Sunday, July 7, 2013

Everything You Need To Know About Being An Extra/ Background Artist

Do be an extra if....
- You like meeting new people.
- You want to see how movies/TV shows are shot.
- You are good at following instructions.
- You want the chance to see celebrities.
- You don't care about working long hours with little to no food.
- You can stand still for long periods of times.
- You understand that the movie is about the main actors and you will not receive the special treatment that they receive.
- You understand that you will most likely not talk to the main actors.
- You understand that once you confirm your availability you should stay as long as they need you. If you leave early they will never use you again.
- You can take criticism/rejection.

Don't be an extra if..
- You are only doing it for screen time. There is no guarantee that you will be seen in the final cut of the show or movie.
- You think you'll be discovered or upgraded to a featured extra. Featured extras are usually chosen beforehand based on the head shot submissions.
- You are impatient.
- Have a hard time sitting still.
- Have a hard time following instructions.
- Have a hard time staying quiet.
- You expect the special treatment that the main actors receive.
- Have a hard time remaining professional.
- You don't have arrangements to watch your kids/animals. Leaving set before shooting is done is completely irresponsible and looked down upon. They'll most likely never use you again.

I've been a background artist/ extra eight times now. Three of those times were on television shows and the other five times, I was in feature films.

Differences between the TV and movie sets that I have worked on...

- Television shows usually have lower budgets and the craft services and catering is usually not as good for the extras. I recently worked on a TV show (which I will not name) where we were given these nasty roast beef sandwiches and pork rinds.  Somebody actually found a worm in their sandwich. On the movie sets that I have worked on we were given steaks, rice, vegetables, chicken, shrimp and cakes for dessert. Also, movie sets have better snacks some television shows don't even have snacks or water for you in between takes and meals so you will starve to death.

- Surprisingly, the movie sets that I have worked on were more laid back than the television shows. I felt more intimidated on the TV shows than the movies which is not what you would expect.

Dos and Do nots

- Do be flexible. The assistant directors and production assistants don't like people who complain and don't want to do what they are asked to do.

- Don't whine. It'll make you look bad and unprofessional.

- Don't look at the camera. They will either kick you off set, embarrass you, or you will be cut from the movie.

- Do network with the crew and your fellow background folks.

-  Don't ask for a picture with the celebrities. You can get in huge trouble. If the cast offers that is a completely different story (most likely that will never happen- sorry :-( ).

- Don't gawk at the celebrities. They are regular people they just have cooler jobs than us, but they are not objects.

- Don't ask people to hire you as a crew member. It was hard enough for them to get a job and they are most likely not in the position to hire you.

- Do ask the production assistants for job advice when they are not busy.

- Do bring lots of options for wardrobe to choose from.

- Do bring snacks and water so that you can eat in between shoots.

- ALWAYS BRING A PEN to fill out your pay voucher.

- Do come prepared for the weather. If there's a chance that it will rain, it will save you. Sometimes you still shoot in the rain or you have to stand outside because you are on location and not in a studio.

I will add more to this if I think of anything else.

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