You’re watching your favorite tv show, and you see all those people walking around in the background. Who are these people? These individuals are background extras, and they get paid to play up the situation and exist to enhance the atmosphere. Well, we decided to take you through the life of a background extra so you can see what it’s like.
How Do You Start Working as a Background Performer?
Before we get into the details of what a day in the life of a background performer is like, we should highlight how you become one. To start working as a background, you’ll need to sign with a background agency. The agency is responsible for finding you gigs, and they take a percentage of your earnings for the day, typically 10%. Once you sign with them, they’ll typically ask for your availability and send you jobs as they arrive. Typically for a background performer, you’re required to transport yourself to and from the set.
The Day Before
The day before your gig, you’ll typically receive a call sheet and brief in the evening. Sometimes these sheets can come in as late as 10 pm. The call sheets have information about the production and what time you’ll be required on set. It may also contain information on how to do your own hair/makeup and what clothing to bring with you. Typically you’re asked to bring a couple of different options, so travel with a suitcase or weekender bag to ensure you
In the Morning
The call time is 7 am, which means you’re expected to be on set for 7 am. You’re also expected to do your own hair and makeup and come to set ready to go. So you’re up at 4:30 am so you can eat breakfast, get ready and make the hour commute to set. Once on set, the background performer signs in and
gets herded into wardrobe and potentially makeup.
The Rest of the Day
The rest of the day is typically spent waiting until you’re called to set. Takes will be done several times, and the AD (assistant director) will typically provide a little direction on the scene’s course. However, once you’ve wrapped on set, you’re done for the day, and you get paid for the day regardless. If you’ve only worked 6 hours of the 8 hour day, guess what, you’ll get paid for the full 8 hours!
Being a background extra allows you to get up close and personal to a production set and really allows you to see the ins and outs. Of course, there are some downsides to the job, like being unable to speak to the actors or not being able to enjoy crafty. The days are long, but it often gives you time to read a book, get homework done if you’re a student, and other tasks.