If you want to spend a little time on a film or television set to perhaps catch a glimpse of a famous actor or if you are looking for a possible start an acting career then background
extra work is where it can all happen. Be sure to read this before you set off on your journey to the
set! Do’s and Don’ts of being an extra on set. Learn how to succeed as a background extra you can then walk onto set head high, confident and ready to make a good impression.
DO be early. If you are on time, you are late. You have not arrived until you check in with the person in charge and they know you are there. Give yourself some extra time to park and find this person. Double check your call time. Triple check the driving directions. Also, if you’ve ben asked to bring clothing
to set-wardrobe make sure its with you, perhaps have a few options in your car just in case.
DON’T try to stand out from the crowd. Extras are also called background actors. You are meant to be in the background. Think of yourself as a piece of furniture, being repositioned to set the scene. Also, if you do stand out as an extra, the chances of being rebooked on the same show later
on will be zero. Just try to blend in, and never ever look at camera unless directed to do so.
DO bring snacks and something to pass the time. There is almost always food on set but you never know how much and how often you will eat so it’s a good idea to have a something
with you just in case. Extras spend most of their time hanging around waiting. Bringing a book, or phone/tablet is totally acceptable. But never to be brought onto the set under any circumstances. Just make sure you are aware of what’s going on- you could be called to set at any minute and should
always be ready to move. Plan bathroom breaks accordingly! Time is money, production time costs money. Don’t be the reason they can’t yell ‘Action!’ Always be ready and use the bathroom in between scenes instead of in between takes. Check in with the PA or AD that is in charge of the extras.
They need to know where you all times so be the one that helps make their life easier.
DON’T approach or talk to crew or cast. Most actors are very focused when on set and asking them a question or making small talk could break their concentration. Follow this rule of thumb- speak only when spoken to. If a crew member is bored and strikes up conversation, feel free to speak to them. But be mindful that at any moment production could be ready to roll camera again and that is their and your main priority. The best part of the fun of being an extra is getting to work on sets of movies, and TV shows and you may even be working with your favourite actor. But remember, while working on set, you are a professional and never a fan. Never ask for an autograph, doing so could remove you from the set never to be asked back again. Be professional and who knows one day you might be acting along side them.
DO be positive. Days can be very long, breaks can be many and food can be… sometimes not so good. In extreme working conditions it is better to stay positive always have an upbeat mood. Don’t complain or talk about anyone on set. People remember if you appear ungrateful or negative and you won’t be hired again. It’s a small industry so always be positive and remember why you are there- to gain experience
on set and make a good impression with people who may well to give you opportunities in the future.
DON’T be inconsiderate. Never ever take photos on set it is not just frowned upon you will be asked to leave immediately you will NOT be paid and you will not be asked back. Ask one of the AD’s if you are allowed to have your phone on set, if so turn your phone off or on silent (a vibrating phone can be
picked up by sensitive microphones so silence only. Also, note where the extras eat and from which chuck wagon their food is served. So make sure you know what’s up for grabs. When
you are done eating the (sometimes tasty) free food, make sure to throw your trash away in the appropriate place. No one likes a messy person.
DO be grateful if you get a lucky break while on set. It does happen. Background talent can be asked to take a role or be given a line to deliver in a scene. Well done you’re almost there, you’ve scored! Do a good job, this could be the start of an acting career, don’t be rude to others after you get a little special treat. Don’t get too carried away on set. And if you don’t get a lucky break, don’t be pushy for screen time. Follow direction and don’t improvise-throwing yourself towards the camera or making gestures to stick out in a scene will just get you kicked off the set never to be seen again.
Do what’s asked of you in a given scene- your job is to blend in. You will impress people a lot faster doing it well than trying to get noticed.
DON’T have unrealistic expectations. Lets be perfectly honest extras are the lowest form of life on a set and are often treated as such. The pay is not too bad and you can expect to work later than estimated on the call sheet – but you are paid for overtime. If you can be pleasant and positive while being an extra, imagine how many people will want to work with you as you gradually move up the ladder! The pay for extras may not be that good, but you do get to hang out on a working set and learn more about this industry you are so passionate about- all while having plenty of time to read and relax. Sounds fun to me! And while you occasionally will be asked to work long hours, just think of all the overtime you will make-
Yip you got it … you get time and a half! And last but not least…
DO have fun. You have the opportunity to work on a movie or television set, something that many thousands of people would simply LOVE to do.