7 Mistakes You’re Making as an Extra and How to Avoid Them
Posted by StarNow on 16 May, 2018

7 Mistakes You’re Making as an Extra and How to Avoid Them


We recently caught up with Krissi McIlquham, Mad Dog 2020 Casting's Head of Casting to discuss the extras industry and how to get involved in the UK film and TV scene. With a background in acting, producing and casting, Krissi's experience and knowledge offers an insight into the do's and don'ts of working as an extra.

Can you give some advice on basic set etiquette for extras? Like in most jobs, you are only as good as your last. The crew will remember those with bad manners as much, if not more, as those with good ones so professionalism is an absolute must. Good etiquette also reflects on your agency, so the more you represent yourself well, the more work you are likely to get. In terms of basics, making life as easy as possible for the 2nd Assistant Director, and other crew is the key, a few simple rules to work by are:

  • Be on time, if not a little early. Punctuality is key.
  • Make sure you sign in, don’t just join the crowd and then sign out again at the end of the day.
  • Clothing options – make sure they’re clean, ironed and avoid logos.
  • Don’t ask for selfies/autographs.
  • Take a book – not an audio device (so you don’t miss any instructions).
  • Take layers to set – invest in some thermals, even indoor shoots can be cold, and it is easier to take layers off than spend the day freezing.

What are some of the biggest mistakes extras make and how can they avoid them?

1. Not turning up Sometimes people think extras are just in the background and don't make a difference if they're not there, but background is absolutely key to creating authentic scenes. Background is also individually selected by production, it is not just a sea of faces, and people are selected based on their look. If people then drop out, it reflects poorly on both the artist and the agency.

2. Asking to leave early Always keep the whole day free for a shoot. If a production has booked you for a day, they need you to stay until they get everything they require.

3. Being loud Keeping noise levels on set to a minimum is critical so that no background noise is picked up on camera. It also means that no one misses any important information from the crew.

4. Not listening to instructions from crew Days on set can be really long so delays are the last thing anybody on set wants. When instructions are given, they should be followed in order for the shoot to run as smoothly as possible.

5. Looking directly at camera Act like the camera isn't there!

6. Not notifying agency of changes in appearance It's important to keep your agency up to date with your current look. If a person who looks different to the person the production think they are booking turns up to set, it reflects poorly on both the artist and the agency, potentially jeopardising the agency's relationship with the production and future work. For example, if you have been booked on a period shoot and turn up with green hair…

7. Continuity mistakes Alongside the above, if you've been on set with a beard, for example, if you then turn up for subsequent days clean-shaven, it affects the continuity of the scene. Always check with your agent before making any physical changes that may affect an on-going shoot.

What are the benefits of getting on a major Feature Film set and what can you learn? If you are looking to train as an actor, you get to watch the pros at work, you learn about film (continuity, camera set ups, what goes into lighting) and meet more people. You are also more likely to get continuity shoots on a feature film and the bigger budgets mean better sets and costume, so the experience really is invaluable.

What training / prep can you do to give yourself the best chance of succeeding in TV/film? No training is actually needed to be a film extra, just be registered with many agencies as possible.

To increase your chances of getting work make sure you have:

  • A show reel (if you’re an actor).
  • A variety of professional/nonprofessional photos.
  • Uniforms (sometimes productions ask for people with their own costumes/uniforms so if you have them, make it known!).

Are there any famous extras? Don't ask me, ask the actor Phil Glenister!




Want to be an extra and link in the UK?
Sign up to Mad Dog 2020 at www.maddog2020casting.com or via their free app 'Mad Dog 2020' in your app store.

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