You have probably seen many commercials and motion pictures with a crowd of people in the background. Did you know that some agencies are specifically dedicated to auditioning actors for extra jobs specifically for crowds and scenes that need filling in?
Want to pursue your passion for acting but don’t have the budget of a Hollywood star? If you are looking to finally earn money doing something you love, it’s time to explore finding extra acting work in the United Kingdom. Extras casting for television commercials, feature film and any movie that need background work keep you active and relevant in an industry where work experience and networking is everything.
A budding acting career definitely requires supporting income for many years so it’s smart to investigate those “extras wanted” signs. Even though standing in a sea of people won’t necessarily jumpstart your career on stage or on screen you will have legitimate experience of film production companies to show directors and casting agents.
Time to gather a headshot, portfolio, and register to become an extra!
Extras services or talent agencies take applications regularly. So you can begin today! Remember that even though this may not be your number one choice as a performer, like any job you will need to appear just as confident and convincing as for an important audition. Just to recap you will need a headshot and the appropriate paperwork ready when you sign up. Agencies represent both union and non-union actors, have a look at their list of profiles to get a better idea of what type of comedian they prefer.
If you’d rather follow the resourceful independent route, open casting calls are often posted online. Just visit Backstage, Talent Talks, and Open Auditions. More general websites like Indeed have a section dedicated to jobs in acting and casting call submissions.
Bear in mind getting paid to hang around a movie set amongst other actor and actresses does not constitute a paved road to a successful career in the entertainment industry. For one, casting directors and talent agents don’t spend a lot of time around sets, they are too busy with audition calls and contacting production companies.
But the director or assistant director might spot your talent, find an inclination for your acting or look, this preference will get you called back for more important roles. Remember to stay polite and respectful of their space, do not insist on them paying attention to you.
The best you can do is show up for work, show professionalism and strengthen your acting resume.
Some London-based casting agencies who represent everyone from child actors to voiceover professionals include; Ray Knight Casting, Guys and Dolls Casting and Casting Collective. Elsewhere around the UK, you will find Mint Casting, Seven Casting Agency, and Industry Casting in Manchester, Celex Casting in Derby, Phoenix Casting Agency in Bristol and GBM Casting near Glasgow.
So there are a few hiring options all over Britain to get you started regardless of your location. Also look at agencies that offer nationwide representation like Casting Collective, which is commonly considered the best talent agency in London.
Also be aware of any membership or on-off fees as supporting work does not rhyme with high compensation. Finally, highlight your special skills like tap dancing or opera singing or have modeling experience, make sure this is mentioned in every resume submission to raise your chances to connect with the right talent agency for you.
Browse through different talent agencies to find the right extra acting job for you. (Source: Unsplash)
Extras are needed to help create convincing reality, making the scene appear realistic and believable. They are mostly hired to fill out the backdrop and provide context for the motion picture. Sometimes it’s just waving your arms in the air, like you just don’t care – except you do care because this is your job for the whole day.
You will mostly interact with assistant directors and production assistants so don’t expect specific one-to-one direction. Get used to blocking out scenes, movement instruction and staying out of the way. It is unlikely that you have any lines or get individuality directed. Note that any spoken acting opportunity raises your pay rate and equals the golden mention of a role in your resume. In other words, you have graduated from being an extra to an emerging actor or actress.
It can be a valuable flexible job for a trained actor even though a full day can extend to 18 hours on set. A typical work day requires a lot of availability and lasts anywhere between 10 and 12 hours. Working on a production where extras are needed often involves a lot of free time, which you will be paid for.
If you dislike waiting around for things to happen, this may not be the best supporting job for you as patience is of the essence here. Take advantage of this down time to work on a skill or master a monologue for your next audition. Also make the most out of the holding area, where extras go when they are not on camera. Get to know the entertainment business and the people in it. Just remember to treat everyone with respect for their time and work.
Visibility is not everything, having a good reputation of being an easy person to work with might make casting staff want you more than someone else at the beginning of a career. Whether it is walking by the starring role of a blockbuster production or standing in a party scene for the latest awaited music video for tv or indie film, play your part to the best of your abilities because you never know who may be watching.
You may be one in a crowd of extra actors but you never know who is watching. (Source: Unsplash).
On location you will have the opportunity to observe quality actors, brush shoulders with celebrities and learn from industry professionals. With more opportunities you will find what kind of extra acting work suits you best, comedy, horror, musicals, romance, even reality tv. You will also find out about which agency is more likely to work with a television production company or independent film projects.
To become an actor is also to swim in this sea of opportunities. There are so many jobs that contribute to filmmaking that you are sure to learn more about showbiz than in an acting class!
Afraid to pop the money question? Here’s what you need to know. Extra acting work is mostly paid per day, but smaller jobs may compensate via an hourly rate. Expect anything between £50 to £100. Join the UK’s best-known actor’s union, Equity, your pay rate will be less likely to vary. The logical rules of business also apply to the bigger the budget for the production the better the paycheck, even for movie extras.
Finally, make sure you have an active networking routine and make a point of establishing new connections at every supporting acting job. Make sure you keep close contact with casting assistants, being present on their radar and in their contact list means they will seek you out when something comes up.
The challenge for beginners is to understand the casting process and remain professional throughout. This gets easier as you become a seasoned open casting regular and learn to anticipate what a casting director is scouting for. Reputation is everything in show business so build good working relationships, respect call time, take auditioning seriously and consider extra work as a strong stepping stone.
Meet other industry professionals through events you can find online like UK Actors Tweet Up and subscribe to their newsletter. This will help you have a better understanding the ways of the entertainment industry, hear about open calls and where movie extras are needed.
Knowing where to look is already a big part of finding what you are looking for in this case casting calls.
If standing in a bar beverage in hand talking to strangers is not your forte have you thought about joining an amateur drama society? An acting group will give you the opportunity to rehearse scenes, practice special skills and receive encouraging feedback. Who knows you may hear about an upcoming audition, a photo shoot or a tv show looking for new faces through the drama group grapevine.
You can also join a social media community or group to stay up to speed with the latest, the Actor UK Facebook group has many postings every day. Healthy self-promotion is also encouraged to catch the attention of a casting agent looking to fill a movie extra spot.
That said extra acting work is a double-edged sword. Although it is clearly a valuable learning experience about on-set etiquette. Many industry experts recommend not to linger in this type of work too long. Extensive background acting work may get you pigeonholed into this kind of performance by talent agents. Others will say it is a great place to start if you are seeking a career in the film industry and are willing to overlook that side of your acting experience.
Build a steady flow of extra supporting jobs and keep your eyes open for that one line or a big break. But if background acting work ends up being your main professional activity there is nothing wrong with that.
Provided you play your cards right this can make for a thrilling career with a front row seat to the artistic process of filmmaking. Some may say that’s where the real magic happens.