You may notice from time to time that I’ll post information about becoming an extra for some of the bigger movies in the Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus area.
In the past few months I’ve been an extra for Marauders, Tiger and 478. Those are just three of the the many films that have used the southern Ohio area for filming and 2016 looks to have a lot more opportunities. I’ll try to make sure my website is updated with information about opportunities as I see them.
That having been said it’s important to know what it means to be an extra. There are a few things to expect, and things that only experience will teach you.
- As soon as you see the call for extras posted (will most likely be an email address) send your information in! Or plan on going to the open call if there is one. Most of the open calls will take a while, the one for Marauders took about 3 hours, and I got there a half an hour before start time.
- Wait. It may take a while for you to hear anything back, and when you do it could be as little as 24 hours notice. After you have confirmed you are available for whatever dates you are scheduled for you have to wait for specific information. For the most part they’ll tell you if you’re going to be a morning, day, evening or overnight shoot, but it is just for a general idea. The shoot schedule can change very quickly. The day before the shoot, usually in the wee early morning hours, you’ll get an email with the location, time, and wardrobe requirements. They don’t tell you until they absolutely have to in order to keep a bunch of information from leaking.
- Show up early. It is important if you want to be a professional actor to think of 15 minutes early as being on time. If you’re told to be there at 5:30, and you arrive at 5:30 consider yourself late. In order to keep a shoot moving smoothly and on schedule it’s important to do what you can to not delay anything.
- No spoilers. This is incredibly important. When you are on a set there are strict rules against having your cellphone on you, and if you are caught taking pictures you will be fired on the spot and never asked back. It is a very quick way to burn your bridges. The reason no pictures are allowed is because many productions rely on secrecy to interest people in seeing their movies, but if you spill the beans beforehand it reduces interest. Some productions (mostly the ones that pay) require you to sign a nondisclosure agreement that will leave you vulnerable to litigation if you post pictures of the set, etc.
- Don’t mob the actors! There are many different methods actors use to bring out the best in their performances and you don’t want to be the one responsible for breaking their concentration. This can lead to termination. If you are going to ask for an autograph (and I kind of don’t recommend this just to be on the safe side), be very polite and respectful. Sometimes the actors have had a very long day and just want to get to their hotel and rest, or need to move on to the next scene. Now I must stress that many sets actually have rules against approaching the actors, violation of these rules can lead to termination. No pointing and staring either. They know who they are.
- Bring something to do. Since most filming days will be a full day (12 hours) you will more than likely have large chunks of downtime. It’s okay to have a quiet conversation with the other extras, but pay attention and don’t get so caught up you miss instructions. So having a book, sketch pad or something non-electric on hand can help keep the boredom at bay. Also, bring your phone charger. You may need a charge during an especially long set.
- Mime. If you are asked to look like you’re making conversation in the background don’t make noise. Become a mime. This means if you’re supposed to be eating in the background, don’t actually scrape your knife or fork on the plate because the sound equipment will pick it up. Any small whispers will be picked up as well, so just move your lips, motion like you’re talking, but do not actually talk. Some sound equipment is so sensitive it could pick up a moth fart.
- It’s okay to network. Become Facebook friends with someone, follow them on Twitter or Instagram, whatever. You may find more acting opportunities through them, or be a source for them. In this area and business, the more you give the more you’re going to get back. Don’t be pushy though. A little bit of politeness goes a long way.
- Don’t steal. I think this goes without saying but don’t take anything from the set, be it a prop, wardrobe or the belongings of a fellow extra. Also, leave anything really valuable off set and at home.
- They’re probably going to feed you so if you have food allergies or diet restrictions don’t be shy about letting them know beforehand. They’ll ask in an email, or you can send the information to the person who contacted you. If you have to get makeup done on set and have makeup allergies it’s important to let them know too.
- They’ll ask you to bring several options for wardrobe. This means more than one extra shirt. They need to have options to sort through. I don’t mean to bring your whole closet, but have several different outfits that the wardrobe and makeup people can look at. 9/10 time they’ll ask you to do your own makeup. Unless noted otherwise assume they mean “modest/minimal”. You are part of the background and need to do your best not to draw attention from the main actors in the scene. I cannot stress this enough: You will most likely be on your feet for long periods of time. Make sure the shoe options you bring will be something that won’t make you want to saw your feet of at the end of the day.
Well that’s it for now. These are some of the tips I can think of so far, but if I think of more I’ll write another article.
Best of luck!