A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

This Is How to Get Cast as Movie Extra

Get ready for your (small) big-screen debut.

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Sign up online

To be considered as a movie extra, all you have to do is apply on a casting website. It’s usually free, and you’ll get emails and texts about the upcoming movies looking for background artists, says Christine Nelson, background casting director at Lee Genick/Sylvia Fay & Associates Casting. You’ll confirm if you’re available, and be able to talk to the casting directors from there.

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Find a current picture

Make sure you’re putting out an accurate image. You don’t have to splurge on a professional portrait, but make sure the photo you attach to your profile is current. Go for a waist-up candid photo, or even a selfie. “Something that looks like how you want to represent yourself,” says Nelson. “It’s your marketing tool.” Anyone can dress down, so wear a suit or nice dress to put your best self out there. Try out these tricks to make yourself look better in photos.

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iStock/Petar Chernaev

Be persistent

If you’re particularly excited about the possibility of being an extra in a certain movie, pick up the phone and introduce yourself to the casting director. “Sometimes they’ll call and say, ‘I just want you to know who I am.’ I appreciate that,” says Nelson. But if the person on the other line is short with you, take the hint—some don’t want to be bothered, and you’re better off waiting to hear back, warns Nelson. You’ll want to employ these 16 secret habits of naturally charming people.

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Show up on time

“People show up 15 to 30 minutes late and think it’s OK because they probably won’t be ready to shoot, but that’s not true,” says Nelson. “They’re usually well-oiled machines and ready to go.” Make sure you’re there by call time. If a car is supposed to pick you up, it will leave without you if you’re running late.

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Bring the right outfit

Don’t agree to act in a movie that you don’t have the wardrobe for. Period pieces will often provide costumes for background artists, but if you promise to dress up like a lawyer and show up with jeans, there’s a good chance you’ll be sent home, says Nelson. Not sure if the outfit you had in mind is acceptable? Take a couple extra shirts, and another skirt or pair of pants so you have options. “The best is to bring a good mix as a courtesy so wardrobe is happy,” says Nelson.

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Look presentable

Even though you’re in the background, that just-rolled-out-of-bed look isn’t going to fly. “If you show up with clothes all wrinkled in a bag, you’re not presenting yourself in a good light,” says Nelson. Show up looking just as pressed and polished to be a movie extra as you would at any other job. Avoid these outfit mistakes that make you look messy.

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Know what you’re getting yourself into

Films don’t necessarily shoot to fit the season, so be aware that your costume might not fit the real-life temperatures. “Sometimes they’re set in winter during summer or summer during winter,” says Nelson. If you won’t be able to handle the off-season outfits, you might want to wait for a different role.

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Have ID on hand

Movie sets often run a tight ship, and you’ll likely need two forms of photo ID when you arrive. “If you don’t have that, you can’t work,” says Nelson. Leave valuables at home too so you don’t lose them when you’re shooting, she says.

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Be ready to kill time

“This business is hurry up and wait,” says Nelson. If you get bored during gaps of time, make sure to bring a book or headphones to keep you entertained.

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iStock/Martin Dimitrov

Put your phone away

You’ll probably have to sign a nondisclosure agreement promising not to share what you see on set. Shut off your phone when the cameras are rolling, and resist the temptation to post what you see on social media. “With technology, everyone has a phone, which can sometimes be a bad thing,” says Nelson. “No one wants their storyline to get out.” Plus, you should make sure you’re listening to any instructions the assistant director is giving the extras, which is tough if you’re staring at your phone.

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iStock/Haider Yousuf

Don’t talk to the actors

No matter how big a fan you are, do not approach the actors. “They are in the mode of what they do, and that’s the worst thing extras can do,” says Nelson. Even though some actors will happily sign an autograph, others might get annoyed, and you could end up getting kicked off the set. These are the best pieces of movie trivia.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.