Be Careful What you Brag About – Extra, Extra

Written by | B-Roll, Peer-to-Peer

Today we share lots of tips about being an extra plus we hear from one actress who learned the hard way why you should not pad your resume! readers send in their stories of being extras on the set. The results are hilarious, humbling and offer tips to help you!

As a thirty-something athletic, golf-playing, virile male, I showed up on the set of a film prepared to show my buff, tanned behind as an extra in my country club locker room in various stages of disrobing (no full-frontal nudity). I’d never been an extra before, but some friends told me about it and I thought it would be fun to “star” in my own club and have a chance to watch the Hollywood machine in action. I quickly realized the magic of Hollywood could only work mini-miracles when in walked a frail, hunched-over, ninety-plus-year-old man doddering on a cane, barely able to walk, let alone play golf. He was prepared to expose himself in any way for his craft. I was shocked and thought I’d shown up for the wrong background, but shortly upon arrival, he was scuttled out of sight and I got showcased. I realized I’d better take advantage of playing the “stud” roles while I still could!  – Jamie L., Burbank, CA

Tip #1:  Don’t talk to the stars of the film unless they speak to you. They are often preparing their role and want full concentration.

Tip #2: If you go through a lunch line, actors and crew generally go through first as they are on a set timeframe.

Tip #3: ALWAYS bring a picture ID and Social Security card OR a passport, as you will most likely need one.

I’d worked as an extra on several films in two different states. I’d learned a lot watching everything going on and felt I was really “close” to the leading men and ladies and could brag about all the “behind the scenes” action I had witnessed. I had my own very strong opinions on who I thought should have played the roles, who was too old, too fat, a lousy actor or just “all wrong” for the movie. 

I proudly walked into my very first audition for a speaking role, secure in my insider’s knowledge and my vast experience as an actor, which was reflected on my resume listing all the films I’d been “in” and the names of the characters I’d played.  I was really feeling good when the casting director took a real interest in all the vast experience on my resume. My smugness became total humiliation when she pointed out that she had actually cast three of the films and didn’t remember casting any of the roles I’d listed.  Whoops, was I busted and embarrassed…of course she didn’t remember…casting directors don’t hire extras as actors—they’re background.

Luckily, she took pity on me and let me audition, but I was pretty rattled by the whole demeaning situation and just wanted to get out of there. I immediately went home and corrected my resume so I didn’t have to worry about going through that again. I learned the hard way that it’s certainly not worth “padding” your resume! – Cara O., Charlotte, NC 

Tip #1: When you work as an extra, don’t try to pass it off as a speaking role on your resume.

Tip #2: Be realistic about your looks and age range when submitting yourself for being “in the background.”

Tip #3: When you’ve been an extra in a film, say that you were an extra in a film, not that you were IN the film–that insinuates a speaking part.

Do you have a story about your experience as an extra? Share it with us to be featured!

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Last modified: August 13, 2017

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