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How to be an Extra

Two weeks ago, l was on a photo shoot in Beverly Hills. I was shooting modeling shots of about 14 people for a talent agency.  As I was taking pictures, one of the actors and l started talking. I asked him what he did for a living besides acting.  He told me that he didn’t do anything else. He was a full time professional actor and that he was constantly getting booked.

After several follow-up questions, I discovered that all his bookings weren’t acting roles, they were extra work jobs.

Let me make something painfully clear.  Do not deceive yourself.  Doing extra work does not make you a professional actor.  Doing extra work makes you a professional extra.

Extra work is great. lt’s a great way to get started working immediately when you‘re looking for a job you want.  If you‘re looking for auditions, extra work is a nice way to keep an open schedule. However, being an extra does not equal being an actor. Walking in circles behind a real actor does not make you an actor. Some people would say that when you get paid to do something that makes you a professional. That may be true in some cases, but not with extra work. You cannot consider walking for 12 hours a day acting. I don’t care how good your pantomiming is.  You’re an extra.  It’s not shameful.  Move on.

On the other side of the coin, extra work is a great place to get started and l think everyone who moves to LA should jump into that immediately.  It’s the best way to get paid fast. I wish I had known about it when I first moved here.  That way I could have avoided that awful valet job.

 How to get extra work:

  • Get a commercial extra booking agency

The two I suggest?  Background Talent and Virgo Talent (Links Below)

Both have a small up front fee ($30 to $60) and charge you per booking that you get.  You’ll get paid $100-$200 per job. Usually the pays around $135 for 10 hours. Thats pretty average.

  • Get a calling service

If you decide that you want full-time extra work you need to sign up with a calling service.  A calling service is a service where you go online or call their office and you tell them what days you want to work. So, for instance, you’re available Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Then they choose the days that you’re available and book you on them. They place you on any TV show that fits your description.

The first one I worked with was a calling service called Cut Above. That calling service usually booked me on and the TV shows, Greek and Glee because I look like I’m 12.

The calling services charge you varying rates depending on which service you go with.  The prices are anywhere between $60 a month to $90 a month.  So, if you signed up for a year it would be much cheaper, per month, if you signed up month-to-month.

Other services I’ve used have been Joeys List and Booked Talent. Both were good calling services. I enjoyed Joey’s List the best. They didn’t charge a lot, they got me a lot of work, and all of the work I did was on smaller sets. Which was nice. The worst days of extra work are the days the you show up and there are 1000 people on set.

Calling services pay you $64 for 8 hours for non-union jobs, which is terrible, but again, this is a temporary job.  If you decide to spend $3,000 and become union you would get paid more.

*Note*

If you can, be available as many week-days, in a row, as possible.  That’ll get you more work because they have shoots that last more than one day.

Also, depending on how unique your look is, you may not get booked as often as you’d like.  Girls get booked more than guys.  If you have a more unique look, you’ll get booked more.  Try and figure out what your look is and dress more like that look when you get your picture taken at your calling service.

For instance, I wasn’t getting booked a lot until I realized that I can fit the 18 to play younger role.  Once I realized that, I wore a hoody and shaved my face for my picture.  Then I got booked all the time.

*End Note*

Things to bring:

  • A book
  • A fountain pen (This is important.  If you have a roller ball pen, it won’t write on the receipt like paper they have you fill out on set.)

What not to bring:

  • Anything you don’t want stolen
  • A fold out chair (Not because this won’t be useful, but because this means that you’re an extra for life.)

The only things you need to know are:

  • When you get there, find the PA in charge of extras and sign in.  (I did not do this my first day.  That made everything much harder.)
  • When you leave, sign out and KEEP A COPY of your paperwork.

That’s it!  You’ll then be an extra.
Now. At this point in your career you’ll start working on TV. When this happens people that you knew back south or wherever you’re from will begin to see you in the
background of their favorite TV shows. They will then proceed to take screenshots of you on that show and draw giant red circles around you and post these pictures on your Facebook wall.
To them this is the greatest complement of all time. You are on their favorite show. To them you’re a superstar. To you they just posted an embarrassing picture online.  This will happen a lot.

Be prepared.

http://www.backgroundtalent.net

http://www.virgotalent.com


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