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Film and Television Extra Job Description, Career as a Film and Television Extra, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Varies – see below

Average Salary Varies – see below

Job Outlook Good

Basic Job Description

Movie and television extras are people in a film or TV show that appear in the background and occasionally foreground of various scenes but do not say any lines. Extras are often seen sitting in the crowd at sporting events on a show, at tables in the background of a restaurant, or as doctors and nurses in the background of a hospital. Every scene in a movie or television show with a group of people will more than likely have several extras in the background. Some extras actually have full-time jobs working on set of a TV show as a regular nurse in a hospital set or a server walking around a restaurant set. The line between someone who is an extra and someone who is an actor is that extras do not speak at all. Once an extra says a line, they are an actor. Shows that are based in busy settings like hospitals, restaurants, or bars may hire several extras to work with them on a regular basis.

Education and Training Requirements

There is no specific education required for someone to be a movie extra. Most extras take theater performance classes in high school or college with goals of becoming a big name actor or actress. For someone who wants to make a career out of acting, whether it be as an extra or to eventually play in larger films, a degree in theater performance or art is a good way to get experience and make connections in the industry.

Extras often start off acting for local theater productions. They will also audition for parts around the country by sending headshots, portfolios or audition videos to various companies who are looking for extras.

There are many schools that offer acting classes to teach students the basics as well as terms and guidelines they need to understand while working on a movie set. Many classes are available in sessions that go over several weeks and give an aspiring actor the basics on what it takes.

Getting the Job

To get a job as a movie extra, candidates usually have a headshot available to send to movie and TV producers as well as a portfolio documenting any of their previous acting experience or credentials. Some extras even hire an agent to represent them and help them find opportunities that are best fit for their talent. Extras will also join organizations such as the Screen Actor’s Guild to get their name out there and gain contacts and information about upcoming casting calls and audition opportunities.

Film extras must be aggressive and know how to outshine the rest of the competition. They have to go out of their way to show they have what it takes to work on set of a movie and that they know how to conduct themselves on screen. There are thousands of people who want to land a role in a film, even as an extra. Someone who is well prepared for show business with a headshot, portfolio and quality audition tapes will stand out from the others and show they have what it takes to be in the business.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Movie extras often have a day job that pays the bills and do not rely on starring as an extra for a steady source of income. However, some extras can develop their career into a full-time job by becoming part of a union that gives them regular work for various films or television series.

Employee outlook for film and television extras is on the rise as more and more series look for stand-ins and extras that are looking more for exposure to the entertainment industry rather than a steady paycheck. Most extras start off working for little pay and are doing it for the exposure and experience to the industry. This is ideal for career development, as someone who shows they’re willing to work for experience will show more dedication than someone who is simply looking for money. These are the types of people who are frequently sought out for roles as an extra and are more likely to get parts that will be good for a future career in entertainment.

Film and media students often work as an extra on occasion just for the chance of working on set to see how work is done. This helps them meet directors and producers, observe practices while waiting for their role on screen, and get an overall feel for the environment.

Working Conditions and Environment

Film and television extras rarely have a boring or routine workday. One day an extra may be sitting in the crowd of a sporting event, and the next day they are standing around in a hospital pretending to be a nurse. All of their time is spent on the movie and TV set, prepared to jump in if an extra is suddenly needed. Extras may be used to do awkward or uncomfortable things in the background. They may even be used to stand still as a statue, and will have to stay that way for long periods of time. Being an extra is not always easy work.

Working on a movie set can often result in working long or unusual hours. Extras must be prepared to work long days, sometimes even overnight if they are needed until a scene is finished. Even though an extra will sometimes be on set for 12 hours, they may be spending those hours standing around until they are needed to walk in front of the camera for 4 seconds.

Salary and Benefits

Salaries for movie and television extras are all across the board. Some can make an hourly wage from $7 to $10 an hour, while others may be given $50 a day to hang out on set regardless of how long they stay or how often they show up on screen. If an extra gains enough experience and becomes part of a union with steady work, they can be guaranteed a more steady income depending on which sets they are chosen to work on and how often they work. Union extras also have the opportunity to receive health insurance benefits and vacation time if they work enough to qualify as a full-time employee.

Many extras believe the biggest benefit of working as an extra is that they have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the film industry and occasionally meet big-name actors and actresses. The work may be boring or tedious, but it is a good way for aspiring actors or movie studio employees to gain hands-on experience.

Where to Go for More Information

Screen Actors Guild
5757 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 954-1600

Extras for Movies
620 Hillward Street
Escondido, CA 92027
(760) 599-5400

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts