The thrill of working with Hollywood stars and seeing themselves on the silver screen is what usually motivates people to become background actors or extras. Non-union wages are relatively low at $8.00 per hour as of 2011, according to the Los Angeles Times, while unions pay these actors $142 for a eight-hour shifts, or $17.75 per hour. Many shoots only last a day, so you'll need to find a multitude of roles to make any significant money in background acting. Landing roles is also highly competitive because many others want to appear in movies.
Keep Abreast of Local Opportunities
Los Angeles is a mecca for movies, television shows and commercials, which provides you with more opportunities for background acting than most cities. To stay informed of jobs for extras, read the Los Angeles Times, LA City Beat and Los Angeles Daily News every day. Most of these publications will list movies and television shows and contact names for projects that are scheduled to film in the area. Take note of the instructions and email addresses for which you will apply for extra roles. For example, directors may request a recent picture as well as your dress and shoe size, if you're a woman. You don't need a resume or acting experience – nor do you audition for parts – as background actors are usually selected from their headshots. Good looks can help, but casting directors typically choose people for specific roles, which may not require attractive people. Casting directors will contact you by phone or email if you get the job.
Build a Profile Page
It's advantageous to create profile pages on websites like Explore Talent and 360 Casting. These Internet sites are free to join and enable you to devise a resume of yourself, including photographs, bio statistics, acting experience and interests. Most background acting jobs do not require experience, as long as you fit the profile the production companies desire. Indicate that you live in or around Los Angeles, so producers and directors can contact you if they're interested. Talent sites also list dozens of acting and extra jobs each day, which allows you to proactively search for background acting opportunities.
Contact Casting Companies
Another important strategy in becoming a background actor in Los Angeles is to call casting companies. Some casting companies that hire extras for television shows and movies are Central Casting, Carol Grant Casting, Sande Alessi Casting and Bill Dance Casting, according to ProActors.org. If you're interested in acting in commercials, you could try Alice Ellis, Extra Extra or Burbank Casting. Ask each company for a registration form and all the submission instructions. Most will allow you to apply online. Applying for background acting work with all the casting companies in Los Angeles can improve your chances of finding work. Legitimate casting companies don't charge fees, as movie companies pay them for filling roles.
Follow the Instructions
If chosen for a role, follow the instructions that you're given. One of the first steps for background acting jobs is to go in for a fitting. Production company hair stylists may also cut or style your hair according to the setting of the movie or show, such as the 1950s. When the day of your shoot arrives, it's smart to get to the location early, as you will need to fill out a W-4 form for tax purposes. Listen for cues during the filming and do as the directors say. Demonstrate your acting abilities and be enthusiastic about your work, as this may lead to more job opportunities.
- Los Angeles Times: Extras are the Center of Attraction in Crackdown on Company Casting Fees
- ProActors.org: Los Angeles Background Casting Agencies
- Central Casting: Straight Out of Central Casting
- Central Casting: FAQs
- Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists: Background/Extra Performers
- Photo Credit oneinchpunch/iStock/Getty Images
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