Acting roles for extras or background actors are filled by casting directors. Television and movie productions request background actors by giving a profile that specifies the physical attributes for particular roles to a casting director. Casting directors work with casting agencies and use the agency database to hire extras who match a particular profile.
Research casting agencies in the area in which you want to work. Larger markets such as Los Angeles and New York have more resources for casting film extras. Call the agencies or go to the agency websites to identify agencies that cast extras. Focus on agencies that specialise in casting extras. Research the legitimacy of a prospective agency by searching the Internet for their name and records of their business activities (See References 1).
Call the agency or look up the registration requirements on the agency's website. Follow the registration instructions provided by the agency. Complete registration forms, which usually include agency policies, waivers and IRS documents (See References 3).
Submit your registration materials by following the instructions given by the agency. Submission often requires dropping off registration materials in person. The agency will make photocopies of your government-issued identification cards, collect a registration fee, and other documents requested in the agency's registration instructions (See References 3).
Submit a headshot that reflects your current look with the registration materials. Legitimate agencies usually prefer or require headshot photography done by the agency when registrants arrive to submit registration materials. The headshot is logged into the agency's database, and it is the primary basis for evaluating whether your look is appropriate for a role (See References 2 and 3).
Get instructions from the agency about ways to get work with them (See References 2). Some agencies direct registrants to an online database, provide a hotline phone number to call when seeking work, call registrants who match roles they are trying to fill or use a combination of these methods. Call the hotline persistently if it is an option, because it may be difficult to get through, and calling several times every hour may be necessary. The hotline operator will access your file and headshot in the agency's database to see if any roles match your profile. If a role is available, the operator will give further instructions (See References 1).
Submit an updated headshot to the agency regularly to keep your file current. This may require going to the agency and paying a small photo fee. Casting directors calling for extras favour files with the most up-to-date headshot. Visit the casting agency once every sixty days to keep your file fresh for casting directors (See References 2).
Consider paying for a call-in service. Call-in services or management companies act as personal managers that help their clients get work. Call-in services keep track of client work schedules, provide information to the casting offices and accept phone calls while a client is working on set. Make sure that the management company has the resources and the connections necessary to justify the expense. Most management companies charge between £32 and £45 per month (See References 2).
Once on the movie set, get to know the stage manager or assistant director, because they directly influence hiring extras for future productions. Do not talk to the stars unless they talk to you first. It is usually against the rules to talk to the star actors for a production. Do not pay high registration fees, and watch out for scams. The registration should cost approximately £16. High registration fees indicate a potential scam.
Tips and warnings
- Once on the movie set, get to know the stage manager or assistant director, because they directly influence hiring extras for future productions.
- Do not talk to the stars unless they talk to you first. It is usually against the rules to talk to the star actors for a production.
- Do not pay high registration fees, and watch out for scams. The registration should cost approximately £16. High registration fees indicate a potential scam.