Guidelines for working as an extra in films and television series:
* When you are booked for extra work, it is almost always the day or evening before the day that you are required to work. Therefore, if you are submitting for extra work, make sure that you are located within a reasonable commuting distance of where shooting is taking place. ALWAYS let the casting director know your exact location when submitting for extra work.
* When accepting work, make absolutely certain that you are available the entire day or night with NO conflicts. Typical shooting days/nights run 12-13 hours and more.
* Buy a Thomas Brothers Map Book. The Film and Television Extras casting people will give you these map coordinates when giving you your call time and location. They may also email you the Google Maps or MapQuest directions links.
* Bring a small folding chair, something to read, sunscreen, a couple of light snacks, a notepad, and two pens.
* Follow the wardrobe instructions and requirements, as you will be checked by the wardrobe department when you arrive on the set. Bring an extra jacket (even if it’s summertime). It's always cold on a sound stage, where you might be working. Ladies, take a pair of flats to wear when not on the set (your feet will thank you).
* ALWAYS show up at least 1/2 hour early. NEVER be late. Allow plenty of time for traffic, etc.
* When arriving at the location, immediately check in with the AD (assistant director), or whoever you were told to check in with. Fill in your name and address on the Film and Television Extras payment voucher. Make sure to fill in the hours worked and have the AD sign it at the end of the day.
* Never bring cameras or pets unless asked to do so. Also do not bring friends.
* NEVER take photos on the set with your cell phone. If caught, you will be fired and will most likely never work for that Film and Television Extras casting director again.
* NEVER ask for autographs or bother the actors. This is a professional work environment and not an appearance.
* Do not sit in any of the "director chairs". They are for actors, the director and designated crew only.
* Network with other background actors. If you obtain one good tip or referral, it could lead to a lot more background acting jobs. More work gives you more opportunities to get the necessary vouchers (three) to qualify to join SAG (Screen Actors Guild). Being a member of SAG gives you benefits you would not have as a non-union extra, e.g. double your pay and medical, dental and vision benefits.
* Always remain alert and ready to go to the set when asked. Do not leave the set unless you are given specific permission from the AD. Do not listen to headphones, as you will not be able to hear the AD when calling you to the set.
* Again, ALWAYS be prepared to stay and work long hours (unless you are a minor, there are child labor laws which prevent minors from working too many hours).
* Pay attention when you are on the set being given your "marks" and "blocking". "Marks" are the spots where you position yourself on the set during filming. "Blocking" is the exact movements you will be making so as to remain in or out of the view of the camera.
* And ALWAYS remain quiet when in a sound stage, especially when filming. "Quiet On The Set" means "QUIET ON THE SET"! The microphones can pick up even the slightest whisper. Also, when the crew is setting up for shots, they need to be focused and hear each other. It can be loud enough for themselves, let alone the chatter of extras on top of it. So do not make noise or talk loudly in between filming.
* When you hear "Rehearsal is up", "Rolling" or "Action" you must be silent unless given specific instructions by an AD (assistant director) to do otherwise.
* "Cut" means the take has finished shooting, but you then may hear:
* "Back to one" or "First position" which means go back to where you were and repeat the action you just did as the scene is being filmed again. Valuable Film and Television Extras know how to listen to what the actors are saying or doing (without being obvious) and remembers what he/she was doing at the time, so that you can repeat your action when the same scene is being shot repeatedly or from a different angle.
* NEVER look into or at the camera. Instead, look above it, to the side, or away from it; whatever is the most natural eyeline for you in your position according to what the AD has instructed you to do.
* NEVER talk badly about anyone on the set, including the actors REGARDLESS of how you may feel about someone. Use tact when speaking about others. It is extremely poor character when speaking badly or disrespectful of or to others. If you hear someone else talking badly, ignore it. If someone speaks badly to or about you, just turn your cheek and do not return the bad character behavior, as the AD may end up only hearing YOU speak badly. Take this advice to heart if you wish to go far in the entertainment industry.
* When being fed lunch or dinner, ALWAYS let the cast and crew members get their food first. This is not because Film and Television Extras are less important, as many people who work on a film set may treat you. This is because the cast and crew need to get back to work as soon as possible, where the extras usually have by far the most "down time".
* And most importantly, HAVE FUN! There are huge egos on a film set. I mean gigantic monster stuck-up HUGE egos, and I'm not talking about just the actors! Take those people with a grain of salt... look at them as kind of like a cartoon character, then you can just smile at them. After all, isn't it pretty ridiculous to have a giant ego anyways? There are many people who will brag and brag about what they have done and what they are doing. There are long periods of standing and waiting. But hey, you are working on a movie or television set! How fun is that!! And you are learning about what happens on a set, becoming more and more comfortable in front of a camera. So enjoy the experience, as it can be VERY exciting.
If you take my above advice to heart and give Film and Television Extra work your best shot, you'll enjoy it, make money at it and continue to work. And what's more fun than being with people, in the middle of the action and, later, seeing yourself on the silver screen?