Acting : Acting and Extra work by Harley Wallen

Harley Wallen

Acting and Extra work

I have had a long standing rule and a lot of my actor friends don't agree with me so I'm curious what you think.. I feel established enough and confident enough in my abilities that I have chosen to not do extra work anymore no matter how big the production is.. Thoughts?

Carlos Santellanes

A step you have to take. If you feel its the right time then go for it! Only you know for sure.

Harley Wallen

I'm not saying it's beneath me or that I'm too good for it. I am simply saying I want an opportunity to express and actually play a character, no matter how big or small the role is. As far as my IMDb I have a lot of work yet to be released and added as well as films I've agreed to that aren't on there... You bring up some good points though in regards to extra work that I probably didn't truly think of because I have a career and to work the extra grind I'd make significantly less $ and that also plays a role for me. But you gave me some good reasoning to consider.

Steve Ciangetti

I feel like whenever I'm not busy auditioning or trying to play an actual role, I'll never have a problem doing extra work. Of course my career is still very young but the way I look at it, I'll do pretty much whatever I can in the business that helps me pay the bills. A long day on a set is better than a long day in an office.

Matthew Cornwell

Alle, being an extra doesn't help with your relationship with Casting Directors. There are separate companies that strictly handle Extras Casting, so you won't get "seen" by the Principal Casting Directors. As far as Directors, if you're on even a low budget set it's RARE that a Director even makes eye contact with an extra. It's usually the 2nd AD's job to talk to them. So I would be careful in how you portray the benefits of extra work. And in all honesty, I would love a link to an article about Arnold getting cast as Terminator because of an extra role. He was Conan the Barbarian already. He had a meeting with Cameron to play Reese, and ended up as The Terminator. And show me an A-list actor who went through an extras casting director and got paid $80 to spend 14hrs on set (after achieving A-list status). Any "extra" work that a celeb is doing would be considered a "cameo", and you know they were only on set for a couple hours. I'm truly curious as to where you're getting your facts. In the end, extra work is great when you're getting started. However, depending on the market you're in, you can get labeled as a "professional extra" if you're not careful, and that can harm future opportunities at bigger roles.

Harley Wallen

Matthew, that has been my reasoning for a while.. I'd rather have a bigger role showcasing my skill in a smaller project than being background for a bigger project.. Thanks

Trevour Millz

great Bro

Royce Allen Dudley

How is an anonymous job different from any other anonymous job ? And how better to stump an actor or director who says " I know you from somewhere...?"

Harley Wallen

My question wasn't should I sit at home and wait for a call or be an extra though. My question was I felt that I wanted to pursue and work my craft as an actor and I choose to do actual acting roles in smaller projects over doing extra/background work in bigger projects at this point.

Royce Allen Dudley

Small work gets mostly more small work, I assure you. In any case it's a gamble, as you cannot get your time back.

Seika Groves

I have been in the biz about 30 yrs now and have done everything from tv, film, voice work to theatre etc... While i am established I still take on background and and smaller roles b/c it's a great way to network and keep busy in slow times. I would never consider NOT taking these roles and with the burgeoning roster of talent out there these days it is one of the only ways to keep current in the industry. Look at these gigs as gravy, as a way to network b/c you never know WHO is on set and where meeting a person may go. Keep your options open is my motto.

Jeffrey Patton

Extra work is not acting. It is work, sure. It can also be a good way to understand what being on-set is like. It may even be a way to create a network of people to get involved with which certainly can have value...but it is not acting.

Seika Groves

No BG work is not acting but it pays the bills some days and can teach you a lot about patience LOL that being said over the years I expanded my knowledge and skills so i could work in multiple genres. My fav has always been theatre and for years I had a love hate relationship with anything in front of the camera. i'm ok with it now but moves to slowly for me. I think the key to working constantly is to be on your skills and expand your options.

Harley Wallen

I have a career that pays all the bills and more so I do this because I love it and I think I'm good at it and if I'm taking days away from family or work I want to get something out if it on my end. My own experience not to mention this year I've turned down about a third if the work I was offered.. Maybe my situation is different, I don't do this to be famous or to see celebrities or even to get "rich"..

Seika Groves

So Harley you have answered your own question. If you are busy or don't need the work why take it. I take Extra/BG work when i'm busy with other things like coaching, writing or theatre and need a little fun infusion, extra cash or a break from my current project. I enjoy these gigs b/c here is no pressure. I have made some wonderful friends and connections on a number of sets. I don't care about becoming famous or meeting "stars" never have been. I act b/c I love it. I have been in this biz 30 plus yrs now and have also discovered that no matter how good you are there will always be dry spells.

Harley Wallen

Agree :)!^^

Seika Groves

Cheers... wish you continued success you are one of the lucky ones to be gainfully employed in the biz LOL

Dave McCrea

Alle what the hell are you talking about? Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie do extra work lmao!!!
Bottom line: don't do extra work. Your instincts are correct.
My first TV job was on a show called Nash Bridges. I had one line. I get on set, there's a door with a star and my name printed on it, and a cooler full of different drinks for me. I was escorted around the set like a proper guest star and introduced to Don Johnson who shook my hand and said "Hi, Dave" smiling warmly. I then saw the 2nd AD go over to the extras who were in a "holding pen", they were sternly barked at and told to not speak a word to Mr. Johnson or they would be fired and blacklisted to never be an extra on the show ever again. It blew my mind the difference in treatment. I knew right there that there is no way I could handle being an extra.

Mike Milton

If you like the work, like the people, just do it. Otherwise don't. Is there a down side? It would be interesting to hear why you came to that decision?

Suzanne Bronson

I'm with you. Now that I'm SAG E I see no point in doing bg anymore. I can now submit to agents and will not join SAG to do bg unless I get cast as a regular. I personally don't find NU BG all that pleasant of an experience.

Jeff Watkins

It depends on the extra work. I would encourage even the most established actors to still consider extra work if It does several things; Helps pay the bills, can lead to possibly better jobs, can help develop your personal network, can see you getting noticed. Keep in mind that many characters that exist in some Ongoing TV series started out as a planned short-term character. They were so well received that they were asked to come back, and had larger parts written for them. In fact, a colleague of mine was meant to appear once in a production currently being filmed. However, his performance was so impressive that the producers and script writers expanded his role, and even merged it with another character, which led to a more significant role. This has happened to myself, when I played an Irish mob boss, who was meant to be a secondary antagonist, was developed to make him the lead antagonist. Don't knock extra work completely, but be judicious in what you choose. Obviously, if you need to pay bills, doing a low or non-paid extra job is of little use to you. Still the experience of smaller roles, and the involvement you have I the industry, will always pay off.

Morgaen Warner

I love your comment, Jeff Watkins. I would have said similar myself. At the end of the day work is work & if it keeps a roof over our heads between the bigger roles, what's the problem?

Floyd Marshall Jr.

Featured extra or just someone in the crowd. Very big difference. If I'm handing Samuel Jackson a drink and smiling damn skippy i'm doing it.

Mike Milton

Yes, Floyd. On reading this again it is clearer that the OP is making the distinction between an extra and a background player. I agree, there is not much point in being an extra (which is also your point)> a background player with specialties is better still.

Kathy McKinnon

Yep! I agree. At one point I stopped doing it. Background can't be put on your resume and be taken seriously!! Background work is good, but folks should not get sucked into the 'Alice and Wonderland' hole of background work…its a double edge sword.

Dave McCrea

I'm foreground, not background

Bill Ingram

I agree i want to be the one the camera is on not a blur in the background

Nykki Milton

Well view it from this perspective.... any camera time is good camera time. If you're feeling you've exceeded yourself as an extra then it's time to get an agent to book you for speaking roles...

John Austin Wiggins

For me, BG work is on the back burner. If I don't have other projects happening this week, and have a conflict-free day or 2, I may submit for BG. If a BG casting office calls and I have no conflicts, I'll do it. Why not? But if I have another project that I'm passionate about, even if it's non-paying, I won't take a BG gig. Pursue the kind of work you want to do, and if that's principal roles, then find every opportunity to do that, even if it's pro-bono. You'll make connections, develop relationships with directors, writers, other actors, and crew people, that may lead to other projects. Sometimes the project itself will get recognition What's interesting about this conversation is that there are a lot of lines being blurred. A "small role," even if it's 1 line, is NOT BG - it's a credit. You can put it on your resume. If you're in the union, it pays more. Chances are you will be directed by the director, and not the AD. Yada, yada, yada... The important thing about doing BG work is to take it as it is, which is an opportunity to be on set and see how things are done, make some friends, and perhaps make some cash. What it is NOT is a guaranteed stepping stone to bigger and better things. Yes, some now-famous actors have done BG work in the past, but I sincerely doubt that it was key in advancing their careers. Yes, sometimes a BG actor gets upgraded to a small role (it's happened to me), but chances are it won't be a career-changer. And if you had a small role that became a bigger role, well that's outside the realm of this conversation, because a small role is still a principal role, not BG. There are many actors who like doing BG work. They are happy to work regularly, get a paycheck, call themselves "working actors," and maybe work enough to get union benefits. Good for them! But BG also demands a lot of time and commitment. If you want to work as a principal, perhaps your time and energy is better directed to that end

Michelle Romano

I also agree. I have been training for the past two and will not take BG work. It may bw ok in the very beginning but you don't want to get a reputation as BG. actor.

Nykki Milton

Well said John!

Taylor Hay

I'll do commercial BG work because I've been bumped before and made some decent money. Theatrically, though, never.

Michael Welsh

Hey Harley, glad to hear about ur progressas an actor. I to am an actor have been at a point that I feel more prepared and r goi. Forarger roles ur from time to time still except this "extra" casting g call. Sometimes what I e found is I meet people or ally there that usually are very helpful at giving me a new lead or contact for something bigger. So I've embraced those moments and encourage u to to find those ways that are best for making connections but to remember it's sometimes in the places where u least expect it

Sari N

If I was wanting to support the independent community by helping out being on set as an extra, or to meet new people I would consider a day or two of extra work but I wouldn't do it for myself, as I don't need the experience anymore and I agree it can feel like taking a step backwards. I think you could do it if you had the right intention, or your still learning or wanting to connect.

Matthew Cornwell

Alle and some others are tossing around the words "extras", "background", and "featured" like they are different. In terms of a PROFESSIONAL acting resume, no experience that has those 3 labels will ever be on your resume, because it took no acting talent to book them. You either AUDITIONED and booked a PRINCIPAL role, or you submitted a headshot and got PICKED to be an EXTRA, BACKGROUND, or FEATURED player. As long as actors understand this distinction, then of course you should make each decision a personal one based on all the other reasons shared above. I just don't want any newer actors reading this thread, and misunderstanding how those roles are valued when it comes to a professional career. For those that are hobbyist actors, and don't ever plan to put 100% into this industry, then doing extra work can be a fun distraction and build your network. For someone who is seriously pursuing this as a career, doing extra work will quickly lose its appeal (unless you are doing Union commercial work, which pays over $300/day). And yes, there is a real danger of casting directors not taking you seriously if they know that you do a lot of extra work. Another reason you don't ever put that experience on a resume. Ever.

Mike Milton

Matthew, you make a very good point that it is important to avoid sloppy language in a setting where many people really gain the most from learning the proper terminology.

Jordan Heron

I do BG work because I'm new. I do believe it is acting, but the standards are admittedly pretty low (to say the least). But I don't do BG to learn to act, I do BG to learn how a TV/film set works. I have been in this industry for just one year now. There is so much to learn on set - not by sitting on your butt in holding, but by talking to people - crew, other actors. When you're on set and not on camera, watch the director, watch the DP, learn how it all works. That's why I do it. As for you, Harley, you have a "real" job that pays the bills and act out of passion, and perhaps a new career. Do what is best for you. Sounds like BG is not a good way to spend YOUR time.

Jim McKeny

I will generally only do extra work on SAG commercials because the pay is so much better than on film and TV.

Jeffrey Patton

Michael Brian Montgomery, I don't disagree with your philosophy.. But I never remotely implied that acting is memorizing dialogue. In fact, I mentioned that there is some benefit to having some clue of what working on a set is like and thus value in BG work. Sorry though, background work is not acting in the sense of the craft of acting or the art of it; I suspect that's why there is no audition necessary to do it.

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