Career Profile: Movie Extra
Imagine being on the same screen as famous actors. Although not everyone can have a major part in a film, being an extra can give people experience in movie work while providing an income. If you want a way to get into film acting or you want to earn some money, working as a movie extra could be a good choice.
Almost every movie or television program has scenes with people who are there just to make the scene look real. Some documentaries also have people in these types of roles. These people are called extras or background actors. Customers in stores, people walking along the street, or students in a classroom are all examples of extras.
Normally, no acting experience is necessary for becoming a movie extra, but often directors and producers are looking for a certain type of person. For example, they might be filming a movie that takes place in Sweden or Japan, or they might need people under a certain age.
Casting agencies are good places to look for this sort of work. For instance, the Toronto Film Extras agency matches people with the films that might suit them. Otherwise, social media pages, newspapers, and personal connections are often the best ways to find jobs.
Personal connections were how I found two unpaid roles as a movie extra. The first was in a documentary that included a group departure from the Moscow train station in 1929, filmed at a train station in Winnipeg. I borrowed some of my grandmother’s clothes and one of her suitcases and spent an evening as an emigrant leaving Russia.
My second role was as part of the crowd in a movie about the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. The filming lasted for much of a day and took place in the downtown area where the strike had originally happened. Once again, I found my own costume for the role. I also had to manage with blurred vision, as my glasses were too modern for the era of the movie. For shortsighted people who act as extras regularly, laser surgery or contact lenses would be beneficial.
Although my two roles were unpaid, extras can normally earn a fairly good living, given the right circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the amount of work available, but extras can normally earn close to $200 per day. The work can be tiring and repetitive, and much of the time is spent in waiting. However, even a very long day as an extra can be fun. Costumes and makeup are normally provided if they are necessary, and food is typically available.
Almost any Canadian city potentially have some work for extras, but Toronto and Vancouver are likely to have the most and best-paid options. Joining a union is a good idea, as the standard wage for unionized extras is over $26 per hour but $14 for non-union extras. Finally, being able to follow instructions is the main skill that extras need. If you like acting and want to have a small part in the movies, becoming an extra is a good choice.
Breman, Phil. “How to Become an Extra in Movies and Television.” https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-become-an-extra-in-movies-and-television-1283512.
BlogTO. “How to Be a Movie and TV Extra in Toronto.” https://www.blogto.com/film/2013/02/how_to_be_a_movie_and_tv_extra_in_toronto/.
Brown, Chris and Chris Corday. “B.C. Movie Extras Enjoy Boom Times Thanks to Low Canadian Dollar.” https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-movie-extras-enjoy-boom-times-thanks-to-low-canadian-dollar-1.3438860.
Central Casting. “How to Be an Extra in a Movie.” https://www.centralcasting.com//how-to-be-an-extra-in-a-movie/.
Toronto Film Extras. “Welcome to TFX!” https://www.torontofilmextras.com.