Make MONEY - Work as a film EXTRA
How to work as a Film Extra
How to find work as a film or TV extra in the UK
Life as a film or tv extra or background performer/artist is not as glamorous as it sounds and you're unlikely to get rich, but you can earn £50-100 a day and more. Union member extras can earn £84 for a standard 9 hour day with additional payments for all kinds of things such as getting wet, speaking in a film, working in or near London and working overnight and on public holidays. (see full BECTU/FAA rate card) Plus you may sometimes get to see your favourite TV and film stars close up.
Days can be long and arduous and involving really early starts but there are opportunities for people of all ages, you don't need acting skills or have to be particularly attractive either! Film extras come in all shapes, sizes and ages so as long as you are over 16 years old, you have a good chance of getting work in the movies. You'll be regarded as self-employed for tax purposes and you'll have to provide the casting agency you apply to with your national insurance number and proof of your entitlement to work in the UK.
If you specialise in a particular type of role such as period drama and have your own equipment and clothing or any special skills, you can earn a higher daily rate.
Many re-enactors of everything from the English Civil War to World War 2 have appeared in films. You'll need to supply good quality head and shoulders and full-length photographs plus full details of height, weight, and all your clothes sizes (shoes, gloves, hats, etc.) You don't need any acting skills to be a film extra but you do need to be reliable and punctual and often available for work at short notice.
How do I get paid when working as a film extra?
You'll need to be registered with an agency, as TV and film producers will always work via agents. The TV or film company will pay the casting agency who will in turn pay you after deducting their agency fee (usually between 10 - 20 %). Don't be in too much of a hurry for the money though as it can take up to a month or two for everyone in the chain to get paid.
You may be asked to pay a registration fee, but take a little time to research the various agencies (Googling the name of the agency and following it with 'sucks' or 'review' can often save you a load of money and hassle!). Does the agency have a registered office or are they working from the spare bedroom and want to meet you in a pub or hotel or deal entirely online!!?
Remember - anyone can make a realistic looking website and fill it with clients that don't exist and convincing testimonials that aren't true.
Don't hand over the fee until you find out exactly what you're getting in return, and most importantly, how often you're likely to get work. Scams include asking for a sign-up or registration fee or large up-front fee for a portfolio of pictures and tales abound in the industry of people signing up with managers or agencies and paying a fee but not getting any offers of work. Some agencies will allow you to register free to get 'on the books' then deduct a fee from your first days payment.
Some agencies which deal with film extras have a reputation as slow payers so it's important that you research as mentioned above.
Listed below are some useful books and articles which may help you becoming a film extra in the UK and give you some background on the film and acting business:
More on how to apply for work as a film extra in the UK
UK external links - open in new window
Read more about a film extra's life in the Daily Telegraph
Working as a film extra - read the Daily Mail's guide
The essential handbook for everyone working or wanting to work in the UK entertainment industry.
Actors and Performers Yearbook is a directory that enables actors to find work in stage, screen and radio in the UK. It provides detailed information for each listing and advice on how to approach people and companies within the business.
Work as a Film Extra - How to Be a Successful Background Actor: Make Money as an Extra in the Background or Audience of Movies, TV Shows, and Commercial by Dante Wythe.
Mad Dog Casting - Agency with offices in London and Cardiff
Background performers on set
Some famous actors who started as film extras:
* Look out for the two of them acting together in the 1960 Norman Wisdom film "The Bulldog Breed" Respectively 'Sailor in Cinema Fight' and 'Teddy Boy in Cinema Fight'
In practice, very few actors make it to movie stardom from starting as an extra but if you are interested in a career in acting or films, it can be a good way to see how the business works from the inside.