Have you always dreamed of appearing on TV or film? You might be a trained actor, you might be thinking about taking acting classes, you might not even want to be an actor at all; but being a TV extra can be a fun way to earn some additional income, get some acting experience and to see what it’s like to work on a real-life set.
If you have a flexible schedule, a good work-ethic and you don’t mind being commanded by directors, being an extra could really work for you. There is always a demand for reliable TV extras. The TV and film industry is booming in the UK, and casting agencies are always looking to recruit people.
Despite the fact there is a never-ending need for TV extras, that doesn’t mean that you can make a full-time career out of being an extra. There isn’t always guaranteed work, and you could go days or even weeks without getting any work. On top of that, pay rates can vary dramatically depending on which casting agency you’re registered with.
How much can you earn being an extra?
TV extras tend to earn a basic wage. Wages are usually paid either by a day rate or per hour, although day rates are far more common. Depending on the agency your with and scale of the production, rates can range from £70 a day to up to £120. The bigger the production, the higher the wage. The smaller the production, the lower the wage.
The pay for an extra might sound relatively low, but if you manage to secure jobs on a regular basis, it can be a fantastic way to earn some extra cash. Also, when working as an extra, you’re usually provided with lunch. If they don’t offer you food on set, they’re likely to give you some money to go and purchase food (on top of your wages).
How to get started as a TV extra
Just like other jobs, to get work as a TV/film extra, you need to appear professional. Firstly, you’ll need to have headshot photos taken. Don’t worry if you can’t afford professional headshots, a great snapshot on your phone or camera will do. The next step is to sign up with multiple agencies: you’ll get more offers, which will increase your chances of getting work.
Don’t sign up with an agency that makes you pay an admin or registration fee in advance of doing any work. Good agencies will either take an admin fee out of your first earnings, or they will charge a slightly higher commission instead of taking this one-off payment.
In London, there are a variety of agencies to choose from. So do some research and find out which agencies are right for you. We recommend Extra People, Casting Collective, POP, Ray Knight and Guys and Dolls.
Working as a TV extra
When you finally start getting work as a TV extra, always aim to arrive at the set early: sometimes you’ll need to get to some far-out locations, and if you’re late you might lose out on the work altogether. On the other hand, if you prove yourself to be reliable, your agency will be keen to book you on more jobs.
Working on set can become boring at times, especially during long stretches when you’re just waiting around. So, it’s important that you chat to the other extras on set. Talking to your colleagues can make it all a bit more enjoyable! People who do extras work often come from all walks of life and all sorts of professions, so you’re always bound to meet some interesting new people.
One this to always remember is to be polite and friendly to everyone on set. Being rude and unprofessional will ruin your chances of getting more work. The casting directors will only hire people that work well with others and have good manners. If you make a good impression, you’re more likely to be asked back to work on future projects.
The last thing to remember is to always have fun! Working on a film set is an interesting experience not everyone gets to have, so make the most of it!
– Shadia Ashiru