How to be a movie extra in los angeles

How to be a movie extra in los angeles

“how do I get a job as an extra?”

Becoming an extra (sometimes called a background artist) is fairly simple if you live in any city, but much easier if you live in Los Angeles or New York. all you have to do is contact an extras casting service or director and sign up for their service. most will be free but some will charge a very nominal one time fee to process your photo and paperwork, it shouldn’t be more than $10 – $20. be very skeptical if someone charges you much more and run away if they try to sell you more photos or acting lessons. It’s not inappropriate to ask what movies or TV shows they’ve provided extras for.

You may need to submit a headshot, more sophisticated casting services will take the photo for you.

You will need to provide work authorization documents to complete the required i-9 form.

acceptable sample documents are:

  • United States passport, or
  • current driver’s license along with a social security card, or
  • current driver’s license along with a birth certificate

Only original documents must be submitted.

Work as an additional artist can be demanding; standing, sitting, repeating the same movement for hours, etc. be prepared to work hard and for a long time. a typical day for a team is 10-12 hours and if you have the unfortunate displeasure of working on a music video, be prepared to work up to 16-18 hours.

You will start out as a non-union extra until you qualify for membership in the Screen Actors Guild.

the difference between being an extra-union or non-union is significant. the biggest difference is in salary. As a non-union extra, you don’t have the benefit of having no one fight for you. you can be paid from $0 to minimum wage. As a sag member, you’ll be well compensated (see sag rates)

how to join the screen actors guild?

There are three ways to qualify for sag membership.

1: Being hired as a lead actor in a sinking signatory show (not likely).

2 – artists can join the sag if the applicant is a paid member of an affiliated artists union (aftra, aea, agva, agma or actra) for a period of at least one year and has worked at least once as a major artist in the jurisdiction of that union. (If she’s a member of one of these unions, she’s probably not reading this.)

3 – to be hired as an extra for three days. (this is the most likely way to enter)

how do i get hired as a sag extra when i’m not a sag member?

on the surface it appears to be a catch-22. every production must hire a certain number of sag extras for each day of shooting. for example, in a feature, the first 30 perks have to be drop perks. after that they hire non-union extras (you). every once in a while one of the sag extras doesn’t show up for work or is considerably late. if there are more than 30 extras, they must hand over 30 sag “vouchers”. therefore, a lucky non-union extra gets to fill the gap. In addition to a significant salary increase, that bonus goes to the three you need to join sag.

here it is at the discretion of the assistant directors to choose the non-union extra who will receive the sag voucher. at this point it’s nice to have the ads (assistant directors) in your corner. There is no magic way to get the discount voucher, but you realize who you have to please while you work. stay out of their way while they work, be as helpful as possible without being tempted to indulge them. everyone else outside the union is trying to get what you want, so be tactful and honest. Eventually, if you can build a relationship with an ad and work with him or her multiple times, hopefully you’ll be remembered. branch out to the ads that know you by the face, learn and remember their names and do your job right and you should get the coupons in no time.

the work of an advertisement is very difficult, very stressful and demanding. choose your times wisely to converse with them. If you had a good experience with a particular ad, get their mailing address from the DGA Directory and write them a thank you note. they will probably remember it next time and can specifically request it.

A typical day will look like this:

a day in the life of an extra or background artist

You will receive an hour of call (time to report to work) from your extras casting director. keep in mind that you will be driving to a place you are not familiar with. take extra time to get to the set or stage (being late is not a good way to get a discount coupon) bring reading materials for when you’re in the waiting area (a “bullpen” for extras).

sometimes you will be asked to bring your own wardrobe.

There will be a designated parking area for the film crew. sometimes if there are so many extras they will have a separate parking lot for them. when in doubt, ask. There’s usually a security officer in the parking lot, tell him you’re an extra and ask him where to park.

Contact the casting director for ads or extras immediately. don’t be tempted by the board of bagels and breakfast burritos.

look for an extras registration area. if you’re not sure, ask a production staff member where the extras log is located. (You’ll notice them because they’re carrying a walkie-talkie, a silver clipboard, and they look like they’re doing five things at once.) ask someone you see where one of the ads is and ask them. Asking a grip or crafting services person where to check in will not only be a waste of time for both of you, it will make you seem like you have no idea what’s going on. remember, most advertisers listen to their walkie-talkies through an earpiece, so remember that if you get close to them, they will most likely hear instructions over the radio.

When registering, you will complete your documentation, which is a form called a “voucher”. You will have a non-union voucher. If it is not already specified in the bonus, or if they do not tell you, ask if you are a general extra, or if you have been kicked out for something specific.

Next, you will be asked to check in with the costume department to approve the costume you brought in or you will be given a costume. this is where knowing if you were chosen for something comes in handy. When you approach the coat check trailer or waiting area, say “hello, I’m supposed to be a police officer.” they will fit you and then take your coupon as collateral to get their police uniform back at the end of the day.

at that time, if you haven’t eaten, grab something to eat. Note that there are often specific areas for extras to eat in addition to the craft service table where cast and crew eat. there may also be a delineation between the dining areas for union and non-union extras. again, don’t assume, just ask someone.

If you’re wearing your wardrobe, be especially careful not to spill oatmeal on your shirt. if possible, delete as much as you can just to be safe.

Proceed to the extras waiting area and wait for announcement instructions.

When you are placed in a scene, whatever you do, remember that you will have to repeat it many, many times. also take note of what you are doing when. they’re not always going to shoot a scene from start to finish. there will be times when you need to know where you are in your action (sometimes called “business”) in a specific part of the scene.

When you break for lunch, the extras eat last. make sure all cast and crew have passed through the lunch line before even approaching the catering truck.

At the end of the day or when the ads excuse you, find the person who signed you up and they’ll log you out. They will keep one copy of the voucher and give you the other for your records.

After earning three sag coupons, you are eligible to become a sag member. schedule your appointment and add $3,000. Understanding the issues facing artists and broadcasters, Aftra-SAG Federal Credit Union, in partnership with SAG-AFTRA, has designed a loan program that eases the financial burden of the initiation fee for those who qualify.

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