With the explosion of new production on a variety of platforms, background actors are in demand, and earnings are up……………
But, increasingly, some members are concerned about the competition for the number of spots allocated for union background in SAG-AFTRA contracts as well as the lack of contract coverage in emerging production areas such as New Mexico, Louisiana and Georgia.
Recently, they have been on the receiving end of an outpouring of support from high-profile members, including Jeff Bridges, Amy Adams, Mandy Moore, Mark Duplass and Rachel Brosnahan ,Clarence Gilyard and many many more.
But many of these performers have only spoken out after witnessing or experiencing firsthand some of the poor treatment their colleagues who work background have received on set.
For instance, Adam recalled how she was mistaken for her stand-in while shooting HBO’s Sharp Objects;”I’ve never experienced this before but, because we looked so much alike, at one point somebody grabbed me really hard and pulled me,” she recently told THR. “I went,’What’s going on?’ and they’re like,'(Gasp) you’re not Reb!’ I went into producer mode and I was like, ‘You will not handle her like that.’ “
In April 2019, the multi-hyphenate Duplass tweeted about how appalled he was to see background performers treated badly. “If you see this happening, please gently bring it to the attention of the offender(s) and ask them to reconsider their approach.
It’s an odd blind spot in our industry,”he wrote. New York Local Board member and Background Advisory Committee Chair Avis Boone agrees. “In New York, while shooting exterior scenes in January in out-of-season wardrobe without proper breaks and a place to keep warm between shots, sometimes background actors will ask for hand warmers and be told that they only have enough for the crew or the talent only. Even though background actors are a key ingredient to make a scene look real, they are often an afterthought when it come to the things like being given proper breaks, water and safety rides.” she said.
“Background actors want it known that they look at this as a profession. This is not something that they just go and hand out and do. They know their obligations, they know how to make a scene work! These are people who are doing this full time who are raising their families and making their benefits, They know how to bring their game-not just their wardrobe, props and cars.” Bob Ostrow, Chair of the National and Los Angeles Background Actor Committee.
See more at SAG.org Magazine page 42-44
FULL TIME BACKGROUND ACTING
There are many ways to make a living as an actor. For some, it means starring roles and a foot-long IMDb page. But that certainly isn’t the only way for actors to spend their lives on film and TV sets, getting paid to do so. Background acting—or”extra” work—can absolutely be a full-time profession if you know how to go about it.
Being an background actor is a no-pressure way to gain firsthand experience on a set, make valuable connections, and get paid to watch experienced actors and creative’s work. For Retirees, it is a great way to make money and enjoy different way of life. So, why wouldn’t you want to be an extra? You can also get exposed to countless types of productions and genres, providing a crash course in the different kinds of sets out there.
“If you’re a new actor who wants to break into TV or film, you may wonder what it’s like to work on a professional set. Some actors worry that if they nab even a small role in a big project before ever stepping foot on a set, it could add stress to what should be an amazing experience.
“One way to gain professional on-set experience is to get hired as a background actor or ‘extra’ on a couple of big projects. You’ll get paid to be an actor, get an education on how a real set works, and gain the confidence that only comes from real-life experience. I call it getting your set legs!” And just think about all the fun you will have.
Here I was on the set of SAVING JESSICA LYNCH, I met a lot of friends and I got to dress up as a soldier. I got to ride in a jeep and just had a great time, and got paid as well.
Here are a few tips to get started:
- Register with multiple casting companies. The big ones are: Central Casting, Rose Locke Casting, Tammy Smith Casting, Destination Casting, Extras Casting Atlanta, Background Artist Casting Atlanta, Hylton Casting, and Legacy Casting.
- Get some nice pictures taken of yourself with several different looks, dressy, casual and business. Take pictures of full body, waist up and shoulders up. There is no need to spend lots of money on professional headshots, but if you want to splurge, go for it!
- Log in to the casting companies though Facebook, Instagram or their website.
- Register your name and all necessary information. Hint- DO NOT LIE ABOUT YOUR AGE OR SIZES. They will never hire you again if you claim you are a size 2 and show up as a size 22.
- Submit for parts where you have open availability.
- When waiting to hear if you got the gig, DO NOT call to see if you got the part. WAIT for an email or text message from the casting company.
- If you get selected, respond ASAP to confirm.
- Read the directions thoroughly about hair, makeup and wardrobe.
- Get directions from your favorite search engine to make sure you know where you are going.
- I like getting places early. So try to be about 30 min early to get settled and to fill out all of the paperwork.
- Bring your identification required to complete the I-9 form.
- 12.Bring a pen to fill out paperwork
- Be quiet while in the Holding area unless you’re told you can talk.
- Make new friends because you will be with these people all day and often times you will be with them on several different shows!
- Be kind, polite and courteous to all crew.
- Once on set…Do not talk! Listen to the director! Follow directions!
- Days on set are long so be prepared for a 10-12 hour day.
- Make sure your voucher is properly filled out.
- Save your pink slip and keep in a folder until your check comes which takes anywhere from 2-4 weeks.
- Keep on submitting!
If you follow these simple rules, you will be a stellar background star! Just don’t get discouraged if you are not selected. Some weeks you’ll be super busy and other weeks not as much. But keep submitting and don’t give up!
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