobe. Sticking to one color scheme is ideal.

Check out how Creed Bratton went from extra to "The Office"

6. Get cleaned up and ready. Guys, you need to take a razor in case they need a smoothly shaved extra. Ladies, be sure to take items that you can use to change your hairstyle quickly and easily.

7. Have some quality headshots taken by a professional photographer. You can actually have photos printed that have your resume on the back. If you can’t afford a professional photographer, have someone with solid amateur skills take some quality photos of you. Make sure you have high-quality digital images in addition to print images. The photos need to truly look like you. No “glamour” photos.

Check out Backstage’s concise listings of the best headshot photographers.

8. If you get an audition or gig, be sure to go prepared. Backstage has an excellent free guide you can download called, “7 Tips to Ace Your Audition.”

Being an extra is fun, usually pays a little bit of money, and can help you to get noticed if you have aspirations to be an actor at a higher level. If your goal or dream is to act, these tips will give you a solid start and get you going.