How to Get Cast as an Extra in a Movie

Does this sound too good to be true? Well, it’s true. You or your child can be in major motion pictures in your spare time. It’s called extra work. Anyone who is serious about becoming an actor has worked or is working as an extra. Actors do this as a way to get noticed by directors and to add work history to their resumes.

But the truth of the matter is that there are more extra roles in Hollywood then there will ever be actors. Every person that appears on a crowded side walk, in the bleachers of a baseball game or in anyway appears on screen in a movie or television show gets paid. Yes the hundreds of people Tom Cruise pushed his way pass in the crowd in the movie “War of the Worlds”, was a paid extra.

Now, you are not going to get rich doing extra wok and most likely you will never get discovered. But, if you have a free day or two, you can turn a boring summer day into some easy extra cash.

Here’s how it works. First you have to find and register with a reputable extra casting agency. You may have seen them online or advertising in your local papers. For the most part you want to stay away from those. They generally will charge you a registration fee as high as $300.00. They may even give you some free web space. You logon and apply for roles only to never get a call back. The reason why, is because most of those roles have already been filed several weeks ago. Extra casting calls usually get filled within hours of being posted. And most are never posted to the public. Casting Directors don’t troll the Internet looking at extra casting site to discover new talent. One director doesn’t have the time. Secondly, I told you that there is more extra work then there are actors, but there are thousands of people each day looking for extra work. So a director will never have to go trolling through websites. Trust me on this one.

Any site or so-called agency is trying to sell you head shots or portfolios to become an extra, run. You are being scammed. You will only need one or two photos at the most and a Polaroid or digital photo will do. This reminds me, there is NO SUCH THING as special digitally formatted photos for extra work. I ran across one company that on top of the $300.00 registration fee charged $75.00 for a specialized digitally formatted photo that will be fed into a data base that ONLY top studios and directors have access to. No such data base exists.

There are really only a handful of legitimate extra casting agencies around. They are located in or very near to Hollywood and Burbank, California. You may find a few in New York and Florida. Now Casting Directors will from time to time cast for extras in a movie, but they are not extra casting agencies.

Real extra casting agencies are just like other agencies, they usually have one or two days a week where you can register. Some will only see you by appointment. There is a registration fee ranging from $15.00 to $35.00. I’m going to use Cenex Central Casting, 220 South Flower Street, Burbank, California 91502. Cenex charge a registration fee of $20.00. They handle both union and nonunion extras. As far as I know they don’t handle children. I will give you the information on an extra casting agency that handles children later in this article. Cenex allow walk-in registration Tuesdays and Thursdays for union extras, and Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for nonunion extras. You can only walk in between the hours of 10:30am and 11:30am each day. Yep you have one whole hour in which they are willing to see you. You will need to bring a few 3X5 or 8X10 photos. If you don’t they may charge you a fee to take a photo. You will also need to bring a copy of your social security card, so you can get paid.

Once you register, each night you call a number between a certain time slots, usually only a few hours. They will list all of the extra work they have for the next day. So you only call the night before you wish to work. If you find something you like, you will have to call another number and if there are openings they will tell you where to show up the next day and what time. They will also tell you what to wear. Some will require a casting call, but most just need bodies to walk down a street or sit in a crowd. Extras don’t go to wardrobe or makeup for the most part. Extra work pays in the range of $75.00 to $125.00 per day. Like I said you will not get rich, but it’s a fun way to earn extra cash.

Did I say fun? What I meant to say is be on time. You will have to stay quite most of the time. Movie microphones can hear a flea sneeze from a block away. You will do a lot of waiting around. Be prepared to stay the full ten to twelve hours, with no overtime. You will get to see the entire behind the scenes workings that goes into making a movie. You will also get fed. Yes, they feed you. And they feed you very well. Extras usually eat last. Don’t worry; I’ve never been on a set where they ran out of food. Extras eat last, because the crew and main actors need to get back on the set. They most likely will have a separate snack table for the extras also. This is because until you are needed on the set, you really need to stay off of the set. You will be ignored until they need you and then they will treat you as if you were the star.

Sometimes they will need people for the next day and if they like you, and they will like you if you stay out of their way, they may ask you to come back for the next day. I once spent an entire week on a movie for what was originally a one day shoot. Now I was only on camera for thirty seconds total once editing was done. And you had to squint to see me, because I was blurred out in the background. My one chance to become famous and they blurred me out. What were they thinking? Back then I received $50.00 a day. I was on vacation from my real job, and I received an extra $250.00 minus taxes.

After your day is done, you may have a time card for someone to sign. I say someone, because that someone changes from day to day. You will not get paid that day; the extra casting agency will send you a check in a few weeks. Then on your next free day call the extra casting information line and do it again.

It works the same for children; except for labor laws regulate how many hours a child is allowed on set. So the day may not be as long for children. “Kids Background Talent”, 207 South Flower Street, Burbank, California 91502 handles children from ages two weeks up until the ripe old age of 17. Registration is $30.00. They will take your child’s photo free of charge, if you don’t have one. They have no walk in registration. You must call and set an appointment. The normal wait time for an appointment is between two to three weeks. The registration process takes about two hours. KBT states on their website that the average booking for your child is about $115.00.

I mentioned before that labor laws for children are strict. KBT or any legitimate child casting agency will help you through this process. Your child will need a work permit and a special checking account called a “Coogan Account”. Your bank can help you set this account up. It’s also called a “Blocked Trust Account”. This is a great way to save for your child’s future.

So instead of paying $54.00 plus food and parking and souvenirs at Disneyland this summer, you can be Movie Star during your spare time and get paid. Just imagine, you too can be seated in a crowded theater, stand up point to a fifteen second blur on the screen over Tom Cruise close up Academy Award winning line and shout, “That’s me! Did you see me? That was so cool!” Too bad there is no pause and rewind on the big screen. Oh well, there is always DVD!

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