Does being an Extra get you noticed?

  • User Deleted

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    Hi there ladies & gents,

    For the last 12 months I have had work as a bankground Artiste and although I am aware that there is 1 in a million chance of getting a regular role on the particular show I still hope and keep my fingers crossed each time I get work. Do you think I am being naive about this? I get different views from the people i work with on the programmes I "Extra" on, some are actors and some just do it because they don't want to work in a office.....It's confusing regardless and I just thought I would get this question across to you all too..

    I look forward to your responses...

    Sara

    • 10th Jul 2015
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  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    To answer your question in one word, NO!

    As an extra you are nothing more than a mobile prop and as long as you understand that and do it for the money and experience it can be fun...definately better than working in an office ot a truck in my case!

    I have a friend who has been an extra since 1968, yes, you read that right 1968...he was one of the street kids in the ensemble number "Consider yourself" in Lionel Barts, Oliver! He does it 'cos he loves it and doesn't want to be an actor per se and has never had more than a few lines here and there!

    I have, and still do to a much lesser extent, done extra work but keep the two areas completely separate...I have an acting agent for acting work and I'm also with Ray Knight for background work and one thing I can guarantee you is I am the most invisible extra on the planet...right at the back of all scenes

    By all means do it, but do it for the money and experience not to get noticed!

    • 18th Nov 2009
    • 1
  • User Deleted

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    I think it's one of those "plucked from the chorus line" hopes which happens once in a blue moon but isn't worth planning your career around!

    I wouldn't recommend doing background work as a route to acting work (it's been discussed on this site a lot and has raised a lot of heat!) though I see its value as useful experience and useful dosh. I've always been advised (by CDs and my agent) that there is a clear divide in this country and to keep any background work off my acting CV. I know some people who do it under a different name. I also know background artistes who say that the best way to continue to get work is NOT to be noticed - that way they can use you again in another scene!

    I have seen people come a cropper by trying to pass off background work as acting work - this can get you a bad name. I think this is because the casting process is usually different and trying to pass off a job for which you have not had to audition as the same as one for which you have had to audition can seem to be trying to make the credit worth "more". (I know that sometimes there are auditions for non-speaking roles).

    Having said that, David's appearance in Spooks was much more memorable and pivotal than some of the speaking roles I've had so sometimes there's no justice!

    • 18th Nov 2009
    • 2
  • Nathan Head

    Actor

    david in spooks?? ooh tell me more..

    • 18th Nov 2009
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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    Well of course the answer is as Forbes has put it "NO!!" However, there has been the odd fairy tale. Didn't Jack Duckworth's character start out as an Extra playing darts in the Rovers Return? They gave him a couple of lines in one epp, and he was worried it might scupper his extra work!!

    Also Graham Cole has just left the bill after 25 years...also started as an extra coppers role!!

    • 18th Nov 2009
    • 4
  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    Cliff Parisi (Minty) also started out as a supporting artist on Eastenders....but the fact remains getting noticed as an extra and breaking into mainstream acting as a result is rarer than rocking horse poop!!

    • 18th Nov 2009
    • 5
  • User Deleted

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    Quite right Mark .. Bill Tarmy (alias Jack Duckworth) was indeed an extra. I have a photograph of a large Granada production featuring Ian Holm, Zoe Wanamaker and myself ... and there in the background was Bill, doing his extra bit. Perhaps it's little known, but Bill didn't just rely on his extra work for a living ... he had a damn good voice and a very busy Cabaret career. !!!!.

    • 18th Nov 2009
    • 6
  • Nathan Head

    Actor

    and he still sings regularly at a venue near where i live.

    • 18th Nov 2009
    • 7
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Being a good extra requires a very different skill set to being an actor.

    It is the art of being anonymous, part of the crowd as it were.

    sometimes you will be called upon for a "special" which will earn a few extra quid and may give you a chance to be seen, but this will not open the doors to Hollywood.

    There was a time when you could make a living out of extra work, but now the business is very over crowded, with most of the big agencies having more than 3000 people on their books, which is more than the current British film/television industry can support.

    Having said that, If you are willing to pay attention, it is a good way to learn about the ins and outs of a film set, indeed the stunt register now requires any aspiring stuntman to do at least 30 days as an extra before they can become a trainee.

    • 18th Nov 2009
    • 8
  • User Deleted

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    Nate ... still wanna know what it is you're doing at that wall !!!! On second thoughts .. don't tell me !!!!.

    • 18th Nov 2009
    • 9
  • Nathan Head

    Actor

    you don't wanna know.. lol

    to reassure you though, I can confirm that I was wearing trousers during.

    • 18th Nov 2009
    • 10
  • Alan Brent

    Actor

    There is so much to learn about being on a film set that it would be a nightmare to walk out onto the 'floor' of a live set for the first time to film a scene where, let's face it with production budgets cut so fine these days, there has been little or no time to rehearse a scene and into a New Environment.

    Everyone needs some experience of being on a 'live' set BEFORE they launch in to their first 'proper' job.

    As a background you will get a lot of experience and learn a lot about etiquette and good practice by watching what happens. You will also become more relaxed when the cameras are rolling.

    So if you want to go for it then by all means do.

    However please do not think for a moment that you will be plucked out of oblivion by it. Liz Dawn and Bill Tarmey are MAJOR exceptions as Jack and Vera. The scriptwriters are well versed and stay tight to their briefs these days and the accountants run the shows not the Producers. So now things are even harder. So from one point of view you can learn and become more comfortable on screen and on set. But your real work will come from talent and a good agent getting you there.

    • 18th Nov 2009
    • 11
  • Toni Brooks

    Actor

    I've just started doing extra work - well since August) as I don't have a day job any more and I really can't face office work again. It really won't get you noticed except for minor things (like walking along behind or past the main characters or being asked to look longingly at a pudding!). I try to keep a low profile too but so far have been asked to do stuff that's really visible - Sod's law. I'm only hoping that the scenes get cut :-)) But having said that - it ain't gonna get me a leading role!

    • 18th Nov 2009
    • 12
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    There isn't much to add to the points that have already been made, but two things that strike me:

    1. Although it was pretty unusual to promote a walk-on to the status of full cast member (!) 30 or 40 years ago, Alan is quite right to suggest that the industry back then was a more fluid body as a whole. There was, perhaps, more acceptance that time could be taken over 'nurturing' an interesting prospect, and it was certainly more expected that many of the extras on any given set would be professional performers as well, because there was initially an expectation in place that supporting parts would be drawn from within the industry, I believe. Although there is a *big* qualitative difference between playing a scripted part with two lines, and being cast as a non - speaking walk on, it *is* worth remembering that the earliest parts played by e.g. Sir Michael Caine were along the lines of 'Guardsman Number 3'. Equally, it is almost certain that someone like Bill Tarmey was very lucky to be immediately employable - I suspect, thanks to his cabaret work, he already held Equity membership (back in the days of the closed shop), otherwise he might have struggled to succeed. However, this older set of practices is no longer in place, and it is now assumed that most extras have little or nothing to do with the industry when they are not engaged in their walk on work. This is an important shift in attitude.

    2. It is more understandable that some (very few) extras can make the transition from being walk-ons to significant featured parts when they serve in background roles on e.g. soap operas for the duration of a lengthy contract period. In this respect, they become (moderately) known to the directors, writers etc. who may begin to beef up involvement for a reliable extra whom they know is readily available for use in selected scenes. Another possibility is that, if it already well known to the production department, that a certain regular extra is a moonlighting actor, then, should there emerge a casting for which they are suitable, they may think first of that extra. In a sense, this is basically an 'in-house' casting. I don't imagine it happens very often - the company would have to trust the actor, many lose that trust immediately because of the known commitments to extras work, and it is not, in a technical sense, a 'promotion' of the extra - it is a separate casting that might have similarly been won had the actor concerned been put forward separately for audition. I can see situations in which these sorts of scenarios could develop - but only in the context of becoming known over a very long contract to the powers that be i.e. repeating week after week the same background role and becoming associated with it to such an extent that the performer concerned is offered extra camera time, the character gains an identity and so on. That can probably only happen in serial programmes like Eastenders or the Bill, which are, to all intents and purposes, neverending. I certainly think there is not the slighest chance of being recognised for your supporting contribution in most filming setups, particularly when the extras are coralled as far away from the 'money' and the production team as possible, shephered in and out as and when needed, frequently left unused, and considered entirely surplus to the production team's needs and requirements.

    • 18th Nov 2009
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  • Mairead Armstrong

    Actor

    Yes - it could happen, particularly if you are a trained actor. Anything can happen ... it's a creative industry

    • 4th Jul 2015
    • 14
  • User Deleted

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    heya. sometimes yes featured extra to walk on to speaking you just never know mate of mine was an extra in casualty now hes playing a character hey u never know. You are just a number a heard of sheep to get the job done so everyone can go home. Luck of the draw :) good luck :)

    • 9th Jul 2015
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  • Sean Ruttledge

    Actor

    I know a lot of actors who won't "lower themselves" to supporting artist roles but are more than happy to wait tables for minimum wage

    • 10th Jul 2015
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  • Toni Brooks

    Actor

    It's not a case of 'lowering' oneself. If you take extra work then you are not taken seriously in the business - simple as that. It's totally different in the States where the mindset is that you work in the profession at any level to gain experience and they applaud that attitude. Here it's a different kettle of fish I'm afraid. Once you're known as an SA then that's what you are known as. A breakthrough doing SA work is SO rare it's like finding hens' teeth. It might change - it did over TV and commercials - but it'll be a long time coming.

    • 10th Jul 2015
    • 17