Being a film and TV extra can be a fun and flexible source of income. And it’s not just for aspiring actors, either! Anyone can be an extra. You don’t need any professional training, just a few well-lit photos of yourself, and an idea of your measurements and you’re good to go.
- Why Work as an Extra?
- Using Casting Agencies
- How to Get Started and Find Work
- How Much Does Extra Work Pay?
- More Creative Ways to Make Money
An extra is a ‘background artist’ – they’re the people you see milling around in all kinds of scenes on TV and film. You might be a WW2 soldier one day and a cafe customer the next!
- If you’re interested in film and TV, working as an extra can be a fascinating and exhilarating experience. Being on a real set and watching a production come to life is a unique opportunity.
- It’s incredibly flexible. Extra work can be used to fit in around other part-time jobs, studying, or be a way to earn cash on your weekends.
- It’s easy to get into, and there’s work for everyone. You don’t need to have had any previous acting experience or formal training and you don’t need to audition either.
- You also don’t need to look like a model to get work in front of the camera. Extras are there to make scenes look realistic, and productions will aim for a diverse group of people. No matter your age, gender, race, or whether you have a disability – extra opportunities are there for everyone.
However, don’t be mislead into thinking being an extra on a film set is always glamorous. You’re often working for long hours, with early call times, and wrapping late. But even so, if you’re prepared for this, go along with a lot of patience and a can-do attitude it can be a great way to supplement your income!
Going through a casting agency is the simplest way to get work as an extra. Although a lot of them charge an initial sign up fee and take a percentage commission, they do a lot of the work and admin for you.
Agencies who have been in the business a long time, and come with stellar reputations are:
- Uni-versalEXTRAS – Their annual sign up fee is £30 (or free for students), and on top of this they take 16% commission on every job.
- Casting Collective – Their annual admin fee is around £65, varying on which location you sign up for. Then their commission charge is 15% + VAT.
- Extra People – They are free to join, but they charge a larger 20% commission for every job.
- Mad Dog Casting – A one-off fee of £32.50 (£61.25 in London) + VAT is deducted from your first job with them. On top of that they deduct a 15% commission from every booking.
Alternatively, you can look for extra work yourself, although it is harder. Agencies charge because they have the right connections, production knowledge, and do a lot of the paperwork for you. However, you can still find jobs yourself. Take a look at Casting Call Pro and StarNow as there’s regular casting postings there you can apply for directly. You can also keep up to date with which films and TV shows are in production through Movie Insider.
Local publications and social media will also often have announcements about upcoming productions that need extras so it’s worth keeping an eye on these and using social media to monitor relevant hashtags.
research agencies and opportunities
Extras agencies work like temping agencies: you can join as many as you like. Be careful which ones you sign up to, though, as there are plenty that will scam you with charges and you’ll never hear from them again. The four agencies we’ve recommended are all well-known and respected in the industry.
Also, Equity is British actors union, so any casting agencies that are acknowledged by them will be fine.
get your face out there
As you sign up for an agency you’ll have to create a profile. You’ll need to upload a few photos and fill in details about your appearance and measurements. Don’t lie about your appearance – there’s no point as they’ll find out the second they meet you if you do.
Make sure you send include a headshot and full body shot. There’s no need to pay for professional photo shoot, but you will want them to be of a good quality and represent you well.
Although how you look does count, most of the time productions just want normal everyday people who will not draw attention away from the main cast. You can look a bit scruffy, overweight, or unusual and still have a good chance of being chosen
show off your talents
If you’ve got certain talents you may be able to earn a little bit extra so make sure the agencies know what you can do! Special ability background players are those required to perform skills showing:
- sporting ability
- social dancing
- driving, and more!
Sometimes extras can be upgraded to day performers (walk-on), who deliver a line of dialogue or are required to do more complex actions. This is handy as you get extra money for anything you do that is more than the usual for an extra.
be a stand-in
Stand-ins are used to substitute actors so the crew can focus shots and set lighting between takes. This is largely a time-saving exercise, leaving the lead actors to do other things until the crew are ready for them.
Stand-in work is generally better paid than extra work, and is often booked for longer periods of time rather than on a day-to-day basis.
Film extras get very few details from their agency when called to take on a role and full information is usually given the day before the actual shoot. You’ll be told what your part is, what time to arrive and where, as well as what to wear for the part.
Assistant Directors are usually in charge of extras, so make sure they know you’re there when you arrive. Listen to them carefully, even if they tell you to simply walk down a hallway. Extras should blend into the background and take their direction well.
When you get work as a film extra take a bag packed with things to keep you busy as there’s a lot of waiting around on sets! Avoid using your phone in general and especially not on set. Some of the larger productions will ban mobile devices to prevent information being leaked. On bigger film sets especially, you’ll have to sign a confidentiality clause. This means no photos or discussion about the production, but even if there’s nothing to sign, if in doubt, ask permission.
Don’t bother asking for autographs either, as actors are also there to do a job. Most are friendly but busy on set and want to be left to it.
Generally speaking, as an extra you’ll only be needed for a maximum of a couple of days on each production and work is booked on day-by-day requirements. Although in some cases you may be needed for longer for continuity reasons.
There are 3 main union agreements used in and around London. Across different parts of the UK the rates vary more so it’s worthwhile to check with the production beforehand.
- The FAA/PACT Agreement – The rate is £92.69 for a 9 hour work period including a meal break, between the hours of 7am and 10pm.
- The BBC Equity Agreement – £86.40 for a continuous 9 hour period, including up to 8 hours of work and a meal break of at least an hour. Or, a 7 hour continuous period without a meal break.
- ITV Equity Agreement – £79.89. Consist of up to 10 hours, during which up to 8 hours of work may take place. Not required to give any individual characterisation or dialogue.
Some production rates will vary to this but it should offer a rough guideline of what you can expect to be paid.
Some additions will boost your income as an extra, including:
- Overtime, or being required to attend rehearsals
- Working during the night
- Being cast in multiple episodes
- Being a walk-on, having a little dialogue or interaction with the main cast
- Special skills, for example, horse riding, dancing, musical abilities, being able to drive.
You also need to take into consideration the fact that most agencies take a commission of around 15% every time they book you a job. Many also charge a joining fee, so be careful not to get stung! Paying a fee doesn’t guarantee you work – and you’ll still be liable to pay the fee.
Working 9-5 in an office isn’t the only way to make money now and there are plenty of ways to get creative and keep earning.
Check out some more of our articles on creative ways to make money here: