Actor Ben Kingsley starred in “Gandhi” in 1982, and did you know that about 300,000 movie extras were used in the film’s funeral scene? In fact, “Gandhi” holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most film extras ever used in history.
Computer-generated imagery could have been used, but film directors always believe that “real is real” and so much better when making movies. If you’ve ever wanted to be a film extra, keep reading for some excellent tips.
1. It All Begins With A Headshot
When it comes to the movie industry, everything visual matters, and in this case, diversity is of utmost importance. People of all races, identities, shapes, and sizes can find work as film extras.
Your first step on how to become an actor starts with the proper headshot taken recently. Some professionals can guide you in delivering a confident smile and personality in the image you will present at auditions. A great headshot is one that accurately represents yourself.
2. Don’t Worry About The Union, Yet
Some people believe that you can only get work as an actor if you belong to a union first. However, that is untrue. In fact, you don’t need a SAG card at this point.
You will be able to work as a film extra and be hired at the cash-day rate. By the way, background work can count toward qualifying for joining the union in the future if you desire to.
There are benefits to becoming a SAG-AFTRA member as it is considered the most esteemed entertainment and media union in the world. A couple of these would include contracts/collective bargaining, eligibility for the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan, and a lot more.
3. Learn To Network, Network, Network
There’s tons of competition in the acting field, but that’s alright because there are many, many jobs available, and extras are always in hot demand.
As a film extra, you will not have a speaking role, but you will instantly become part of the movie’s background and fill a scene and make it look realistic. You could serve as a spectator at a football game in a film, for instance. But, how do you get in on these gigs?
You will find hundreds of casting notices for extras on Backstage.com. The distinguished publication has been in business for some 60 years now as the leading resource for performers to find work.
Learning to network also makes a big difference. Use your connections in the industry to find film extra roles. Maybe you know actors who do background work; ask them for tips. Maybe you’ve met someone who works in production who can introduce you to a director, etc. Don’t be afraid to network and find those opportunities.
4. It’s A Decent-Paying Part-Time Job
Being a movie extra can earn you some extra money, and it’s not bad. According to Backstage.com, a non-union actor can pick up between $100 and $200 for a single day’s work.
You will be able to appear on set on either a 10 or 12 hour day, with additional pay provided should production run overtime.
The national average salary for a film extra is $40,698 per year.
If you are a union actor, then, the pay is higher. For example, in 2021, the base rate for work as an extra was about $170 per day, says Backstage.com.
A movie extra can also earn even more money if they have a special skill required on set such as riding a horse, ice skating, etc. Or if you brought along your own props for your role as a movie extra, you will be paid more.
5. Extra Work Can Lead To An Acting Career
There are certainly no promises here, but being a film extra can become a great stepping stone to the world of acting. You can have an amazing experience and make more industry contacts.
These famous stars began as extras, including Brad Pitt, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Renée Zellweger, Megan Fox, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck.
You can become a film extra and have a blast filling the scenery. Follow the professional guidelines above, get that fab headshot, and good luck!