What is a movie extra?

A movie extra, or “background actor” is someone who fills in the ambience of a movie, TV show or a commercial when the cameras are rolling. For example – It would look pretty weird for two actors to have a conversation in an empty mall, so movie extras get cast to make everything look more natural. Movie Extras are almost never given lines to say, but if they are, they technically become actors while they are saying the lines. It’s not all that challenging, but it is pretty exciting if you like being around the actors and a part of the movie industry.


No Experience or Education Needed

Because each film environment differs, movie extras who are needed to make the set look natural also vary. Therefore, people of all shapes and sizes and ethnicity can get work as movie extras.

Your name in the rolling credits

Even if your scene ends up on the cutting room floor, or it’s hard to spot you in the movie, at the very least your name will shown in the rolling credits at the end of the film that will live on forever.

Easy Work

Extras are used as human props to make a film environment look natural so they often have little or no lines to memorize at all. No big acting skills are required either. They just sit, stand, or walk behind the main actors and they instantly become part of the movie.

Make money doing mostly nothing

You won’t get rich working as an Extra, but you can make a good living. The rate varies from project to project. There are other variables “bit parts and featured extras” that are a bit more exclusive and therefore pays a bit better. You never know when you will be upgraded to a speaking part.


Probably the best reason to take a job working as an extra is that it gives you the ability to network with dozens of fellow people who are all trying to break into the industry in one capacity or another. The contacts you make here might lead to a number of other opportunities down the line as many of the people you come across could perhaps find success in their niche and thus be able to help you in your own career endeavours

Opportunity to learn

If you’re new to the industry, it doesn’t matter how many books you read or classes you take, you can never fully understand the inner workings of a film or television set unless you spend a great deal of time on one. Much of the work on set is done through manual labour. From bashing cable and camera dollies to adjusting lights, props, etc., and a movie set is a factory churning out film and television as its product. Being an extra on a set will expose you to this reality, as well as let you see first-hand what these people do. You might find that there are particular jobs you never even thought of that are appealing to you.

Flexible hours

Extras often have long periods of waiting around during film shoots while the film crew prepare the next shots to be filmed. Waiting around during the film shoot – while getting paid – also means that you have time for internet, reading or texting. Like cast’ actors, Extras are brief-specific and working hours vary according to shooting schedules so it is not a fixed hour, full week job, however working hours might become tedious and long sometimes – art knows no time.

The chance of being “spotted for greatness”

It’s not likely, but it has certainly been known to happen that someone may spot you and realize that you are meant for much more than just background. From casting directors to writers to agents wandering the set, you never know who has their eyes on you. So, being on a set in this capacity might just open up a few doors you never thought possible.

The basic rate for a day on set as a movie extra ranges from R240 to R350 upwards depending on the film company and nature of the part. If you do get asked on the day of the shoot for a speaking role, you will still receive an increased amount.
Each project is different, but it will be communicated to you before you “take the job”. Usually it’s between 8 hours and 12 hours. But it all varies according to shooting schedules and needs of that production.
In almost all cases yes, but it will never be a case where the will expect of you to damage your personal clothing or acquire specialised clothing like sporting gear etc. In such rare cases clothing will be supplied by the production. The type and selection of wardrobe will be given to you in your casting brief. When working in your own clothes, the only expectation is that under NO circumstances may clothing with brand names visible be used.
That’s not a train smash. It is not necessary for you to spend money to fill in your wardrobe, although it is noticed if you have extended range available your exposal, but just let us know if you have a problem and a plan can be made by the production. NEVER assume to improvise. If you arrive on set and your clothing does not match the brief, you will be sent home without payment.
On the contrary, average is good in the Extras’ biz. Extras are hired to create a realistic atmosphere around the principal characters in a production. The world is filled with people of all sizes, shapes and appearances. Reliability is the key to success in getting extended call backs’ as an Extra.
Acting classes are not required to get Extras’ work. When filming, you’ll be given some type of action to do that could involve, walking, running, sitting, cheering, or some other physical movement. However you won’t normally be speaking any lines. Those speaking the lines are known as “principals” or “day players”. In many scenes you will pretend to have a conversation with someone. This is called “pantomime”. Your lips move, but there is no sound. If you plan to get an agent and start going to auditions for speaking roles, then taking acting classes can be very beneficial.
No, it’s not necessary to invest a lot of money for pictures when getting started in this business. Just have a friend take some pictures of you against a white background from the waist up, side and head-to-toe. Try and get a variety of looks, not poses.
There is a small once-off administration fee of R50 involved which will be deducted from your first pay check. As soon as you’ve been called for a production, you are in the system and will no “hidden” charges will be deducted.
If you look right for a part then you definitely will. In other words, if you are short and very skinny, don’t expect to be booked as a bodyguard.
Depending on the payment structure set by the production, payment will be either once a week or every fortnight and is on the same basis cast and crew gets paid.
  • You cannot ever be late. Time is money in this industry and if you cost a production once you’ll never work in the industry again.
  • Long hours of just sitting and doing nothing.
  • Responsible for own transport.
  • You’ll sometimes have to come very early in the morning.
  • It can get boring after doing it many times.

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