Be a Film Extra to Earn Cash
A back ground extra is an actor who appears in cast of a film who are mostly in background of the scene. He/she is someone who is given non dialogue parts. He will be mostly seen in a scene where more crowd is required like in, crowded street scene, railway station scene, airport scene etc. In films, mostly they are termed as background talent or background artist or background cast member. These help the audience to buy the idea that film is real and it is filled with real people. You can be a film extra to earn cash because it is something which won’t require much talent or acting skill from you. And you can also earn good money and exposure if you are starting out in this industry.
Reason to be an extra
As an extra you will be working on sets. And sets are filled with people who can get you to a better opportunity if you want to work with some more important parts of the film. Especially for those people who are trying to break into the industry prime show, it is a best place to be. If you’re new to the industry, no matter how you have prepared for the film industry whether you come from film school or from theater you will not understand the inner workings of a film set unless you spend time on it.
Even if you are not looking for serious job in films, still it is mostly dependent on manual labor for its production to run. There are people who are required to carry cables, dollies, lights, props and much other equipment. This does have opportunity for labors. Sometimes you might find that there are jobs which are more compatible to you and you can grow on it.
Sometimes it may happen that someone may spot you and can offer a job which is more rewarding than an extra. From casting directors to writers to agents wander the set. You never know who is looking at you. So, being on a set, might just open up a few doors you never thought possible.
Reality of working in film
First of all, it’s not as glamorous as people may think it is. Being on a movie set is not an easy job because you have to do a lot of sitting around and waiting. And the days are long. You will be working more than 12 hours a day. You might even be called in the morning like 5 am and no wrap up until 10 pm. If you are not a member of any associations like actors guild you will not be paid enough. You will not be given any transportation facility if you are going to work on some locations which are far from the place you live.
You will be relying on casting agencies for most of your work. These casting agencies do thousands of casting every day. There are hundreds of casting agencies. But will you have to choose which are legitimate. There are agencies which will strip you off and won’t even provide you work for months. Best is to ask someone who is already working in the industry. Ask him which agency helped him to land work. Once you are sure about the agency, get registered with them. To do the registration you must keep few things in mind before you go. You must carry some cash with you because you will be asked for fee. You will be asked for an identity proof of yours, you will also require a photograph of yours, usually head shots. Most importantly go dressed for camera. It is a possibility that you might have your pictures taken by the agency. Do your make up and choose dresses which bring out your best features.
In California, most of the agencies may turn out to be constant ‘money eaters’ if they know that you are someone who is always looking for more than just being an extra. If you are looking for work as an actor or speaking parts then they may bring their dangerous perks of special acting classes, special portfolio offers.
This agency is much different than casting agency. It is something almost every actor wants to have. These agencies only take experienced actors, who have done some substantial amount of work. Legitimate agency does not charge any fee from you until unless you get a work. They take commission of 10-15 percent of your earning. These agencies never advertise in newspaper or TV. These agencies are reputable if they are associated with Screen Actors Guild. You should be careful with agency that does not have license. You can even arrange for your manager but it’s recommended to only people who are seriously looking for speaking parts or want to be called a celebrity.
Most of the time you can find work over the internet, there are a good number of websites which post such openings. There are trade journals like Hollywood reporter and the variety which has posting in the classified section for auditions. Screen actors guild also called SAG in short has section called background performer. In this section there are two types of performers. First union performers, these performers are covered by screen actors’ guild. They are usually paid higher may be up to 50 dollars per day. Other is non-union performer; he/she is not covered by the screen actors’ guild.
When you get a part..
There are few things you need to know. You must ask the production, will there be any certain costumes that will be provided or not. If no, then it is certain you will have to bear the cost of that dress. But still you must ask what kind of dress will be fine for them. Ask for colors and type(s) of fabric they want. You may shoot around five to seven scenes in a day. This may require you to be in different scenes with different clothes. You might have to bring different clothes for the scene shooting. There may be times when you will have to show up before the time just to do your make up. If film requires you to do something which is not in normal world like in alien movie or periodic film. These films require extra efforts in terms of costumes and make up. So most of the time producers will provide everything and will ask you to come for shoot before the actual shooting begins. Your timing is very important not only for you but also for the assistant who runs the set. You will be always called one hour before the scene in which you are required. This help assistant organize the shoot and gives you good time for preparation. This kind time heads up gives you chance to get yourself accustomed to the environment and props. Most importantly you will be able to see what is going around in a scene to be shot. It’s important if you are doing some period piece you require to have some special things for you to do. You should do some homework on the era the film is based. This give you some do’s and don’ts of that era. It may be 12 hours shift but most of the time, you will be seating idle because always after one shot it takes time to take another shot. Setting of camera and lighting takes time. So it’s important that you bring something to keep you occupied. You can bring some reading material which might help you in improving your performance and some kind of entertaining reading material will be fine. If you are working for 12 hours, you will be provided with food by the producers, don’t worry about that. Even if you are looking to grow in other aspects of film in this free time you can observe and learn what is going on. This also gives you a chance to interact with some other actors. This will be the best opportunity to learn from them.
As you will be starting out as a new entrant, headshots will be on your top priority. If you are only looking for serious work as an actor, headshot will be very important but if you are just looking for something as an extra, then it is not important to have great headshot by some expensive photographers. Even not having headshots will be fine as many times in film production, a group of people are called rather than an individual. If a producer is asking for head shot, you must ask the producer or agent what he wants. If he says he wants a complete portfolio with different moods. Just go for it. Most of the time 3×5 photos are required. And do decide to get headshot even if no one is asking. Ask your friend with good camera to take your head shots. Once they come out good then you can work on that photo. You can go to a professional photo studio and have them edited. Or you yourself can edit with software like Photoshop or coral. You try to have photos for each kind of moods. Try to work out photos in different clothes. Try each and every flavor you can give to showcase your talent.
Getting used to terminology
· 1st AD
First AD or first assistant director, he is someone who runs the set smoothly. He follows the director’s instruction. Once the setting of light, camera, actors are ready. Director will provide final node for action.
Rolling means camera has started to roll. The camera has started to film the scene.
Next thing you will hear is sound, which means director has instructed sound recorder person to start recording.
Mark or marker is a small clap which helps the editor to mix in the sound recorder by the sound engineer and scene with the help of a tick sound or clap.
In take, the clap person will shout out the scene number they are shooting and the number of the take.
This is very important for you. This will be the cure for you to do your job of running, walking etc.
This is the cue the scene starts to come alive. The main actors will start performing.
Once the scene is over or the scene goes wrong the director will cut. If scene is perfect director will ask for going to next scene and if not then new take will be taken.
This is one of the most important factors you need to remember when acting in films. Continuity is something which is maintaining your position and your form similar to your previous shot. It is important factor in terms of editing. If in the last shot your right was up and in the next you use left then it’s a big blunder in terms of continuity. There are a number of crew members working on continuity, there are people working on costume continuity, character continuity and even prop continuity is checked.
· Long shot
It’s a pretty basic shot, which is taken wide enough to expose the environment around the character.
· Medium shot
It’s a shot which only keeps the character in frame. It is much closer to actors face.
· Close up
It is another basic shot, it completely focus on the actors face.
· Wrap up
This is the last you will be hearing on your working day. This means last scene of the day is finished. Now, everyone can leave.
It is pretty important to know why you are working as an extra, it is not something that is small. Only thing that is small working as extra is your part. If being an extra in film to earn cash is your goal, then try to do as many roles as you can to keep your prices rolling. In this industry, the more you are exposed to camera, the more your value increases. If you have seen the history of cinema, many of the extras have gone on to become the lead in a film. If you are someone to be in position, then you need to pay more than thinking of making money, you must focus on what you learn. Focus on whom you meet, focus on what’s going around and always grow from one part to another working your way towards a part where actually you are in fore ground and many extras are working for you.