Careers: Acting, Performing, Directing/Background Extra Roles

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Question
QUESTION: Hello:

What advice can you give someone who is interested in being an extra in television shows, films, and commercials in the entertainment industry in southern California?

I have some experience in being an extra in short independent films made in another state far from California. I enjoy these small parts and have no intention of being a famous actor.

I thank you for your reply.

ANSWER: Kenneth,

Thanks for writing. If you're interested in background work, you should register with Central Casting which is based in Burbank, CA. They are the biggest provider of background talent in the industry. I believe it will cost you $20 to register with them. Once you're in their database, you'll start getting calls and the more you're available when they call, the more they'll call you.

Good luck!

Phil


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello:

I want to thank you for the reply and advice.

Do extras get paid for their background work in various films or television programs?

I thank you for your follow-up reply!

ANSWER: Yes, Kenneth, they do. Not paying them would be a violation of federal labor laws (slave labor), and result in the production company incurring serious fines while having to provide the background workers back pay.

Most companies pay non-union background/extras minimal pay which is usually at or slightly higher than minimum wage plus overtime if incurred. Background/extras workers who are members of the SAG/AFTRA Union are paid union minimums. On an average, non-union workers make around $65-$75 per day and union members earn around $125 per day.

Hope this helps.

Phil


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello:

I want to thank you again for the reply and information!  Two last questions, I promise!

1. Is the extra required to give some of his pay to Central Casting since the organization got the person the extra job?

2. Can someone specify what types of films or televisions programs he wants to be an extra in?  For example, if someone does not want to be in a violent police program/film or a bloody horror film, can he make this type of request without harming his chances of being contacted to appear in other types of films/programs?

Once again I cannot thank you enough for your help and assistance!

Answer
Kenneth,

You are not required to share your income with Central Casting - they are not a talent agency in the sense of how an agent represents an actor and takes a commission on his income.

As for limiting the kind of work you appear in, I can tell you that Central Casting does not place background/extras in adult or pornographic films. But they do place them in PG-13 and R rated films. I believe you can stipulate the kind of product you'd like to appear in, but you will most certainly harm your chances of being contacted for work. The thought is that when you are "in demand", your opinion and feelings count (i.e., the star of the film or TV series). But when you're merely hired to walk across the background behind the star, filmmakers want you to show up on time, do as you're instructed to do, take your paycheck and go home. They do not want to hear your opinions.

Not the most diplomatic environment to work in, but if you don't want to do it, there are thousands of others who are standing by ready to take the work.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

Phil

Careers: Acting, Performing, Directing

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Phil Nemy

Expertise

I am a motion picture and television producer with over 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry. I am also the author of the book GET A REEL JOB: Finding Your First Job In The Motion Picture Industry In Los Angeles. I can answers questions on a variety of subjects about careers in film from acting to directing to crew work, getting into the unions, successful strategies for networking, etc.

Experience

Former VP, Production for The Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group Supervised production on such films as ARMAGEDDON, THE PRINCESS DIARIES, REMEMBER THE TITANS, PEARL HARBOR, CON AIR, ENEMY OF THE STATE, THE ROCK, CRIMSON TIDE, COYOTE UGLY, A CIVIL ACTION, ROMY & MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, NOTHING TO LOSE, EDDIE and others. Worked as an actor, stage manager, director on broadway and regional theater as well as L.A.' Equity-waiver scene. Former Associate Artistic Director of Los Angeles Equity-Waiver theater.

Organizations
Director's Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, Actor's Equity Association

Education/Credentials
BFA in Acting/Directing from Carnegie Mellon University.

Past/Present Clients
I've worked with such filmmakers as Jerry Bruckheimer, Tony Scott, Steve Zaillian, Scott Rudin, Garry Marshall, Frank Marshall, Michael Bay, etc.

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