15 Background Actors Tips: Be in Movies, TV

Background actors are the hidden heroes of our favorite TV shows, movies, and commercials. They’re essentially the characters who are not necessarily the focus of the scene, but help bring it to life by being in the background helping to set the scene.

These actors usually have minimal lines and movement when it comes to screen time. And while some people might think that being a background actor is not as prestigious as other types of acting roles, it can actually be a very fun and rewarding experience. Plus it pays!! Read on for more advice on how you can become a successful background actor.

What is a Background Actor or Extra?

Background actors are also known as an extra. An “extra” is someone who has a very small role or no lines in a film or TV show, usually appear in the background, and have no specific description in the credits.

You might have seen extras casting where producers hire people to fill the roles. These are full of background actors who do not have any lines, or do not have specified descriptions. While not featured in the main scene, they are part of it by setting the shot to give a realistic feel.

What Do Background Actors Do?

As a background actor, you will be hired to will in the shot of the set. This job is exciting as you might be walking around, sipping coffee or just pointing in the sky. When you get to work, the producers tell groups of people how they want them to fill in the scene.

You will be part of the scenery so expect to show up on time, follow directions, and do your best to look natural on camera. Depending on the type of background role you’re cast for, you may be sitting in a restaurant booth for a few hours or you may be running across a busy city street for a few minutes.

If you’re cast as a special extra you’ll probably be sitting in the background of a restaurant scene and eating your dinner. You will be eating until the featured actors do as many takes as needed for their lines.

If you get cast as a crowd person,”you’ll be expected to be part of a group shot and look natural. You may be asked to dress in a certain way or have a specific “look” for the scene. You may be asked to smile or frown or do something specific with your hands.

Background Acting – It’s a Real Job

When most people think of background actors, they may think of it as a hobby or a break from the daily grind. That’s understandable, but there are many people who become background actors as a full-time career. It is not uncommon for someone to work on a TV show for 5 or 6 days a week for 10 hours a day.

There are also opportunities for background actors to work in movies, commercials, and even music videos. It’s important to realize that background acting is a real job, and that there are others out there who may want your job as a background actor. Getting the gig is a competitive process! You want to make a good first impression and make the director, producer, and other crew members want to hire you again. That impression starts with your audition where you show what skills you have to offer. Of course, you don’t want to forget the clothing you wear during an acting audition.

15 Background Actor Tips for any Beginner:

1. Be on Time (Or a Few Minutes Early)

Being on time for your first few gigs can be crucial to building a good reputation as a background actor. If you show up to the set late for a few days in a row, you’ll likely be fired.

It’s important to be on time for a few reasons. You want to make sure you’re there in time to be fully prepared and ready to go when you’re expected to start. This gives you some extra time to relax, use the bathroom, check your social media, etc. It also gives you time to see what other people are doing and talk to others who are there. Don’t worry, you’ll fit right in.

2. Sign In and Out (For Your Pay)

While most background actors are keen on the idea of getting paid to be on a set, know that you may have to wait a few weeks to actually get paid. SInce this is a real job, expect a real paycheck just like any other work. Paychecks are typically written every other week.

Therefore, you need to sign in and out for your pay. Whether you’re working as an extra on a TV show or a commercial, or have a specific background role, you will likely sign in and out for your pay. This is so that the production company knows how many hours you worked and how much they owe you.

It’s important to know how you’ll be paid as a background actor so you can plan accordingly. Ask at the check in for details of the day. Typically, the PA will be happy to share the details.

3. Be Flexible

Background actors set the scene of almost every shot in TV, films and movies.

The background actors are essentially at the whim of the director. He (or she) may decide to change how the background looks or move around people to make the shot visually appealing. You will need to be flexible and pay attention to details. You should be ready to step up and be a team player. Be flexible and ready to help out whenever possible. Don’t be surprised if being flexible also means staying later. You will get paid for waiting, but sometimes a good meal at Denny’s or a cup of coffee at Starbucks is necessary to keep waiting.

4. Follow Cast Directions and Instructions

As background actors, you are expected to follow the directions of the cast and crew members. This is because they know best how they want the scene to look and want everything to go smoothly. For example, if you’re asked to sit in the booth of a restaurant and eat, you’re expected to do just that. You’re expected to sit there, talk to the waitress and eat as if you were a real customer who walked into the restaurant.

You’re expected to follow the directions of the other crew in the scene like a real customer would as well. If you’re asked to do something specific, such as “sit quietly and use your phone,” then do it. The background typically has one or two individuals directing the actors. However, you might get directions from camera operators, the executive director and even assistants as they maneuver how they want to shot to look

5. Be Quiet When On Set

When you’re on set and the cameras are rolling, you’re expected to be quiet. This is because you don’t know when the director will yell “cut” or when they’ll want to start the next take.

They may be waiting for the right lighting, or the right moment, or even for someone to walk into the scene. It’s best to be quiet so that you don’t disrupt the flow of the set. If you have to make a phone call, do it in the car, or during a break. . Be quiet when you’re on set so that you don’t disrupt anyone.

6. Research the Show: Be Prepared

When you sign on for a background actors job, you need to be prepared for anything. Although you may know what episode you’re in, you don’t generally know what scenes you’ll be in. So, you need to make sure you are thoroughly familiar with the show and have a solid grasp of the basic plot.

At the very least, you need to know who the main characters are and what role they play. You’ll also want to know about any specific terminology that is used throughout the show, such as character names or plot points.

Blocking is key when it comes to knowing your surroundings as a background actor. Blocking refers to the positioning of the actors and props seen on camera. You need to make sure you know where you are in relation to the other actors and where you should be standing in relation to the camera.

7. Know your Blocking for the Scene

When hired as background actors, there will be times when you are given specific blocking instructions and marks for scenes. That is when you are asked to move in a certain way to help the scene unfold.

Blocking is similar to stage directions, and the director will generally tell you when to move or walk, where to look, and how you should hold your body. Even if you are not given specific blocking, you should be aware of where you should be standing and what props are around you so they are not visible on camera.

Blocking is crucial and often changes between takes and even between scenes. So, it’s important to follow the director’s instructions and do what you are told.

8. Bring your Own Clothes and Props When Asked

When you are background actors, you will most likely be wearing a costume. You may be wearing period clothing, a swimsuit, or something else. It’s important to make sure you are in the correct attire and have any necessary props. Sometimes you are wearing everyday clothing too!

If you’re not sure what you’re supposed to wear, ask the wardrobe department or another background actor who has been in that scene before. You don’t want to miss out on a gig simply because you are not wearing the correct clothing.

You should also make sure you have any necessary props, such as a weapon or a product you are supposed to be holding in a commercial. If you’re not sure what you need, ask your agent or the casting director.

9. Don’t Be Asking for Autographs

As much as the actors appreciate your enthusiasm, they are there to do a job, and not to be distracted by your requests for autographs. In addition, you may distract them from their work. You may also risk getting on the bad side of the casting directors and directors, who will be the ones to decide whether you will get called back to work on future projects. Background actors never, ever ask for autographs.

10.Clean Up after Yourself

While you may not be the main focus of the scene, the production crew and directors will still be watching you to make sure you perform your background role correctly. And they will point out anything that’s trash. Trust me! Background actors are on film often and producers watch carefully.

Be sure to clean up after yourself, so that you do not disrupt the flow of the set, and the production team does not have to waste valuable time cleaning up after you.

If there is food or drinks provided for the crew, be sure to dispose of them properly after the scene is over, so that nobody trips over them and falls on set.

11. Bathroom Breaks

There may be times when you are performing a long background scene, and you will need to go to the bathroom. At this point, you need to let the producers know and ask if you can be excused from the set for a few minutes. Background actors who don’t take breaks when there are official cast and crew breaks could be denied to leave (or not allowed back).

If you are allowed, be aware that you may only be allowed to take a quick break and come right back to the set. If this is the case, be sure to go before you start to perform the scene, so that you don’t have to interrupt production and take a longer break later.

12. Keep the Cell in the Pocket

If you are given instructions on your role, be sure to follow them completely and be focused at the task at hand. This means you need to keep your phone in your pocket while you are on the set, so that you do not disrupt the production team with any sounds or vibrations from your phone. This sounds crazy, but I know more background actors that have been let go over this simple tip than any other.

If you are given any specific instructions, be sure to follow them. For example, if you are told to walk with a certain speed, and you walk too quickly or slowly, you may disrupt the flow of the scene. This may result in the director asking you to walk again, which means you will lose out on potential payment, and may also risk losing future opportunities to be a background actor.

13. Be Prepared for the Down Time

While hanging background actors can be a fun and exciting experience, it also comes with a lot of down time. From setting up shots to waiting for celebrity actors, there is no exact science on how long a scene could talk.

This means it can be a good idea to bring a book or some other form of entertainment to pass the time while you are on set. Some actors actually use their cell phone to pass the time. From reading to listening to podcasts, it’s a great way to pass the time.

14. Don’t forget to breathe and enjoy yourself!

This is probably the most important tip on this list. Being a background actor is extremely fun, but it can also be very hectic and stressful. You will likely be in multiple scenes and shooting in several different locations.

So, you need to be prepared for long days, lots of walking, and very little sleep. But, don’t let that stress you out. Instead, try to enjoy the ride and be thankful that you get to be a part of such amazing productions.

When you are immersed in the world of being an actor, one important thing to remember is that you need to breathe. Proper breathing techniques can help you stay calm and relaxed. When you are calm and relaxed, you will be able to perform better.

15. Don’t Complain

If you are offered the opportunity to be a background actor for a shoot, you should be thankful for the opportunity. Some actors spend years trying to break into the industry and get a chance to work as a background actor. What’s even better is that the gig will usually pay you for the work you put in.

In Conclusion

If you want to get ahead of the game and make money consider working like other background actors and follow these tips. It is important to understand the different types of gigs that are out there and how to get them. It is also important to realize that some people may consider being a background actor to be less prestigious than other types of acting roles. It can actually be a very fun and rewarding experience. So go out there, audition for roles, and get ready for your next gig.

If you follow these background actor tips, you’ll be able to find and book more gigs as a background actor. You’ll also have a lot more fun on set and meet lots of new people along the way. And who knows, you may even get promoted to a speaking role on set one day.

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