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Acting Extra Work
How to become a TV Extra with where to find acting work and jobs
This is an ordinary person, just like you or me, who has an interest in television and wants to appear on TV or on a film as a background support artist. There are many motivations such as the celebrity fame of watching the box or even being in a cinema and pointing to the screen and shouting "That's Me!"
Equity rates for one day, which is about nine hours, is about £65. Some companies like BBC, ITV, Cable and Satellite Channels may pay more and overtime and unsocial hour's rates are available for nights and bank holidays. Acting extra work that require you to perform certain skills like horse riding, skating, etc or have your hair cut really short will usually pay more. If you have to perform a specific action, such as lying down, then this will pay more because it is considered a stunt, albeit a safe one.
One other way to get more money from TV extra work is to try and get some appearances in the same shot as a star or main principal character. They call this the money shot because they get an instant bonus payment, even if the shooting is only a few seconds of screen time. The average payment for this is an additional £20 on top of the daily wage.
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Be An Extra
You will have to pay tax and may be liable for National Insurance Contributions. You can claim certain expenses though. For example mileage to drive to the location, or train or bus fares or joining websites that help you find advertising, film or TV extra jobs. If it is far from home and over a few days and you need to stay late or arrive in the early morning you may be able to claim the Hotel or Bed and Breakfast accommodation charges - please don't stay in a 5 star Hotel in the Penthouse Suite though - I doubt the Tax Man will see this as a necessary expense!
Drama students will often be an extra to gain valuable experience in front of the camera under an experienced director and to see first hand the production whilst earning. Other people, like pensioners or house husbands/wives, may go with a group of friends to earn money and meet their friends or new friends. Whatever your reason - have fun and enjoy the experience.
Even animals and pets can appear on films, music videos, catalogues, magazines and adverts. Agencies specialise in finding opportunities for your pet dog, cat, rabbit, fish, snake, guinea pig, hamster etc.
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There are no barriers - you will be chosen because the directors want you to be as normal and casual as possible, to blend into the background and make the set appear natural. So no matter what your age, sex, race, height, weight, appearance or disability - there will be something available for you. There is normally no training needed, you do not need to be a member of the union Equity and no qualifications are needed - just an ability to listen to information and follow directions.
Some may ask them to provide their own clothing. This is a legitimate expense and should be claimed on your self assessment forms and get receipts. Though do check the contract or ask your agent - some productions may provide the clothing to be worn. For example if it is a Science Fiction or Middle Ages set then your day clothes are going to look out of place and you will be provided with a uniform or costume.
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If this has not answered your questions or you need some more advice then please e-mail me. I would also welcome any advice to increase the information to make it more useful to others. I would also appreciate it if you were to send our link to your friends, forums and social media.
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You may have the added perk of a canteen or catering van with some fresh wholesome food. Unfortunately you have to eat last - the stars, producers, directors, make up artists and other regular crew get to eat first because they are the most important people to the production and may be doing long hours and be in constant demand. You are still important to the project - but remember you are not there to shine or be the next newly found star - you are there to support the story's key players and blend into the background - who knows though, one day you may get your moment of fame and get to eat first! For the moment just be patient, listen to the director, play your part well and use the opportunity to learn and maybe do some discrete networking. Who knows - you are in charge of your career and this is another role on your Curricula Vitae.
Though you may be contracted to a day's filming and be on set for several hours at a time there can be a great deal of hanging around. Do resist the temptation to pester the actors asking for tips - some may welcome chatting with you - others may like time to learn their lines, go to make up or just rest. Please do resist the temptation to ask for an autograph and don't take photographs. Both are seen as bad etiquette and will probably ensure you never get used again.
Spend this waiting time quietly reading a book or newspaper. Go to wardrobe and makeup promptly because they have a tight schedule and do return any props. You normally have these signed out on your release form and should get this signed before leaving the studio or location. This signature and form is needed for you to get your payment which generally can take a month or longer to get to you.
They do not get trailers or rooms. If you find your acting extra jobs are at location shoots you should plan for wet and cold weather with waterproofs and warm clothing. In summer weather you should bring a hat to shade you from the sun.
How To Become A TV Extra
Help your career by finding more by looking in the yellow pages for local acting agencies or sign up for free at www.beonscreen.co.uk which has more how to become a TV extra opportunities.
If you are prepared and able to travel then register with as many online actors or agency websites as you can. There may be a small administrative charge for showing your CV and photo to casting directors agents. Do try and get some professional photographs taken to highlight your abilities. Many will be looking for a certain person and some good quality pictures will help you. Try and get photos that are 10" by 8" as this seems to be the preferred size.
Do list your talents and abilities on your CV. For example a director may be looking for someone who can drive, play a piano, perform martial arts, juggle, dance, fly fish, etc.
Other information you should include on your CV should be your date of birth, age, statistics including height and weight, chest, waist, hat and feet sizes and any relevant skills and experience.
Do consider websites and companies that will allow you to register your CV for free and be viewed by prospective employees such as media offices of television and radio. This office employement could lead to bigger things and may aid you in building up your contacts and knowledge.
It is tempting to write directly to productions, studios or directors in an attempt to find extra work. However this is considered bad etiquette and most professionals would only consider applications and CVs through a walk on agency.
Be prepared to travel; most productions and agencies are based in London, England though there are some based in Scotland and Wales and other English counties. So if you live in say Manchester, Cardiff, Liverpool or Edinburgh you may have to fund your own travel costs and consider enrolling at an agency in another town or city. Such travel costs are a legitimate income tax expense and can be claimed on your annual self assessment forms. Do remember to keep receipts as proof of costs.
The Casting Suite
They are one of the UK's biggest and most respected websites for talent search for those wanting to hire someone. You can join and be seen by many producers, directors or agents looking for people for television commercials, adverts, pop videos, singing, modelling, reality TV programmes, voice overs or magazine photo shoots. If you have a well trained or unusual pet, a vintage car or motorcycle you can register these as another way of getting on the telly.
The Casting Suite have built a national database of people, pets, vehicles and teams that film, television and advertising producers, directors and casting agents can view. They have over 500 industry professionals looking though their site each day and they could be viewing your photograph, show reel and CV. They will also film your showcase reel which can be added to your webpage so that producers, directors and other actors and singers can see and hear your talent.
These can help you get paid extra work when they see your web page portfolio and photographs that they help you to build and promote: they have helped up to 10000 people.
It featured on Living TV in a documentary which followed the real life experiences of people who have joined them and found success. It followed their clients as they applied and those who successfully gained employment. The programme followed them at work in Eastenders and during an advert. It also showed the life that Jodi, Caroline, Marcus, Barney and Apostolos lead including auditions for the new George Clooney mobie, the Lemar music video and the Boots toothpaste advert. It also went behind the scenes giving the viewer a real life look at life behind the camera and the show business scene.
For example the first episode featured Steve Daly the Casting Director watching auditions and a model agency filming their models on a show reel to help them break through.
One interesting episode went behind the scenes of BBC Casualty and a day in the life of hospital porter Paul "Oscar" Anderson who has been behind the scenes in casualty for many years.
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