How to get work as an extra in film or TV

Have you ever wondered how to get a small part in a film or television programme as an extra? While it may not have the glitz and glamour of being a headliner celebrity, it’s a great way to get on a film set, and, gain experience/credits.

You might want to do that to earn a bit of money, and we do mean ‘a bit’ or you might want to get experience on a film set, either as cast or crew, and it can be a good introduction to the right people.

What is an ‘extra’?

An ‘extra’, or also known as a ‘background actor’, is often a role within the filming industry that bears no lines, and instead creates the intended atmosphere of the production. Not only does this help the producers, it helps new actors to break their way into the industry. 

These people are essential for many productions. They provide reality and ambiance that makes a scene credible. Imagine Titanic with just a handful of passengers, or Braveheart with no ‘army’.

It’s relatively easy to follow instructions, without the experience of ‘acting’ or dialogue. You usually just turn up, wear what you’re asked to, and do as you’re told. Then you go home.

What you wear for the day can be important. If you’re asked to dress specifically, then you shouldn’t turn up expecting to be given an outfit.

Production teams often have specific requirements for extras’ clothing, so make sure to thoroughly read the instructions and dress accordingly.

How to prepare for a TV and film extra role

In order for actors to find these roles within productions, there are guidelines which will set you in good stead, in which they must follow in order to stand out amongst others. Be prepared to;

  • Sign up with a casting agency
  • Look for a talent agency, particularly if you have a specific ‘look’
  • Submit work authorisation forms, have work permits and ID
  • Have a good quality professional headshot
  • Dress accordingly

It is expected of an actor wanting to become an extra that they have a clear schedule, to provide evidence and potentially go to an audition/rehearsal. This is crucial, as without spare time, or a flexible schedule, initially breaking into the industry may be hard.

Extras must also research and talk to other actors they may know to make sure the agencies they are choosing will benefit them. Networking is key!

What to wear

Once your application has been successful, and you have secured a role, you are likely to be required to provide their costume, which must be approved.

If you are asked to wear something specific, then do so. Otherwise, the following guidelines will help:

  • Solid colors like black, white, grey, and navy blue are best. Avoid white (and green) if you’re on a green screen.
  • Dress for the scene. Executives should wear suits or formal dresses. College students should wear jeans and a T-shirt.
  • Logos and branding are a big no-no. Stick with generic clothing.
  • Comfortable shoes are a must.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before your day on set.

Pro tip: Bring a few wardrobe options. The director may want you to change your outfit.

Tips for making the most of being an extra

Becoming a TV & film extra is an awesome way to get an inside look at the entertainment industry! 

You must turn up on time (otherwise another extra will take your place!), and be aware of where to be, and when.

Once on set, it is important to remain professional at all times, and not stand out in such a way that will impact your career negatively (word spreads quickly within this industry). 

Here are some tips for making the most of it:

  • Check that your ID is valid and you have an outfit that fits the requirements. Also, be aware of the filming schedule.
  • Always be professional, stick to the guidelines, and do what the production team asks.
  • Listen and observe so you understand the scene and your role.
  • This is a great opportunity to meet other extras and industry people. Chat when you can.
  • Being an extra can be exciting, so make sure you enjoy it and learn from those around you.

Pro tip: Being a TV & film extra can open up more doors in the entertainment industry. So, use your time on set to make meaningful connections.

How to network

Networking is a must when trying to acquire TV and film extra roles. Here are some ideas to help you connect with industry pros and find more chances to be a TV and film extra:

  • Join online forums and communities dedicated to TV and film extras.
  • Go to events and workshops related to the entertainment industry.
  • Design a professional online profile that shows your work experience and talents.
  • Keep up-to-date with industry news and changes that can influence your opportunities as an extra.
  • Develop relationships with casting directors and other industry professionals who may recommend you for roles.

By broadening your network and consistently searching for new chances, you have better chances to discover more TV and film extra work.

What to expect as a TV & Film extra

Being an extra for television and film can be an exciting and satisfying profession, but it’s important to know what to anticipate before taking the plunge! Here are some vital points to remember:

  • Long hours – Extras may be needed on set for a long duration, sometimes even 12 hours or more.
  • Waiting – A lot of waiting is involved in being an extra. You might spend hours in holding or standby areas before the call to set.
  • Direction – As an extra, you will receive instructions from the director or assistant director on where to go, how to move, and what to do.
  • Pay – Extras are usually paid on an hourly or daily basis, but the rate varies based on location and experience.
  • Scene repetition – You may have to do the same action or utter the same words multiple times from different angles, so be ready for repetition.

This is what a typical set day will look like: 

How much do extras get paid?

So, the big question you’re wondering is probably… How much do extras get paid? 

The truth, not much in comparison to bigger roles, and for the hours an extra will spend on set. The pay tends to start at £50 per day, and may range, typically, to £100 a day, depending on the hours spent, or how important it is for the extra to be seen on camera. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I become a TV and film extra?

Becoming a TV and film extra requires signing up with a reputable agency that specializes in providing extras for showbiz productions. You can also find casting calls through online job boards, local newspapers, or social media.

2. What qualifications do I need to become a TV and film extra?

Being an extra in TV and film productions does not require any specific qualifications. However, you must be at least 18 years old, have a flexible schedule, and be able to take direction from the production team.

3. What should I wear to a TV and film extra audition?

You should wear clean clothes, a neutral color outfit, and closed-toed shoes. Avoid flashy or bold outfits that draw attention to yourself as the focus should remain on the actors in the scene.

4. How much can I earn as a TV and film extra?

The earnings of a TV and film extra depend on the production company and location. Rates start at minimum wage, but some agencies negotiate higher rates based on the type of production, number of days worked, and experience.

5. Will I get to meet celebrities as a TV and film extra?

As a TV and film extra, there is a possibility that you can meet celebrities. However, it is important to remain professional and focused on your work. Refrain from asking for autographs or taking pictures with the actors.

6. How do I prepare for my first day as a TV and film extra?

Preparing for your first day as a TV and film extra involves reading the instructions given by the production team carefully. You should also arrive on time, bring any required documentation, and be patient as shooting productions can take several hours or even days.