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Movie extras are the people with non-speaking parts in the background of a scene. They make it look realistic and credible. For instance, they are the pedestrians walking past the actors on a sidewalk or the cheering fans in a basketball scene. Auditions for extras are not taxing because background actors don’t need to have special skills or talents. However, there is a process for getting to an audition and you are more likely to get the job if you are prepared.
Film directors hire background actors through extras casting agencies. When the agency receives an order for extras, they search through their database for individuals who fit the requirements. For instance, the order might be for people to act as students in a high school scene. An agent then searches for and books people who are high school age or look this young. Most of these agencies are located in Hollywood, California, and in New York.
Extras casting agencies don’t hold auditions because they accept anyone who wants to be an extra. However, your special skills might get you more jobs so you should note them when you register. Each agency has open registration days every week at specific times. You can check for this information on the company’s website and find out the requirements for registration. You should arrive with a picture ID. The agency might have guidelines for your appearance. For instance, some require business casual clothing in bright colors. A representative will take digital pictures of you for the database but you can also bring recent hardcopy photographs for your file. Registration is free at reputable agencies.
Auditions for extras are called "Look-sees." According to Bill TarlingIn in “In the Background: An Extra’s Handbook,” casting agents sometimes say "audition" to give the process more prestige. Agents send extras on a look-see so the casting director can select individuals who have a specific look. To prepare for it, find out from your agency representative what to take with you and how to dress. Because extras don't have speaking parts, you don't have to prepare lines or a song. Follow the instructions carefully. Some extras don't, in an attempt to draw attention to themselves, but this could cost you the job.
On the Set
Arrive on the set on time and ready to work. This means you should be dressed in whatever outfit required, if you have to provide it. You should also have with you anything else you were instructed to bring, such as a change of clothes for a different scene. While you’re on set, listen closely for directions and follow them carefully. For instance, background actors must be very quiet until instructed otherwise. People who can’t comply are either sent off the set or fired. Extras sometimes have to wait in a holding room until the director needs them, so bring something to occupy your time while you wait.
Tina Amo has been writing business-related content since 2006. Her articles appear on various well-known websites. Amo holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in information systems.