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Bringing The Extra To Being An Extra:  

When an actor appears in the background of a scene, this is what's known as an Extra or "Background Performer". This is how SAG (The Screen Actors Guild) defines it.

The role of an extra is just like it sounds. It gives the scene a realistic look - whether its a restaurant, or a football game, or a street scene - filling up the scene with realistic looking people gives an authenticity to the scene.

Many times during the filming, they will use the actual sound of the scene. This is particularly true if they are filming a city scene or something on location. But many times, a scene can be filmed on a soundstage, or even on a set on a studio lot, and they can add in sound and effects later. But it's the people that give a scene that authentic "crowd" look.

Occasionally - you'll see extras given a little bit to say in a scene. This might be a waiter coming over and saying "may I take your order", or even a passer-by saying "lookout. As soon as you say a line as an actor - you are immediately given the status of "Actor" by the Screen Actor's Guild. And, you must then be upgraded in pay to what is called a "Day Player". You are no longer an extra any longer.

So, becoming an extra is a great way to introduce yourself to what movie sets are all about, learn all of the different roles on a set and really learn how actors work on a movie sets.

Act Big - But Start Small

Being an extra is almost certainly not your career goal. Heck, it might not even sound very exciting at first - but it's a great way to introduce yourself to what movie sets are all about - so don't discount it.

As you star to network and work with other actors, you might hear of an "Extra" opportunity. Or, you might hear of a student film that needs extras. Or, you'll see casting calls, or even just plain advertisements for extra work. Don't pass those up. They're an amazing way to make a quick dollar (or $40) and you'll be working on a real live movie, television show or commercial set. And this is the real payment. Because this is better than any school. This is the real world - and if you're on a small enough set, you'll be able to watch much of the shooting.

Pay attention to how the lighting folks work up the scene, and how the director works with the crew, and then the actors. Watch how the actors pay attention to the details, hit their mark and work with the other actors. It's great experience.

And, you never know, you might get asked to say a line - and get bumped up do "day player".


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