By Evan Schmitt
So you got booked as background actor (also known as an extra). Congratulations! It’s a wonderful feeling to fit the part and book the day of shooting. Here are three tips to make your first day on set your best.
Listen. This is by far the most important. When you first show up (show up early by the way), listen to the production assistant signing you in. Listen to wardrobe when they give you your outfit (or outfits for multiple scenes) and tell you not to wrinkle or get water drips on the clothes. Listen for “background” on set, because this is the extra’s version of “action.” Do exactly what you’re told to do and don’t take anything personally. It’ll get a little chaotic at times so just stay calm.
Keep to yourself on set. The star actors and the directors are there to do a job, just like you. Do not speak to them under any circumstance. The lead actors are trying to stay in character and if that mental process is interrupted, it’s not a good thing. You could lose your job on the spot. It’s simple: give the actors their space and pretend like they’re not there. Also, don’t talk during the take. Learn how to pantomime (act without speaking) and make sure not to overdo it.
Always be nice. Say “please” and “thank you” to every production member you encounter. Be the easiest part of their day. If you’re served a meal, make sure all crew members go before you. Background always goes last. Crew members are in unions that dictate the order of who gets to eat first. Respect that. If you’re nice and do your job well, they will remember that and you will be invited back.
Fun. That’s why you’re there to begin with. Witnessing the magic of filmmaking firsthand is incredible. Soak it all in and have a good time. If these tips work for you, please feel free to share them. Good luck!
Bonus tip: buy a box of pens on your way to your call time. Give this box to the production assistant checking you in. They will be surprised and you will make a great first impression.