Being an extra or background performer is one of the best ways to catch a bit of the magic of filmmaking, and to share the glimmer of the spotlight. You will also learn a little about the hard work that’s part of the film industry. An extra is a person hired to provide a controllable background to the main action of the film. They come in all shapes and sizes, and it is fairly easy to become one.
UBCP/ACTRA has information about becoming a union member as a background performer.
You can register with an agency that provides background performers to film production companies.
Registration as an extra includes completing a form that asks you for a few vital statistics, when you are available to work, and what special skill you may have. Special abilities can range from equestrian skills, dancing, fencing to bartending. The agency will also need a photo of you. If you don’t have one, the agency will take one for you. There may be a small fee for the registration and photo, but small is the key word here (about $25 – $40 a year). For this fee you should be guaranteed at least one call.
Agencies charge a small fee because their compensation comes from a percentage deducted from your wages. This is standard agency procedure and is incentive to them to find work for you. Extras generally earn only minimum wage and most agencies take 10 to 15 percent, depending upon the type of work.
BEWARE: Some disreputable agencies may try to convince you that you need an expensive photo portfolio to become an extra. This is false.
Another way to obtain extra work is to approach each production individually. You can do this by submitting a resume and photo to the attention of EXTRAS CASTING. Email addresses for production offices can be found on the Creative BC In Production List. DO NOT call the offices as they are extremely busy and will not take any information regarding extra work over the phone.
As you can send your information and resume to the Background Casting director directly, you don’t necessarily need an agent. However, having a profile on one or more extra/background performer agency sites can help you generate work.
Being an extra can be fun and exciting, but it is also hard work and requires commitment and a business-like attitude. When you sign up with an agency you will be given information about etiquette on the set. Take it to heart if you want to be asked back. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll feel like an old pro. Break a leg!
Resources and information can be found at:
- Employment Standards information on Talent Agencies.
- BCF Casting a performer database for three casting directors in Vancouver the website is comprehensive and gives lots of details about working as an extra. You can also register with them.
- Agency Click a casting database recommended by BCF Casting for independent background (BG) actors
You can also register at talent agents for extra work. Here are a few more to check out:
- Freeman Casting & Associates
- HollywoodNorth Extras
- Ignite Artists
- In-Motion Talent
- Local Colour
- Registered Talent Agencies – PDF
For information about employment standards of “Young People in Entertainment”, visit this Employment Standards web site: