extra's work

  • Matthew Pattimore

    Actor

    Hi guys

    I'm looking for advice on joining an extras agency and was wondering which are the best.

    Thanks

    • 25th May 2008
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  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    matt,

    as you are a professional actor, I would just slighly caution you about extra work in the classic sense.

    Its good money but in my expericne, ( and I have done some extra work) it can be the most soul destroying and emotionally degrading work yu can ever do. You are set up with a bunch of people who generally "assume" they know more about the buiness than a trained actor, and also payment takes forever to come through, not to mention that you are treated like dirt by the crew and even the production managers.

    If you want to do it, look in CONTACTS, but I hated it and I felt disrespected and dismissed in general. Its not worth the emotional fall out afterwards.

    • 14th May 2008
    • 1
  • Nathan Head

    Actor

    yeah i agree with Blake, the extra work i have done in the past doesn't help your self esteem. you are treated bad by the crew, the pay is low and it wouldn't help your career, unless you got a good walkon part. but a lot of extra agencies don't dupply that sort of work- its usually just crowds and camera wipes.

    if you are interested in doing it to get an idea of what it is like to work on a film set, the best way to do this is on a student film.

    if you need money between proper acting gigs, maybe you could look into temp jobs?

    but.. if you are serious about being an extra and don't mind, then check the CONTACTS section of this site. i know of a few northern extra agencies but no london ones.

    • 14th May 2008
    • 2
  • Alan Brent

    Actor

    I'm sorry, Nathan. I have to disagree with you on something.

    I don't think that working on student films is a good way of finding out what it's like to work on a film set.

    A professional film crew would never be allowed to mess about as much as students. So the way of working is totally different and therefore no way similar.

    Extras are generally treated as very much third class passengers in a lot of ways. But to see a pro film crew at work with nothing else to distract you (learning or remembering lines etc) means that working as a Supporting Artist (remember there are no Extras on Professional shoots) you will get to see how shots are structured, shot from different angles etc and also understand why you need to be able to 'nail your scene' in as few takes as possible because the budget doesn't allow for many mistakes!

    It is useful experience. But please don't ever think that the background artist will ever be elevated from there to featured artist. It doesn't happen except in very very rare occasions. Jack Duckworth (Bill Tarmey) Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn) were both background artists who were in Equity because of their different clubland acts. Vera became a featured artist as a mate of Ivy Tilsley who got a line or two. Then Bill was asked to stand next to her in a scene and got a line or two. Because of the 'chemistry' on screen they got a featured scene and so on... BUT thatwas during the Closed Shop days when you had to be an Equity member to speak on TV. Not so much now. So ANYBODY could be a Supporting Artist. The guy standing next to you on set could be an illegal immigrant, ex prisoner, paedophile, ex member of the RSC or whatever! There is no such restriction or discrimination. No wonder they are treated like dirt by the ADs. They don't know anything about who they are or where they have come from or what experience the SA has.

    It used to be the extra income source for Variety Artists who normally worked evenings in the clubs and daytimes on set as supporting artists. That's where the term EXTRAS came from, by the way.

    • 14th May 2008
    • 3
  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    How anyone is treated on a film set is purely up to them. If you accept being treated like 'something that they've scraped off their shoe' then they will continue to treat you badly!

    It's a real shame that SA's get such a bad rap in this country 'cos the majority I have worked with have been sound, professional and decent people...not naming any names, but there have been a few 'cocks' too but not more than any other profession!

    I find it incredible that the previous poster advised against extra work and recommened temp work. extra work is temp work, pays a damn sight more than regular temp work and gives you valuable on-set experience. I have come off set with a £275 chit in the past, OK, not the norm but you ain't going to get that parking cars, flipping burgers or answering phones.

    I still do (featured) extra work and walk on roles, in fact I'm writing this from the set of The Bill, where I'm currently playing a crims Minder and everyone here is perfectly polite and professional to all levels of staff. Crowd calls I don't do as these are usually where you get treated badly by overstressed and sometimes simply arrogant crew members!

    If you want to do extra work, without a doubt, Ray Knight Casting is the agency to be with. They tend to stick to TV and featured work so the money is better than the cattle calls. If you are happy doing the bigger gigs with upto 1,000 others then The Casting Collective & 2020

    Casting are my recommendations. There are others but I'm not putting my opinions on 'Crazy Canine', et al in a public forum for fear of recriminations!

    One other word of warning! Check with your 'acting' agent before you sign up with any 'extra' agent. Some don't like it!

    ForbesKB

    • 14th May 2008
    • 4
  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    Oh, and another thing! Don't ever confuse a student gig with a professional gig. They are 2 completely different animals. I've done over 50 student gigs in the last 4 years so trust me on that one!

    • 14th May 2008
    • 5
  • Nathan Head

    Actor

    i know i know Forbes and Alan. i really do know about the general unproffessionalism of Student film makers and i know that extra work can lead to good parts and is ok pay. I got over £500 for my tiny walk on part in Doctor Who!

    i was only talking in general, for a professional actor who has an established career in acting to suddenly go to extra work merely for cash between jobs. you know?

    i didn't say all that in my post 'cos i didn't want to repeat myself, over the past week or so all i have done is moan about unprofessional student film makers! lol sorry if it looked like i was changing my tune! i never know how my posts on here affect the way people think about my attitudes....

    god yeah, i know just what you mean Forbes about naff film makers, I've worked with/for a few. and yeah Alan i DO realize that extra work is okay to help start a career and help with set/filming experience. i know that it may get you bigger parts! i know of loads of famous and semifamous actors who have (recently) done walk on parts and featured extra parts and it helped them to get known!

    i really do get all that, and i didn't want to seem hypocritical- i just wanted to point out the reasons someone may not want to do it, if this guy who initially asked is doing it for all the wrong reasons.. who knows! i was just letting him see the negatives before he decided...

    • 14th May 2008
    • 6
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    All intelligent comments so far! I would say, however, that I think it likely that most professional actors who trhink about doing extras work know the score - they are, after all, working within the industry! To assume that doing SA work is anything other than an opportunity to earn decent money quickly and perhaps gain greater insight into how a film set/TV studio operates early on in a career, I think, goes without saying. It may even, for some of us, be a good way of reigniting creative juices doing a lean patch (simply being around a creatively inspired project being shot in an interesting space/on a well designed set, with intriguing performers present, can encourage in that way). I think you would have to be either foolishly optimistic or frankly misguided to imagine that 99 times out of 100, anyone is ever 'noticed' for bigger things, whilst they are doing SA work. I grant that you may find yourself making good contacts with casting directors etc. en route and that, if you make it clear to them you are a professional actor, then better things *may* be in the offing for you...but, on set at least, there is no time for anybody to be taking notice of the SA's 'performance', let alone offering you another job based on your contribution!

    But I still feel most of this is self-evident to the majority, who, even if they have never performed as an 'extra' before, may expect that something of the sort applies. What I think many actors are not prepared for (and here is where I think Blake and Nathan's comments come in) is that the fact that your assumption that, in your day job, and in your own mind, you are an up and coming professional performer, who, perhaps, by rights, should be working alongside those who are heading the piece, will cut no ice, when you have turned up on set to do a job of work as an extra. SA's come from all walks of life, and many are not actors, and have no desire to be. They will not necessarily wish to spend an eight hour day talking to you about acting; they may not even understand much of what acting is about. Their attitudes towards performance can frequently seem somewhat naive (in the same way that someone asking you 'Have you ever been in something I'd know?' is naive). Many are unconcerned whether they do a job of work during the day or otherwise because they know that, even if not called to the set at all, they will still be paid a flat rate. None of them is going to be analysing why their character reacts in a certain way in a given situation (and why should they? - even 'featured' extras are very rarely given a 'character' to portray as such). Some of your likely concerns (such as being able to see what is going on on-set - as Alan says, this can be a great learning experience, but not all crews are eager to have you hanging about on set at times when you aren't 'needed') will not be shared with them. This is not to say that the SA's you are likely to be working with are not sound guys and gals...just that you may not, as an actor, find it easy to cope in a situation where you are in close proximity to all the ingreidients of performance, but unable to relate that to what you are doing. I think it's in this sense that SA work can be 'dispiriting', if you let it be. The issue is a personal one for the actor to resolve.

    • 14th May 2008
    • 7
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    I also realise that this:

    'What I think many actors are not prepared for (and here is where I think Blake and Nathan's comments come in) is that the fact that your assumption that, in your day job, and in your own mind, you are an up and coming professional performer, who, perhaps, by rights, should be working alongside those who are heading the piece, will cut no ice, when you have turned up on set to do a job of work as an extra. SA's come from all walks of life, and many are not actors, and have no desire to be'

    is probably the most convoluted sentence I have written in a long time. Sorry about that.

    • 14th May 2008
    • 8
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    I've just finished a months work on Matt Damon's new film..."Green Zone"

    I had mixed experiences. Yes, at times the crew treated us like dogshit but there were a few decent sorts among them. The main AD who seemed to be running the show treated us extremely well and was a decent bloke. He is a long time in the business and has no need to prove his superiority by abusing extras. His name was Chris Carreras. A lovely bloke who really knew his stuff. His underling was a bloke called Tom who treated us well in the main. Another ad, who shall remain nameless, did treat us like cattle but he was obviously trying to impress his bosses by constantly ordering us around. Very insecure bloke.

    I had a run in with one lowly member of the crew. His main job seemed to be emptying the rubbish bins in the holding area and sticking bits of gaffer tape here and there. He was a nasty piece of stuff and and I let him have a blast at one point. Totally uncalled for rudeness. Other crew members liked to hog all the sandwiches and seemed to think they deserved better food than us and would whinge if they found us lower orders drinking coffee from their urn.

    The director, Paul Greengrass could not have been nicer. An all round good blioke with a good sense of humour. There was no shouting and bullying going on.

    There was a lot of hanging around but the other extras were an interesting bunch. Mostly Americans playing soldiers in Iraq and CIA types. Americans are fun to be around and were such a contrast to the surly and scruffy crew. Why do they dress so badly and always look like they have just got out of bed? The crew I mean.

    The makeup ladies and costume people were very friendly.

    All in all, it was a good experience and it was fun hobnobbing with the stars, Brendan Gleeson and Amy Ryan. No airs and graces from those two. Matt was friendly as well. Of course every scene I watched or was in , I was thinking, ...I could do better than him!

    One major drawback...I haven't been paid yet. The agency were Casting Collective and they were a good bunch too.

    I hope to be doing some more.

    • 14th May 2008
    • 9
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Personally, I worked as an extra once when I was at school. I got a close-up (which NEVER happens)and a taste of what it's like to work on a set. However my tutor advised never to take extra work again because casting directors may see you as an extra for the rest of your career, not an actor. Also, you really are treated like cattle. I think once you commit to being an actor you must not sell out. Once of the gentlemen mentioned you will only understand what acting on set is like is when you play a secondary or supporting role and he is correct. It takes a lot to carry a film in a leading role and you generally need the experience of playing 'the best friend' first. Student films are generally fine to build up your show-reel if you have only had theatre experience, but most student productions are nothing like being on a film set. My advice is definatly do promo/temp work to make some cash... don't sell out! Ayse xx

    • 15th May 2008
    • 10
  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    I also think there is a lot of defensiveness on this thread about doing extra work. NO ONE is belittling anyone for doing it but as usual, us actors have strong opinions about everything. Those of us against it have made choices with consequences, and those who want to do it make choices with consequences as well. No one should look down on someone for doing it , or conversely NOT doing it.

    :)

    • 15th May 2008
    • 11
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Oh absolutely. Sorry, I am a very passionate woman! Obviously everyone is entitled to do as they wish and I am not looking down on those that decide it's okay for them, I just disagree with that choice.

    • 15th May 2008
    • 12
  • Alan Brent

    Actor

    I don't think I'm being defensive, Blake. The fact that my mother used to 'spot' me in Coronation Street when i wasn't even on it used to make me chuckle, though!

    I did do some Walk Ons early in my career. This is where I saw the 'guts' of the business and allowed me to find out what the pressures are on set from an insider's point of view. I found it very useful.

    As for being treated like 'cattle' I once mentioned to John Savident that his comment on the background should behave like wallpaper to be not demeaning at all. What really got my back up, however, was the egos of some of the SAs being enormous enough to make you think that the world shone out of their backsides and that the show would be nothing without 'them'!

    ADs with personal issues and being stroppy were treated with me being kind enough to 'educate' them on the correct method of dealing with 'people' rather than 'cattle'.

    I like to think that when I spoke up I did it in such a way that new respect was shown to background artists whether it was their first time or their one hundredth. I know loads of 'full time' SAs and they all remind me of the fun we used to have doing what was a pretty boring job. I keep looking for my old buddies in the background of all the shows I worked on. If I'm ever on set I always hunt them down for a chuckle too.

    Now I'm not doing that anymore and I'm concentrating on featured artist work I sometimes miss the very early morning starts in freezing cold weather with nowhere to shelter, queueing for food 'after the crew and cast have gone first'. The bacon sandwich for 'breakfast' rather than a full English and coffee that runs out before you get to the front of the queue.

    It makes me appreciate the background that much more. So, without patronising them, I think they do a great job. The only thanks they get is their wage cheque, small as it is.

    So to say that I am defensive about it is wrong, would you say? I think that sometimes it is better to try it out and find out for yourself. No-one ever notices your face anyway. So to say that you can get 'known' as a Background Artist is incorrect. Only if you are so distinctive they can't forget you, which is a totla no-no. Once your face has been seen as an SA they won't use you for a while afterwards. That's why you only ever see my back in old Corrie or Emmerdale episodes.

    You always can spot the 'newbies' on Corrie too. On 'Action' they are the ones who take a deep drink from their 'beer' glass. Everyone who is experienced knows that if you do that three or four 'Takes' you will have drunk some pretty vile sweet shandy and be suffering from the 'runs' for days!

    The experienced ones never put the glass near their mouths!!

    • 15th May 2008
    • 13
  • Keith Hill

    Actor

    Forgive me if I am repeating anything already said, but I pass on a little hint that i was given. If you work as an extra (and any money is better than none) USE AN ASSUMED NAME especially on TV or you will go for ever on the CD's extra lists, and never get off. I have heard stories of it happening to one household name, who stood in on an episode of something for a laugh when it was being filmed next door, and found herself suddenly not getting leads...Course, I don't know where that story originates, but it sounds like sense to me.

    • 15th May 2008
    • 14
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    I don't think it does you any harm at all to do a few stints of it early on in your career. It really does let you see at least a bit of what goes on on a proffessional set.

    I did it maybe 6 or 7 times in Manchester a few years ago. It was before I had kids so it worked well as they often don't call until very late in the day for an ealy call. Without anybody but me to worry about, I could do it.

    The next time I was on a proffessional shoot, I was luck enough to be the lead, and actually only actor with around 40 sa's.

    Having done it before, I really appreciated what was going on for them, and without sounding too patrionizing, I hope, I made an effort to speak to them and have a laugh. Having said that, I would have spoken to them anyway. Sorry to group the sa's as 'them' by the way, I don't mean it to sound 'us' and 'them'.

    So yes, I say go for it, but like Alan says...don't face the camera.

    sarah

    • 15th May 2008
    • 15
  • Nathan Head

    Actor

    yeah i agree, i don't think it does any harm really- unless you have made a name for yourself in acting i guess. its good money and good to network too!

    take Jennifer Elise Cox though, who played Jan Brady in the first two Brady Bunch Movies... i remember her appearing as a background schookid in Keenan & Kel in the late 90's and i think that must have done something to her career from the inside, she probably did more extra work at the time. I know she hasn't done anything really astounding since, no massive lead roles or big productions really.. . i know she was in on episode of CSI recently though..

    • 16th May 2008
    • 16
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Well I think its pure snobbery on the actors part when it comes to extras work. Because we have had training we are "better" then stooping so low as to do extra work. Well what sounds better, -between jobs I have been working in a shop/promo/telephone center or -I have been working on a film set learning new things and honing my craft - think about it people!!! Also I was also told at drama school that you shouldnt do extra work cause directors will not see you as a proper actor - well come on now, do you really think the director is gonna remember one of the fifty girls/men in the background wearing the same costumes??? hmmmm -I think not!

    • 24th May 2008
    • 17
  • Alan Brent

    Actor

    There's a lot of truth in what you say, Steph. Better to be 'on set' the 'in call cantre'!

    Bear in mind the principle of 'keep your back to the camera' when doing background work, though. If your face is recognisable it is likely you'll get noticed and that will affect your future as a background artist on the show too! They really only want 'wallpaper' not distinctive presence. If you are recognisable then they look at it along the lines that 'regular' background artists are likely to have the viewers noticing you. Not good!

    In shows like 'Heartbeat' all of the pub regulars are regularly employed. The thinking is that only a certain number of people could live in and therefore frequent the Aidensfield Arms. So the same faces show up all the time. In Coronation Street and Emmerdale they are always different so the 'recognisable' issue doesn't arise.

    Just a point.

    • 24th May 2008
    • 18
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Call me a snob if you wish honey but I truely believe you won't learn much as an extra and as my tutor was an award winning and highly respected actress you can forgive me for trusting in her advice... and that advice has worked quite well for me so far.

    • 24th May 2008
    • 19