Actors are often told not to pursue extra work, as it is not considered real work. However, while anyone can be an extra, not all extras can give a scene that special something. Extra work is an important job on a film set, and a great opportunity to utilise your acting skills.
There are many benefits to being an extra on the set of a film. Especially if you can get on the set of a Hollywood blockbuster, like Thor or Aquaman. For a start, you get to meet new people and network with other actors. You also have the chance to familiarise yourself with a film set and begin to feel comfortable. You might get to see some big names at work as well. But remember to only observe and appreciate, keep out of their way and definitely do not approach them. There is also the free food and a chance to play dress up! However, the biggest benefit is that extra work is a fantastic opportunity to practice acting skills, such as:
- Prep beats
- Energy levels
- Sub text
All of these skills can be learned at a reputable acting school like The Performing Arts Conservatory.
There are a few downsides of being an extra on set. To begin with, you’re just a number and essentially set dressing. You will feel like this too, but don’t take it personally. The director and crew have a lot to think about and focus on. Be prepared to have wardrobe and makeup fixing you up constantly, and for instructions from the AD’s to continually change. Sometimes you can be called to set and sit around doing nothing ALL DAY. On other days you’re worked hard and end up feeling cold, hungry, and tired at the end of the day. If you’re lucky enough to make it onto the set of a Hollywood production, you may not be able to take your phone on set. Which is a problem for those long days of doing nothing, so bring a pack of cards or a book.
- Shut up and listen – This is for your safety, and so you don’t look like an idiot by zigging when everyone else is zagging.
- The wardrobe and makeup people can be friendly, but they are there to do a job—not be your friend.
- Everyone is there to do a job—including you. Let them do theirs and you do yours.
- Relax and have fun, but pay attention and do what you’re told.
- Don’t complain—you are taking the place of someone who got rejected and are missing out now. Realise this and appreciate the opportunity.
- Approach TVC sets with the same attitude as a film set, and use the opportunity to practise your acting skills.
While you don’t want to make a career of being an extra, there are benefits to the process. It is a chance to work on your craft, meet some great people, and have an awesome experience. If you’re really lucky, you might find yourself on set with some great actors or director. But if you’re not that lucky, you still have an opportunity to practise your craft. Don’t feel silly about being ‘immersed’ in your character either. Even if you’re the only one, then you’re probably more likely to succeed as an actor than they are. If you have the training and you have the dedication, extra work can benefit you and your career.