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How To Be A Paid Extra

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As an EXTRA, your days on the set will be varied and your schedule never routine. Flexibility is the key. One day you may have a CALL TIME {the time that you are required ON SET} of 6 a.m. and on another day 7 p.m. Whatever the time, punctuality is absolutely essential. Being late can hold up a shooting schedule and can cost valuable time and money. If you are late, you could be sent home without pay and not be allowed to work again for that PRODUCTION COMPANY.

In order to make your CALL TIME, you will need to allow enough time to get ready and to arrive on the set. Plan ahead. Also, be sure you understand what the scene is about so that you are dressed appropriately. We'll talk about how you will know in advance how to dress a little later in this booklet.

Getting To The Set.

You should do an online to get good directions to the set as well as have a Thomas' Guide for Los Angeles or GPS. Directions to location shoots often reference the Thomas Guide page number and location. Usually, if the filming is being done On Location rather than at a Studio there will be Signs posted along the street gilding you to the parking area at the set. Production companies know it is important to make it easy to find where to go. Though they don't have to put up signs they probably will. Keep your eyes posted. There might be some last minute changes as to where they want you to park.

Parking At The Set.

Most films will have a designated area for you to park for Free. They will let you know in advance if they don't.

Sometimes there is not enough or easy enough parking at the Set. In cases like that they may give you directions where to park. Once you have locked your car you might board a shuttle bus that will take you to where they are filming.

Don't park where you're not supposed to. Production companies generally get quite upset with Extras parking where "The Crew" such as grips, cameramen etc. park.

Arriving At The Set.

Once you arrive ON SET, you will report to the 2nd A.D. (SECOND ASSISTANT DIRECTOR). The 2nd A.D. is in charge of the EXTRAS and anything and everything that involves them. Practically all of your instructions, interactions and paperwork will come through him or his PA's (PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS).

Just as a point of knowledge:

The Director directs the main Actors.
The 1st AD (Assistant Director) works very intimately and closely with the Director. He rarely leaves the proximity of the Director. The 1st makes everything happen that the Director needs to get his shot.
The 2nd AD usually works under and answers to the 1st AD. He or She usually carries out the fine tuning, especially getting the Extras doing what they're supposed to do. You can usually recognize one...they always seem to be saying "quiet on the set" or "cut".

Wardrobe and Make Up.

Once you have your voucher, you will then report to the wardrobe department.

You are usually asked to bring an outfit or two that you think will have the right look for the scene. WADROBE will look at what you brought and hopefully approve it. On occasion, you might receive a costume from the WARDROBE DEPARTMENT to wear for the shoot. If that is the case, you will often times be asked to leave your payment voucher with them to hold on to as a guarantee that you will return the wardrobe at the end of the day.

Once you have completed your paper work, met with and wardrobe and sometimes hair/make-up (if necessary) you will then be asked to wait in what is referred to as the HOLDING AREA.

The Holding Area.

The holding area is a place away from the set where you will be asked to wait until you are needed. There you will probably have access to free snacks and beverages and possibly a free breakfast provided by Craft Services (catering)

Not every EXTRA will be used in all the scenes, so here you will wait until being called to the set. While waiting here you can do whatever you want; read, play cards or try to line up work for the next day.

If you are in holding always be prepared to keep occupied, because boredom can lead to trouble.

It is important to understand too that you are there to do a job, even if that means hanging out for hours and hours and hours. Also, remember that if you leave the holding area for any reason you must let someone know. Chances are the minute you step away, that will be the exact moment you will be needed on the set. The last thing you need is to return to the set and find out that three PA's have been looking for twenty minutes for the EXTRA in the blue jacket who had been standing next to the star in the last take. Yes, they were looking for you! Time is money and you do not want to do anything that will hold up filming. This will jeopardize your reputation as a reliable EXTRA and quite possibly your employment on the project.

Networking On The Set.

It cannot be stressed enough that networking is an important thing to master in the entertainment industry. Since film and TV jobs usually last for a short amount of time, everyone on the current production will move on to other jobs when the project is completed. It is important to build friendships with as many of these people as you can.

When you first start out you probably won't know very many people in the industry, but don't worry. You can build relationships with working industry people as you go along. Be sure to learn people's names, exchange phone numbers, and keep in contact. Talk to everyone. You never really know just who knows whom, and what will lead where.

Time in the holding area is certainly a great time to network with the other EXTRAS. So, get friendly with other folks who do what you do and find out who hires them and how they go about getting work. This is a wonderful opportunity to build a support system with other EXTRAS. They are a great source of information on where to get the best deals on Head Shots, which coaches they would recommend, and what other projects are coming up.

Being Called To The Set.

When filming is set to begin, the EXTRAS will be called to the set and instructed on what to do for the current scene. These things can range from sitting or standing in a specific location, to walking behind or near the stars. If you are lucky you may get to interact with the stars of the film.

Every EXTRA has a purpose and while some are "seen" more than others are, all are important. Your instructions will almost always come from the 2nd A.D. It is rare for the Director or 1st AD to instruct the EXTRAS personally. Although it does happen, don't expect to interact with them very much.


Once all the directions have been give out to cast and crew, there will be some of practice run-throughs (with or without cameras) of the scene (with or without cameras). This is called a REHEARSAL, whether it is for the actors, extras or cameras.

You will know that the rehearsal is about to begin when you hear someone (usually the 2nd) call out "Rehearsals Up"..

Throughout this process, the Director and his crew will be checking that the actors and extras have the right emotional intent, and know their lines, . They are also making sure everyone is moving where, when and how they are supposed to. This last part is known as BLOCKING.

The DP (DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY) oversees everything that has to do with the cameras and lighting. The Director of Photography, (called the DP), makes sure the lighting is right for the scene, and the cameras are set correctly. The GAFFER(electrician) supervises his crew to makes sure that that all the lighting meets the needs of the DP.electrical gadgets are working, while the hair and make-up people attend to the "look" of the stars. The wardrobe and prop people are extremely busy, making sure that the the Actors and EXTRAS are dressed and have everything that the scene requires.

And believe me, that's only the tip of the iceberg...usually hundreds of people are depending on you to get your part in the film right so they don't have to do a retake because of you. A good rehearsal should weed out the problems before the cameras start rolling.

"Quiet On The Set!"

Once the Director and his crew are satisfied with all the elements, the cameras will start rolling and actual filming will begin.

You will hear someone call out "Quiet On The Set". "Rolling". That's when you begin doing what you were directed to do.

A scene can take as long as three to four hours to complete, or as short as a few seconds, some film directors may take days with only one scene in order to get exactly what they want.

Just some of the things that depends on is on how many angles the director wants to film from, and how all the aspects come together. If the Stunts or "Special Effects" are really complicated to set up and interact with. That can also take a long time to set up. Or perhaps there are animals in the scene, which are not always as predictable as humans. Sometimes not though.

Some film directors may take days with only one scene in order to get exactly what they want. It is a very long process, and as an EXTRA, patience is a must. This is because everything is repeated over and over again, until the Director decides it's time to move on.

As an EXTRA, patience is a must.

"Cut". "Check The Gate". "That's A Take".

You will hear someone call "Cut" once the shot is finished.

"Check the Gate" means they are checking to see that the camera got the shot.
Meantime, the Director, DP and his or her crew are checking a video take of the scene just filmed. If they like it they say: "That's A Take". That means they got the shot and are ready to move on to the next.

You may stay on the set or be asked to return to your Holding Area. That depends on how long it will take to set up the next shot.

Will I Get To Meet The Stars?

It's important to remember that on the set, you are not there to talk to the stars, to get their autographs or to take pictures with them. In some cases EXTRAS are asked not to approach or talk to the stars on the set. Stars are people too, and please understand that they are under a lot of pressure trying to memorize their lines and to get their scenes just right. Don't take it personally if they ignore you. They too are there to do a job, so just be honored that you get to work along with them, and that you are part of this exciting process.

I'm Hungry. When Are We Eating? Is It Free?

A meal break is usually called within six hours of the Call time, because of the Union rules requiring it. This break will last about an hour and is typically provided by the Production Company. {On smaller projects, you will sometimes be asked to provide your own lunch or to go off the lot and buy your own meal though this is rare}.

If filming should continue for more than six hours after the end of your first meal break, A SECOND MEAL will need to be provided according to union rules. In addition to any meals provided by CATERING, CRAFT SERVICES provides beverages and snacks for the cast and crew throughout the day. Coffee, water, sodas, fruit, peanut butter & jelly, and red licorice are staples on the craft services table.

"That's A Rap"

Once the day's scenes have been completed the director will call a "WRAP". That means they're finished filming for the day. Or at least with the parts using you.

Will the day end when they say it will?

Probably Not.
There are no normal days in Show Biz, so your day could last anywhere from 2 to 12 hours or more. The longer days with overtime, brings more money and free meals, whereas the shorter days mean good money for less work.

Returning Wardrobe.

In either case, when your day is done you will return any wardrobe and prop items that were borrowed.

Turning In Your Vouchers.

Then it is time to have the 2nd AD sign you out. He or she will verify that all the information on the voucher is correct and then you sign your Time out. Once signed, you will be given a copy and are free to go home and prepare for the next day. Hopefully, there are more days in the nightclub or courtroom and you will be back for more work on the film.

Getting Back to the Set.

Once you're finished with all that you can return to your car or wait for the shuttle bus back to where you are parked. This is your last chance to network. Meet as many people as you can. You never know who's going to remember you and recommend you for your next film job.

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