How to Find Movie Extra Jobs (With Steps and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 3, 2022

Published November 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A career in the movie industry can be quite rewarding. If you want a career in this industry, appearing as an extra in a movie may be a great way to begin. Learning how to find movie extra jobs may help you in your journey to being cast in a lead role in a popular movie. In this article, we discover the benefits of knowing how to find movie extra jobs, define a movie extra and what they do, discuss how to become one, discuss their average salary, look at an example of their typical workday, plus give you tips for finding a job and highlight similar jobs to movie extras.

What is a movie extra?

A movie extra has other alternative names such as a "background actor," "background talent," or "atmosphere." This professional is an individual who appears in a film or television show but doesn't have any lines. Although film extras typically appear in the background, a director can place them anywhere in a scene.

Extras appear in films and television scenes to give a sense of realism to the scenes. If the scene requires the featured characters to be in a crowded restaurant, for example, other people may naturally be doing things and conversing in the background and all around the featured characters, just as they may in real life.

How does finding movie extra jobs help my career?

Being on set as an extra is an important step in building a career in acting. Knowing how to find movie extra jobs can help you gain experience in the movie industry and build valuable relationships. You could even get paid to learn from and watch experienced movie professionals work. You can make a good impression on the movie director by showing up early and performing your role professionally.

Related: How to Write an Actor Resume (With Tips and Example)

How to find movie extra jobs

If you want to work as a movie extra and perhaps develop your acting career in the process, the following are the general steps you can take:

1. Research talent agencies

Visit casting websites to vet various talent agencies. Make sure the agency you choose has an excellent casting record. If you can talk to someone affiliated with the agency, ask which films their clients have appeared in.

2. Take a high-quality headshot

You may need a professional headshot. Numerous producers use extras based on their appearance, which means that your appearance can influence how you're initially cast. Here are some tips for taking excellent headshots:

  • Hire a photographer: You may want to hire a trained professional photographer to take the shot for you.

  • Be professional: Rather than make the headshots look overly glamorous, take headshots that are professional looking. Most directors may want to have an accurate picture of you before hiring you.

  • Pay attention to lighting and background: Try to make your headshots as simple and well-lit as possible. Use a clear and plain background that allows the focus of the picture to be on your face.

3. Sign with a casting agency

Join an agency with a proven track record of client satisfaction. While this procedure is likely to be free, you may be responsible for paying your agency to complete the papers. Also, some agencies may take your headshot for a small charge. You may also sign with numerous agencies in your area if you believe this can enhance your career prospects.

4. Submit your work authorization documentation

To complete your tax form and be qualified for employment, it may require you to provide specific types of documentation. You can submit a valid passport, a valid piece of photo ID together with your social security card, or a valid photo ID with your birth certificate to satisfy these criteria. It's important to only provide authentic documentation.

5. Become a member of ACTRA

As a movie extra, there is a method to join the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television, and Radio Artists (ACTRA). You can fill out an application form, show proof of 15 days of employment as a movie extra, and submit a current photograph and resume. Until you join a union, you may also be able to obtain an ACTRA voucher on a set, even if you're not a union member. Many union-represented shows have a defined quota for union background actors.

If one union background actor doesn't appear, this leaves an opening for a non-union extra to get a day's ACTRA voucher.

What is the average salary of a movie extra?

While compensation for film extras varies considerably, the national average for movie extras is $17.00 per hour. The difference in pay among film extras is because of a few variables:

  • The film's budget

  • Whether the extra is an unionized or non-unionized employee

  • The accessibility of union-affiliated background actors

  • How many hours each day the extra needs to be on set

  • The kind of scenes the director wants the extra to be in

In general, union movie extras earn more than non-union extras. Non-union extras may work for no compensation or at a salary below the minimum wage. Some people seek movie extra work to be to advance their acting careers. Ultimately, whether a background actor is a member of a union makes a difference in terms of professional advancement.

Read more: How Much Do Background Actors Get Paid? (With Skills)

Example of a movie extra's workday

The following is a sample schedule for a normal day as a film extra:

  • The evening before your shift begins: If the director asks you to bring your own clothes, prepare them in advance.

  • 7:00 a.m: If your call time is 8:00 a.m., arrive early to have additional time to locate the set or stage on which you may be working.

  • 8:00 a.m: Consult with the assistant director or the extras casting director. Identify your check-in location and complete your documentation.

  • 8:30 a.m: Have a meeting with the wardrobe department. If you bring your own clothing, the department may either approve it or supply one for you. If you wear borrowed clothing, the wardrobe department can hold your voucher as collateral.

  • 9:00 a.m: You may eat at this time, but only in areas designated for non-union extras.

  • 9:20 a.m: Wait in the holding area for extras.

  • 10:00 a.m: Report to the scene where the director assigned you. It may be crucial for you to repeat your actions several times to complete the scene.

  • 12:00 p.m: Wait till the main and supporting actors have eaten their lunch before you eat yours.

  • 3:00 p.m: After the break, get back to work and follow the producer's instructions.

  • 8:00 p.m: At the conclusion of your workday, return any borrowed clothing and check in with the individual you met at the start of the day. This individual can supply you with a copy of your voucher.

Tips on how to find movie extra jobs

If you decide to become a movie extra, here are some tips for finding more movie extra jobs:

  • Look for classified ads: Look at the classifieds both in the newspaper and online, they may mention movies that need background talent.

  • Visit your local tourism office: It may have news about movie shoots in the area.

  • Visit entertainment and industry websites: You can find information about new developments in the entertainment industry online, including upcoming movie extra jobs, directors and casting agencies.

  • Contact directors: Research which directors have open casting calls for extras, and reach out to them.

  • Find reputable casting agencies: Most casting services for extras are free, but some services charge $10-$20 to process your headshot and paperwork. Try to avoid services that charge you more to process your information or that try to sell you acting lessons.

  • Network in the industry: You can network with other extras, actors with speaking roles, and important members of the directing and production teams. Having contacts in the industry can make it easier for you to find more movie extra jobs or advance to a full acting career.

Related:

  • How to Become an Actor (With Salary and FAQ)

  • How to Find Voice Acting Jobs in 8 Steps (With Salary)

Jobs similar to being a movie extra

If you were wondering how to find movie extra jobs, you might also be interested in finding other jobs in the film industry, there are several options to consider such as:

  1. Cinematographer

  2. Set designer

  3. Stagehand

  4. Stunt double

  5. Theme park actor

  6. Acting instructor

  7. Combat choreographer

  8. Voice actor

  9. Costume designer

  10. Comedian

Read more: 16 Jobs in Acting (With Salaries and Responsibilities)

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organization‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌, ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

Related articles

What Is Storyboarding? (Plus Related Careers)

Explore more articles