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How do I Become an Extra?

By Kate Monteith
Updated May 17, 2024
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It doesn’t take any special skills to become an extra in a movie, just an ability to follow orders. Extras are actors who blend into the background of a scene to add visual interest. The background actor rarely has lines to speak, so it is relatively easy to become an extra.

Movie extras can appear in any scene where incidental people are needed. They can be cast as part of a crowd of people walking down a city street, one of a band of marauding soldiers, a diner in the background of a quiet restaurant, or any other imaginable scenario. Extras can spend most or all of their time on the set just waiting to be called upon. It is important for the background actor to be punctual, patient, and able to take direction with little fanfare.

Extras do not usually audition in the traditional sense. They are more often chosen because of their physical characteristics and ability to blend into the scene. Sometimes a special skill is requested, such as juggling or playing guitar, but fine acting talent is not usually required of extras.

Although talent is not necessary, the best way to become an extra is to gain some formal training in movie acting. There is little time for learning on the set of a major movie, and even the lowly extra is expected to thoroughly understand protocols. Major film studios will generally hire only professional actors as extras for the sake of efficiency. Usually a large percentage of a movie’s extras will be members of an actor’s union, and the remainder are hired on the recommendation of a talent agent.

Finding a job as a movie extra means making connections with the people who count, especially talent agents. A good agent will be able to help you become an extra, in exchange for a small percentage of your earnings. Best to choose an established agent in one of the large movie-making capitals, such as the cities of Los Angeles, California or New York City, New York, in the United States; or the Bollywood city of Hyderabad in India, for example.

While major studios prefer to hire professional extras, it is relatively common for independent filmmakers to tap local residents on location to appear in background scenes. A film company might post a notice for an open casting call, inviting the whole town to try out. Anyone who shows up can be chosen, and there is usually little or no pay involved. Attending open casting calls is an improbable way to become an extra, however, unless you reside in an area where independent filmmaking is common.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Detroit — On Apr 13, 2009

Detroit, I think this is time to add Detroit, MI to the list of large movie-making capitals... also, for "want to be" Movie Extras in Michigan, check Detroit Movie Extras Agency & Film Friendly Locations Databases.

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