Curious about how-to-get more work as a background actor (extra) in New York City? I recently moved here (3 months ago) and have been working full-time as a background actor (extra) for TV, films, and commercials.
On the set of Blue Bloods. I’m second from left, portraying a detective who is typing information into his cell phone. It was a blackberry, a prop. It did not turn on.
A background actor (extra) is the person you see in the background of the camera. Often, the extras are doing cross overs (walking in front of or behind the main actors).
After a few TV shows, I spoke with veteran background actor, Bryan, and some others, and collected tips and strategies for getting more extra work. Also, I put some information that I learned on my own in here as well.
So, here are tips and strategies on how to get more work as a background actor (extra) in New York City. Share with your friends, and leave comments too, using the social media buttons that follow this post.
How to Get More Work as a Background Actor (Extra) in New York City
1. Join http://www.Showfax.com (when you join, you also get free membership to http://www.actorsaccess.com)
When you join ShowFax, you automatically get a membership to Actor’s Access. This is a 2-for-1 deal. Nice!
2. Join http://www.castingnetworks.com. Sign up for their unlimited photo option. Take photos of yourself in different outfits. Also, bring a digital camera or high quality cell phone camera to sets, and have people take photos of you in different outfits, so casting agencies can get an idea of what you look like in different outfits. In a way, an extra is just a prop, so be the prop that has many different costumes.
Find a clothing store that has high quality clothes at reasonable prices. Always be sure to keep the receipts, in case you do not need the clothes on set, so you can return them.
I like H&M. You might like Gap or Old Navy or Banana Republic. I think H&M has reasonably priced clothes a good selection.
Daphne Groeneveld. My future girlfriend. Model for H&M.
If you like H&M, you can save 20% per item, only one coupon per store. But, I did this with 6 coupons at the H&M store on 34th Street in Manhattan. The clerk was kind enough to ring them up individually. Even though I spent about $130, I reduced the price by about $35.
To get the coupon, visit: http://www.hm.com/us/newsletter Open up another web page and set up multiple email accounts. For each email, you’ll save 20% on the purchase. Although it’s only supposed to be one coupon per one time per store, the clerk I encountered allow me to ring up multiple items, one at a time, at the same store, reducing my purchase by about $35 dollars.
I did this myself, by setting the digital camera on 10-second automatic setting, and standing in front of a plan wall. Before doing this, I removed the couches in the background, so it’s just me, with the plain wall. Then, I took the photo into Photoline, a free (for trial use) photo editing program, and cropped the photo. Use a free photo editing program (Google search to find one) to crop the photo and make sure there’s a plain background. If you use a flash, you can do movement. If not using a flash, be still for 3-5 seconds.
3. Go to the Grant Wilfley website http://gwcnyc.com.
Go over their website. Read the FAQs. Find out when they have an open casting, and when they do, go! Get your measurements (for clothes) beforehand. Just go to a dollar store nearby and purchase a measuring tape (for a dollar or two) and measure your body, to get your chest/bust size, waist size, hip, inseam, neck size, sleeve length, hat size, coat length, coat size, glove size, shoe size. If you don’t know how to do this, just Google search for “how to find my hat size”, etc.
In the meantime, email Grant Wilfley and express your interest in being a background actor (extra). Attach pictures. Include your contact information. Include your clothing sizes information. Be polite. Keep it brief.
4. Go to Central Casting website at http://www.centralcasting.com, and apply with them at their NYC offices. You can apply during the week. Check their website for details. Get your measurements (for clothes) beforehand. See #3. Go to Facebook, search for Central Casting, and “like” it, so you can get updates on their castings.
5. Join Casting Networks
Pay a monthly or yearly fee for unlimited photos at Casting Networks website (http://www.castingnetworks.com. Take photos of yourself in different outfits and at different extra jobs, so casting directors can get an idea of what you look like in different outfits, playing different characters (doctor, lawyer, business person, upscale casual, airline pilot, waiter, street person, club goer, theatre patron). On Facebook, search for Casting Networks and “like” their page, so you can get updates when they need background actors (extras).
6. “like” Central Casting NY on Facebook and you’ll get their updates. Here’s their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/centralcastingny?ref=ts&fref=ts
7. “like” Grant Wilfley on Facebook and you’ll get their updates. Here’s their FB page:
8. Google search “NYC casting agencies for actors extras”. Go to their websites. Apply.
9. Visit http://www.sylviafaycasting.com and sign up. I signed up for their free account, and get emailed casting notices.
10. Visit http://www.mandy.com and sign up
11. Visit http://www.amerifilmcasting.com and click on “contact” and send in your bio and pictures to their address, so you’ll be on file with them.
12. Visit http://www.bgroundinc.com and send in your bio and pictures to their address
13. Visit http://barbmcasting.com/ and click on “contact”. Send an email with pictures of yourself, some information about what your experience is as a background actor, your clothes sizes, and availability and contact info.
14. Visit http://www.comercasting.com/ Send an email with pictures of yourself, some information about what your experience is as a background actor, your clothes sizes, and availability and contact info.
15. Log onto Facebook, then, type in these pages into your URL (address bar) and “like” these pages. Doing this will enable you to see rush calls and, sometimes, notices for upcoming casting jobs for film, TV, commercials.
Visit and “like” these Facebook pages:
(Sylvia Fay Casting)
(Barbara McNamara Casting) – casts for the show “30 Rock”
(Grant Wilfley Casting)
(Facebook group for New York Background Artists)
(Facebook group for Background Actors Guild)
Go to the above websites and like them. Either copy and paste the exact URL, after logging into Facebook, or go onto Facebook and search for the name in the parenthesis). This way, you’re likely to hear about castings that might be coming up, especially rush calls.
Additional Tips on Getting More Work as a Background Actor
I spoke with Brian, a longtime extra, and he gave me this advice in order to maintain a good reputation with the casting agencies and to get more work as an extra.
Me and Togrul (Piano) on set of Smash.
Ask wardrobe tips on what to wear to fit the look of the show. (You can also watch clips of the shows on Hulu, NetFlix, or YouTube to get a feel for what the extras and actors wear.
2. Show eagerness
Be the first in line. Show eagerness. (Arrive early. Bring ID, social security card, passport. Be first or near the front of the line. Be helpful. Clean up after yourself and others. When everyone’s leaving their trash everywhere, pick it up and put it in the garbage before you leave, so the PA’s won’t have to do this.
3. Show Appreciation
Send personal email to casting agencies, such as Grant Wilfley, Central Casting, Casting Networks, to the casting directors, saying: “Hi. I’m somewhat new to being an extra, and I am eager to work. So, if you have upcoming jobs for extras, and I fit the role, please consider me. Thanks.”
4. Thrift Store Shop
Find and visit thrift stores for good deals on high quality, durable, classic type clothing. You can use Yelp for this, although I’ve found them to be unreliable, as the Goodwill thrift stores in Manhattan got a good rating, and when I visited them, the clothes selection was bad. Buffalo Exchange – high end thrift at low prices. H&M – reasonable prices for comfortable casual clothes.
5. Join Casting Networks
Pay a monthly or yearly fee for unlimited photos at Casting Networks website (http://www.castingnetworks.com. Take photos of yourself in different outfits and at different extra jobs, so casting directors can get an idea of what you look like in different outfits, playing different characters (doctor, lawyer, business person, upscale casual, airline pilot, waiter, street person, club goer, theatre patron).
6. Find the camera
Always look where the camera is at but don’t make it obvious.
Me, Jasmine, Togrul (Piano) on set of Royal Pains.
7. Be Social
Network. Meet people. Introduce yourself. Show interest. Ask questions. Listen.
8. Listen and Be Obedient
Follow instructions. When the PA’s (Production Assistants) ask you to do something, do it. If they ask you to throw away your trash, then throw away your trash.
9. Be kind
Be kind. Be polite. Be helpful.
Visit my FB Page for NYC Extras
Remember to like and to tell your extra friends about http://www.facebook.com/NYCextras This is a page I set up for extras to connect and to share information about what sets have the best working conditions and upcoming projects.
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Li and me, at the United Palace Theatre, Washington Heights, NYC. Smash.
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