So you want to be a supporting artist/extra on a film /tv production. Many folks think about doing this, but never get the chance. First and foremost, you should know how important you are to the production. Without background actors, scenes feel flat, and just don’t pull the viewer in. Background and featured extras are an important part to any scene.
Since many of you have never been on a set before, here are a few tips to help make your experience on set as pleasant as possible.
Prepare yourself! Make sure you get all the information you need from the agency. What kind of extra are you cast for? Do you need to bring wardrobe or props? Should you wear makeup or do your own hair? The agency booker will make sure to answer all these questions for you!
Be on time. Timing on films is very important so please allow enough time and make sure you know how to get to the location whether you are travelling by car or public transport.
Bring something to do while between shots. Sometimes, there’s a long wait before you’re actually called to set. This can be due to any number of things. Bring a book, your laptop, iPad, etc.
Plan to be there all day. Try not to book anything that same day. If you do have to leave at a certain time, please let your agent know before your shoot day. If something comes up while you are on set, please let one of the floor runners or 2nd Assistant Director know ASAP.
When the camera’s rolling, unless asked stay quiet until cut is called. This includes no whispering, moving around, or making noise.
When you need to use the toilet, please notify a floor runner or an Assistant Director before leaving the holding area or set.
All telephones must be off on set, even on silent wireless signals can cause issues with sound recording.
Make sure you fill out and hand in your release form! Please advise whoever is signing you off of any additional payments you think are due to you.
Please no photography/video or asking for autographs from the cast on set. Only photography of the cast on set is permitted by one of the designated set photographers.
If the schedule requires you to stay through lunch period, please wait until a floor runner or assistant director invites you to the lunch line once cast and crew have lined up. Sometimes, productions will have a separate meal for background actors. The floor runners or assistant directors will be able to answer questions regarding meal and snacks.
When you’re on set, the 1st Assistant Director (AD) will help place you according to where the director wants you placed. Floor runners or the 2nd Assistant Director may also help give direction on what you’ll be doing in the scene.
Never look directly at the lens during filming.
Wait until you hear your cue to start. Your cue will most likely be the word “background!” The AD will run a rehearsal before a take to make sure you’re all clear and the director likes what you are doing. Feel free to ask the AD questions about movement and performance!
Please be respectful to all cast and crew and try to keep non-scene related questions off-set. However, if you are given direction or terms you don’t understand, please ask the AD for clarification!
When you are asked to fake a conversation with another background actor, we will ask you to “pantomime” the conversation. Pantomiming simply means moving your mouth as if you were actually talking. You won’t actually be talking! Be careful not to whisper!
Please remain quiet between takes. When there are a lot of background actors, it becomes quite loud on set when everyone is having a conversation between takes. Crew and cast will need a quiet set to keep communication flowing, so please be courteous and keep conversations and volume to a minimum while on set.
When an AD tells everyone to “go back to first positions”, this means you are going to do the take over again. Your “first position” is the position you were in at the beginning of the take.
When you’re wrapped, a runner or AD will be present to make sure you get back to the holding area to gather your personal belongings and make sure your release form is filled out correctly. Once all costumes and props have been handed back you may be signed out with a runner or AD, once this is done you may leave.
If you are required to return the next day please make sure you have your details from either the person signing you off or from your agent.