Can You Make a Living Being a Movie Extra?

Maybe one of the most asked questions I get from friends and aspiring movie extras is, “Can I make a living being an extra.” Well, honestly, probably not. While this may sound a little callous, the truth of the matter is if you’re not living in an area where films and TV shows are continually being made, you may find yourself out of work. Also, with the current buzz in being an extra, there is tons of competition and if you don’t find favor among extra casting directors, then the likelihood of being asked to be an extra on a regular basis may be slim.

That being said, I have been able to secure a comfortable living for quite some time being a film extra, and doing so I have compiled a few tips that may help you decide if you want to pursue this as a career, and how to do so. Remember, my experiences may not be yours.

Tip #1 – Your Location

If you’re considering being a full-time extra, you must live in a vibrant city with a plethora of films coming in-and-out of your vicinity. Cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and Chicago boast regular films and TV shows that are always in need of extras; however, if you look at the online databases of extra casting agencies within these cities you will quickly find that many of these agencies have 10,000+ members. If you live on the outskirts of one of these cities, then you may find that being called-in last minute for a film is just not reasonable – and honestly, a casting director will probably eliminate you from the running due to your proximity to filming locations.

Obviously, working in a large film market such as Los Angeles and Atlanta may make living off of your wages as an extra easier as there are continually films and TV shows being produced, even those living in these cities have to face a ton of competition for those valuable extra and stand-in spots.

Before quitting your job, take a look at your cities filming roster by visiting the Film Commission for your state. If there are less than five movies filmed per month, then you shouldn’t quit your day job.

Tip #2 – Becoming Well-Known with Extras Casting

This tip is easier said than done. I remember working as a stand-in on the movie, “Get Low” with Bill Murray, Lucas Black and Robert DuVall, and after a long day on set I returned to my hotel and relaxed with the extras casting director whom I’ve made friends with. Upon smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, he began to open up about what it’s like working in his profession. Story after story, I was amazed. There were literally hundreds of people feigning for his attention – and far too many of these people offered sexual or monetary favors for his agreement to place them in a film.

So how can you get on the good side of an extras casting director? Always show up on time. Be prepared. Send a thank you note or call to the office after you have worked. I firmly believe I received the majority of my extra and stand-in roles by simply calling or sending a text message to the casting director after a wrapped a job thanking him for the opportunity and letting him know I am available for further work. While this may not happen all the time, being approachable and thankful will get you far within this business.

Tip #3 – Luck

Upon writing this article, I debated whether or not I should place this as a tip. I mean, honestly, how can you give “luck” as a tip? But I feel that this stresses the importance of how shaky being an extra is. While you could be the best extra in the business, without a little luck you may not be able to make a living being an extra. I guess what I’m getting at is, while making a living as an extra is possible, the likelihood is slim.

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