Acting : Extra Work by David Jay

David Jay

Extra Work

Does it hurt your chances to be taken as a serious actor if you continue to do "extra" work? Has an extra ever been "discovered?"

Kirk Hunter

No, I do tons of extra work, just to staying on set, and I meet, so many other actors, that i go out and shoot on there shorts and features that, i keep busy, I was on DUSK for Dawn, series and Pale blue dot, and Chef, and Lost in sun, and I don't see it as a hinderance, cause i will go right from there to work on other films that are not so big and still do auditions for ads and stuff, I just keep trucking because, like I always say, it beats cleaning toilets at Walmart, being on the set with Robert rodriguez and crew, than, other stuff,, if you have the time and energy you should do it, its not a waste, if you are thinking that than your not passionate bout it an should do something else,,.

J. Louis Reid

It's great experience but don't put it on your acting resume or talk about it much in social gatherings. You want to be seen as an actor, not background. Rarely, someone has broken through based on doing extra work but it's not at all common.

David Jay

Thanks guys I appreciate the advice!

D Marcus

I don't know of any extra being discovered. Sure, several known actors did a few months of extra work starting out, but I have never heard that they were discovered on set as an extra. Anyone have any stories of an actor being discovered on set working as an extra?

David Jay

I've only heard of this one guy, named Brad Pitt...

Joshua A Jackson

I've done extra work, but i was told by a casting director to never put it on my resume. I enjoy the experience and try to observe what is going on around me mostly.

David Jay

For now I need to put it on my resume, since all I have is training and the lead in a 5 minute independent film...

J. Louis Reid

I'd go with the training and the lead. People realize that everyone has to start somewhere. There was a time when Robert Downey Jr. didn't have a lot to put on his resume either.

D Marcus

Was Pitt discovered while on set as an extra? I know he did a few bit parts before getting on "Another World". Were those "extra" jobs? I agree with J. Putting extra work on a resume isn't a good thing. Every CD, producer and director knows that anyone with a pulse (and a few without) can be an extra. It doesn't indicate that someone saw your talent and hired you.

Dan LaRoy

Danny Trejo got noticed as an extra.... some people would say dont do it. Ignore them. Nothing bad can come from being on a movie set... well unless you are a jerk to a producer or do something ridiculously stupid. Do it as much as you can but dont just do nothing. learn. watch the actors, how they prepare, how they deliver their lines and network with the other extras and actors. Meet people ask questions about acting techniques, classes, agents whatever. Also try being an extra on really low budget stuff. those are the ones where you might get a line especially if someone doesnt show up. you also tend to be closer to the camera because they will have less people. But I wouldnt ever put it on your resume. It will make you look like a joke and if you do put it on there dont put it as an extra. Put waiter, or camp counselor, etc.

David Jay

That's pretty much what I've been doing.... Thanks for the input!

D Marcus

Dan, no one said do not be an extra. David, was Pitt discovered while on set as an extra?

Dan LaRoy

no one on here said not to be an extra, but i have heard a lot of people giving that advice in general.

Cassandra Betancourt

got to start some where plus watching the principal actors is a good way to learn. It's like getting paid to learn. But, yes after awhile need to get speaking roles. Don't wanna be an extra forever

David Jay

I heard Pitt was an extra, and was fed up, brought the director a six pack, and that is the story I know...

D Marcus

And that director hired him? Do you know what director?

Cristof Boyer

Hmmm, probably back in the 20s and 30s, extras were "discovered". It's not like that now. I don't think it hurts your chances for being a serious actor if you do extra work. Alot of great actors started out as extras. You gotta do what you gotta but continue hitting those auditions though. The auditions will show that your a serious actor if you carry yourself that way.

Kirk Hunter

Your right, I just keep doing auditions, and there is sooooo much extra work, here in austin, you would not believe, Ivedone Killer women, Dusk to dawn series, and chevey commercial and Manglehorn, Chef and Revolution, American Crime, and Pale blue dot"that it would be stupid, not to do these, as well as I meet all the crews (I'm a sound man/ editor and get great connections for work , so freelancing is great right now, I don't have problems going to auditions and working on sets as extra and stand in, I just think that if you have the time you should keep busy, it is different here then the rest of country , Ill get work on sxsw and then Austin film fest, this town is busting out,

D. Elliot Woods (Elliot)

"Discovered" might be too strong of a word to toss around, but I have been UPGRADED from 'background celebrity' (LOL) to 'PRINCIPAL PERFORMER' several times (on Union productions) and know several other people that have had similar on-set experiences. For those of you that don't know, being an 'Extra' gets you a Day-rate of pay. Being hired or upgraded to a Principal means a higher day-rate AND Re$idual income.

Dayle Teegarden

To much extra work can over expose your face to the camera with to many shows. All it says is you bounce around from extra to extra to extra. Not a bad thing to do it every once in a while bit if you wanna act then you need to be out auditioning and networking. For the most part as an extra you are kept seperated from the actors and crew until your needed on set anyway so nobody sees you skills anyway unless you have an awesome banana or can say peas and carrots perfectly. Best advice shorts and indie features to get some experience to put on a cv plus an agent to get you working. Pitt wasn't discovered as an extra he did a little work before getting any other parts by auditioning.

Talia Price

I used to be an extra when I was starting out in my acting career. I enjoyed it but after a while i got bored and wanted a challenge so I enrolled in a theater workshop and built up my portfolio and connections. For me, creating my own work has worked for me. The best thing I think for you do to is audition and get a showreel up. Never stop working on your craft if acting is really your passion. Nothing is going to land in your lap.

David Jay

Loving the comments! I agree with almost everything you have all contributed to!

Rick Burtt

Never Never Never let anyone tell you what they think an EXTRA is. Dreamers love it, pompous people, look down on it, There is a lot of insight and valuable experience to be gained. I have worked on many films as a "background actor". Directors, and Producers do notice, it's their job to notice everyone in the scene. If you walk by and start looking at the camera, secretly waving to Mom, or not being where your instructed to be, they see it. You are valuable to them and they know it, (it is usually the ignorant PA who just wants to boss you around, that is the only negative on set). Will you get discovered, most likely not, but it can be fun to think so. Being a background actor can gain you the valuable experience of being ON A REAL SET. You can never learn in a classroom, student film, or stage what it is like on a big set, to have all of the members working in unison to bring a story to life. Just seeing a large constructed set, and the work that goes on behind the scene is awesome. If you feel you want to be an actor at anytime in your life, you must experience the feeling of being there and seeing it all from the inside. It's exciting, and seeing the STARS up close and realizing, they are just regular people is cool and helps you think, "I can do that". Work hard at your craft and be ready if that Director does wonder who you are. So sign up if you are serious about being an actor, and learn everything you can, and ... o ya enjoy the food.

David Jay

BRAVO Rick!!

Philip Hay

Harrison Ford was discovered as an extra on set. I got my ACTRA Card in less than 18 months being upgraded from background work and now have 26 years in the industry. My first speaking role (Credit) was with Al Pacino in "Sea of Love". I still have the contract on file...Although the scene was not used. Avoid being featured unless you get a "Special Skills or Actor" credit. That way the principal casting directors will have no problem seeing you for roles..Cheers

Vickie Paul

I have found that as a film student, background acting is a great learning experience for everyone who does it. I think if I was casting for a project, I would choose cast that had more experience on set, including background, versus someone with only 'training'.

Vandi Clark

I do it to supplement the money I make from other areas (v/o, industrials, etc.), to let new directors know who I am, to network with other actors and people in the industry and to keep myself fresh. Right now, a friend of mine is in the process of being discovered after first working as a background extra, then as a featured extra, then a small part. Now, it looks like she'll be a day player on this same series. Don't ask me who or which series. I refuse to jinx it. But, you see the progression.

Jacalyn Evone

I agree you have to begin somewhere, and extra work helps you to hone your skill. There are very few actors who were discovered on the street and suddenly appeared as major stars. While some do exist, the reality is that many took all types of small roles while working all types of small jobs to support themselves while they built their careers.

Dan LaRoy

Don't expect to get a line as an extra. I've been an extra a lot and it's never happened to me. I've only ever met one person that it happened to and it was because the actor didn't show up.

Joe Bohn

The old line of thought is that if you want to be a "real" actor, don't be an extra/background as directors and casting directors will only be able to see you as such. Now, I think that line of thought is bunk. Does it hurt you to do extra work? No. Those people you are worried about wont remember you anyway. Will it help you? Unlikely. Yes, there are rare occasions where a director someone and they need someone to deliver a line, or someone doesn't show up and they need an immediate fill in, but those are few and far between. Ultimately, it's your call. But my bottom line is if you wanna make a little pocket change by mostly sitting around, do it, but don't think it's going to lead to a break, and don't worry about it hurting you as a "legitimate" actor.

Ed Spangler

A lot of people start out doing extra work. I've been bumped up from background to an Under 5 role and I've seen it happen to other people too but it's pretty rare. Samuel L. Jackson used to be Bill Cosby's stand-in but don't expect background and stand-in work to lead to anything. Make your own projects. I've had several friends get cast in stuff from producers seeing their videos on Funny or Die and Youtube.

Greg Artist Pitts

Do all the extra work you can.

B Martinez Birney

It's better than waiting tables for a living but its easy to become too comfortable and content. For me I had to remember that I'm an actor and no matter what the job the character the set or location I'm just background and it's important that I stay in the area I'm asked and be as quiet focused and professional as I can. During the day or night whenever I may be working there's plenty of opportunity to network with my co workers but doing extra work or BG work is for me a neccessary part to earning a living and part of my path towards not having to do it for income. Being discovered isn't realistic really but being remembered and appreciated does pay off later down the road. I've been upgraded to a day player once out of hundreds of days working on tv shows. Sure, it was fun all those wonderful long meal penalty full overtime, double time and golden time days, but I was in a rut. What about my acting? The plays the student films the stand up and auditions; what was I doing? I was pretending I was acting but truth be told in this industry the majority of all I worked with considered me just an EXTRA :-( Sure everyone loves telling stories of all the people who also had to do extra work like Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis even Meryl worked as an extra some gal gossiped on set one day. I didn't believe her but hey years ago it was different. Today I work as an actor who sometimes does BG work on film and commercials, I have an agent that believes in me and I'm pursuing all jobs. Till I hit the big one a series or my next national commercial I'm happy to do work in my industry and do it better than anything else. I love being on set and make sure to look at each job as another piece in that puzzle called my life ;-) B Martinez Birney

Joshua A Jackson

I think every actor as to start somewhere and I am always looking for an opportunity to be on set. One of my extra roles ended up changing into a character with lines and the opportunity to work with the director again. As many of you have pointed out, many of the A-list actors started as extras.

Jonathan Perkins

Extra Work Is Cool For Those Who Just Want To "Do It" I Know,I Have Done Extra Work For 5 Yrs,But Now it's Time To Move On.The chances Of Getting "Notice" Are Slim To Non! However,Being On Set As An Extra Is One Cool Experience,You Can Learn A Lot The Actors And Directors (The do's And Don't's) Being A Extra Has Help me Tremendously !! My Advice Is To Get As Much FEATURED Work as Possible,Maybe THEN You Will Get "Notice" Or The Exposure You Desire! Good Luck! Be In The Right Place At The Right Time,Extra work Is Part Of The Process For Some Of Us!

Joanne McCue

working as an extra while auditioning is much better than slaving behind a bar or a store counter to make ends meet. Sure you don't want to over expose yourself if you were fortunate enough to get those featured extra parts but the on set experience and still living as an actor has to outweigh the "risks" - and I use that term loosely

Jaimee Listokin

No one has actually been 'discovered" doing extra work,but many started this way.

Christian Ijin Link

Brad Pitt, Rose McGowan, Robert Downey jr, all did Background work. You can see it listed on their IMDb pages. Working on set has opportunities that sitting on the couch does not.

Jaimee Listokin

I never stated that people did not do background. I said they were not discovered doing it! That is what the question was. I only responded to it! Please read! I have done background work. I never said that there was anything wrong with it,but if you don't follow tthrough and take classes, and be proactive like they were then you will continue to be a background actor.

Jaimee Listokin

I have been featured several times as well...

Sunlight Digital

Being an extra on a project adds one more opportunity to meet & network with others in one aspect or another in the film industry. As a director, I can add that if you conduct yourself professionally, and demonstrate that you are happy and capable in any role asked of you.. as extra or otherwise, your willingness as a needed supportive role can indeed make an impression. Being on set.. and participating can only serve to testify to your character and value. You never know what paths may stem from even being off camera and/or behind the scenes down the road. Be yourself. Follow your heart. No need to second guess.

Jeff Osborne

so true

Phillip Ramirez

YES…do background as a method of 'networking' !

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Jon Pirincci

I did extra wok and will be seen by millions in the Jersey Boys movie.I hung out with Clint Eastwood and Christopher Walken. I will also be seen in the show Castle. So..yes just do it!

Uz Ni

Bruce Willis was an extra

Marcus Kelly

Of course actors have been discovered. Sadly though those days have long gone. I find today, the elite, or the long term families have it sown up. Also the actors who are lucky enough to get into RADA, The Guild or even the Bristol Old Vic, will get the pick of all the top agents. Nepotism plays a huge part also, the family member always gets the top agent, like dad, mum, granddad or even grandmother, It's tough, really tough to break through. If you're happy to do extra work, then do it, if you're committed and you are able to live of the earnings of extra work, then fine, but I think you have to be with lots of extra agents and be very organised to do all the traveling to each new job. Regards breaking through into work, where you can become a very comfortable actor, you would probably be better of trying to produce your own films, shows or whatever it is you do! Good-luck with all you do, the most important thing to do, is to enjoy yourself, if you're happy, carry on, Marcus.

Tim Pickles

Don't knock extra work, in 30 years in the business I had never done it until a project I am connected with decided to film in my home town where I hadn't been on a movie set in 15 years. I thought I had better take the temperature. Most of the people I have met in background are thorough professionals and my experience doing background has been of great help in making decisions on our project. Don't expect to get discovered in the way they depict in the movies but great opportunities are there. During a crowd scene in one move I was on last year an extra improvised a line at a critical point in the action, the director loved it and kept it in. Frequently I have seen extras picked as stand ins, and I saw Quentin Tarantino compliment an extra on his work in a close up shot earlier in the evening. The key is to be professional, if you behave like scenery on set you will be treated like scenery, if you act well you will be noticed. For myself I know when the movie I am above the lie on starts shooting there are some faces I am definitely going to be looking for, and a few I am going to be avoiding!

Phillip Ramirez

I think your negative encounter with an 'older union member' was something you should just forget about ! He's NOT the typical union member working background ! But I've been told it differs from region to region….like, it's supposedly difficult to even get extra work in L. A. ,unless one is one of 'the usuals' called to work background ? Speaking for myself ( a union S. F. actor working background also), it's a great way to network with other actors, & sometimes getting a 'bump' to a feature role, or even talking with the principals, & other set personnel ! A lot of union actors will not work background, which is fine, but I (like yourself), work background because I just LOVE being on set !

J. Louis Reid

A few years ago, when I was doing background work in LA,, I signed up with a "call" service that notified me when I had a gig. I had to confirm, of course, but it saved calling into Central Casting every day to see what was available. I also got work from other extras-casting agencies that way. It was well worth the money. For the record, I'm one of those white haired guys who is "retired" from an earlier career. To anyone who asks what I do, my response is "I'm an actor."

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