3 Ways to Land a Role in a Movie — Even if It's in the Background

Movie Extras

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
April 20, 2024 at 6:30AM UTC
So you want your big claim to fame? Getting cast as an extra in a movie is one way to do it! Here's everything you need to know about how to get cast as an extra in a movie.

What is a movie extra?

Movie extras are people who play a crucial part in a movie but who have no lines and don't have to be professional actors or actresses in order to land their roles as movie extras. They're just that: extras. They're usually the background people in a movie. 
For example, a movie extra might be someone shopping in the mall if the movie set takes place in a mall. They might be another person walking in the park if the movie set takes place in a park. They might be another person relaxing on the beach if the movie set takes place on a beach. And they might be one of the people dancing at a house party if the movie set takes place at a house party. 
The movie extra's role isn't significant (sometime's it's not even memorable) but, without movie extras, movies wouldn't seem so realistic! After all, you can't film a shopping mall without shoppers, just like you can't film a house party without guests.

What is it like to be an extra in a movie?

Being an extra in a movie can be exciting. You get to experience what it's like to be on a movie or show set and learn how it works. You can work alongside successful, professional and famous actors, take cues from renowned directions and push yourself outside of your comfort zone in front of the camera.

Requirements for getting cast as an extra

While landing a role as an extra for a movie or television show isn't too difficult, you still have to put in the work. It's unlikely that directors will come  to you. Usually, you have to apply and audition!

Do you need to audition to be an extra?

You will probably need to audition to be an extra, though it's not always necessary. This depends on what the role is and who is hiring for it. Always be prepared to audition just in case, but understand that auditioning for a job as an extra is far less grueling than auditioning for a role with lines in the movie. This is because you won't really have to do much of anything, besides "be there." You won't have any lines to rehearse, so this makes auditioning for an extra role way easier than auditioning for a lead role in the movie. 

Do you get paid to be an extra in a movie?

You should get paid to be an extra in a movie. After all, it's work! And it takes your time. Usually, you'll be paid a set fee for a certain number of hours or for a day's or weekend's work. You should also be paid overtime if you're expected to stay longer than the set number of hours asked of you. 
How much you're paid will depend largely on the role and who is hiring for it.

Finding work as an extra on set...

Here's how to find work as an extra on set in three simple steps.

1. Apply or register for jobs as an extra.

Chances are that you'll have to apply for a role as an extra in a movie or television show. You can find openings on sites like Casting Call Hub and Be a Movie Extra. You can also reach out to extras casting agencies to work with them to find gigs for you! There are tons of openings all the time since most directors need extras — even if it's just for a short commercial!
It's also important that you register as an extra for upcoming gigs. You can do this with extras casting agencies. This way, when agencies receive orders for extras, they search through their databases of registered extras to find those who meet the requirements (maybe the director needs extras to act as high school students or seniors or something else specific). If you fit the bill, they'll book you.
So how do you register? First things first: reputable agencies will hold free registrations — so remember that! Agencies all have open registration days every week at specific times, so you can check out those times on company websites! There will be requirements for registration; for example, you should always show up with a picture ID, and you might have to fit a certain look/appearance. An agency representative will take digital pictures of you for the database, though you can also bring along any recent hardcopy photographs of you that you've had professionally taken for them to keep in your file.

2. Audition for the job as an extra.

Again, you don't always have to audition for a job as an extra, but there's a chance that you'll have to. After all, directors want to be confident that the people in their movie, television show or commercial are all going to be professional and pay attention to do their job well. That said, because there's not much expected of you (and the directors really need you!), they often just hire whoever registers to be an extra and is sent over to them through extras casting agencies.

3. Network!

Once you've auditioned for one role as a movie extra, you can really start networking with the people you meet on set. Chances are that the other movie extras know of some other opportunities and, if you do well, the director who hired you might have more gigs for you, too. 

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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