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If you have never trained as an actor but wish to be in a Hollywood film or television show, work as an extra is an appealing way to fulfill that wish. Extras do not speak lines but work silently in the background to give authenticity to a scene. Actors working toward their Screen Actors Guild cards often work as extras, hoping to gain entry to small speaking roles that might get written into the script during shooting. The truth is you never know who you might meet when you work as a Hollywood extra.
Prepare for low or no wages. Event scenes such as football games or concerts are usually unpaid. Background extras are paid the least at around $7 to $9 an hour for an eight-hour day at the time of publication. Pay rates can double for featured and specialty extras at around $15 to $18 an hour. Paychecks can take up to three weeks or more to reach you. Hollywood casting agencies can give you details about payroll and pay rates when you are hired for a job.
Make sure you can handle the work. Extras spend a lot of time standing around waiting to be used in a shot. They are often asked to repeat a series of movements or actions numerous times and often stand for hours while repeating a particular scene. They might be called to a Hollywood set at early hours or work past midnight. They can also be asked to use their own clothing and bring multiple outfits to set. If you are short on patience, cannot stand for long periods, do not like working early or late hours or do not like repetition, work as an extra is not the right job for you.
Prepare a description of yourself. Casting agents ask for personal information such as weight, height, clothing sizes, shoe size and age. Make a list of skills and talents you have that might be useful on set, such as dancing, horseback riding and juggling. Identify those things that set you apart from other extras, such as a tattoo, scar, handicap or deformity. Be honest when writing your description. Hollywood casting agents are looking for all kinds of non-Hollywood types to work as extras.
Sign up with a legitimate Hollywood casting agency. You need a Social Security card, a driver's license and your personal description. Hollywood background casting agents hold regular casting days for background actors.
Keep track of listings on Hollywood casting agent websites. Some casting agents send emails with casting updates, some post descriptions online of the background characters they are placing and others leave a hot line message you can dial in and listen to for a verbal listing of the latest extras needed.
Answer your phone. Hollywood casting agents placing extras usually keep a database of photos and contact information they sort through when they are casting extras. Once you have signed up with several casting agents, you could get a direct call from the agent if you are a good fit for a particular character.
Answer a Hollywood casting call asking for unpaid extras for a particular event. Starting your career with an unpaid event allows you to meet lots of people working as extras and get a feel for what extras do. Unpaid events usually provide the opportunity to see a show or performer free while sitting comfortably in a seat or dancing with those around you.
Discover the legitimate agencies by looking for the extras casting agents in film and television credits. Websites devoted to listing information about actors and movies often list casting agents.
Don't pay for photos until you know what the agency wants. Many take their own photos and charge you a small fee, and some want electronic photos.
The biggest perk on a Hollywood film or television set is food. Union sets feed their crew and actors hot meals at regular intervals. There are also snacks and beverages available throughout the day for everyone on set.
Beware of scams. There are many people claiming to be Hollywood extras casting agents who steal personal information. Verify claims made by suspicious casting agents by checking their movie or television credits. Anyone charging large sums of money for photos or registration is not a legitimate agent.
Alex Burke holds a degree in environmental design and a Master of Arts in information management. She's worked as a licensed interior designer, artist, database administrator and nightclub manager. A perpetual student, Burke writes Web content on a variety of topics, including art, interior design, database design, culture, health and business.