First Time Background Actors Guide To Set

A First Time Background Actor’s Guide to Being on Set
Below is a helpful little guide that I wrote for all the first time extras we’re going to be filming with on this upcoming show. A lot of times, you’ll find yourself with a boatload of extras who have never even seen a film set before. This guide should help them better understand the ins and outs of being an extra on a professional film set, whether they’re paid or unpaid.
Welcome Extras!
So you’ve been cast to be an extra with our film production. Congratulations! Many folks think about doing this, but never get the chance. First and foremost, I would like you to know how important you are to the production. Without background actors, scenes feel flat, eerie, and just don’t pull the viewer in. Background and featured extras are the hot sauce to an awesome breakfast taco. So welcome aboard! We’re so excited to be working with you!
Since many of you have never been on a set before, I’ve made this handy little guide here to help make your experience on our set as pleasant as possible.
-Prepare yourself! Make sure you get all the information you need from the casting director. What kind of extra are you cast for? Do you need to bring wardrobe or props? Should you wear makeup or do your own hair? The casting director will make sure to answer all these questions for you!
-Be on time. Timing on films is very important and we want to have the maximum amount of time with you we can on set.
-Bring something to do while between shots. Sometimes, there’s a long wait before you’re actually called to set. This can be due to any number of things. Bring a book, your laptop, iPad, knitting, homework, etc.
-Plan to be there all day. Try not to book anything that same day or else we may not be able to shoot with you at all L. If you do have to leave at a certain time, please let us know before your shoot day. If something comes up while you are with us, please let the casting director or 2ndAssistant Director know ASAP.
-When the camera’s rolling, we ask everyone to stay quiet until cut is called. This includes no whispering, moving around, or making noise.
-When you need to use the restroom, Please notify a PA or an Assistant Director before leaving the holding area or set.
-Cellphones must be off during roll. Wireless signals can cause issues with our sound recording.
-Make sure you fill out your photo release form! We can’t put you in the scene without your permission.
-Please no photography of the cast on set. You are welcomed to take pictures of the crew and the equipment, but per our legal agreement, we cannot allow any photography of the cast on set by anyone outside of our designated set photographers.
-If the schedule requires you to stay through lunch period, please wait until a PA or assistant director invites you to the lunch line once cast and crew have lined up. Sometimes, productions will have a separate meal for background actors. The PA on duty or assistant director will be able to answer questions regarding meal and snacks. Feel free to bring snacks with you to your shoot day.
-When you’re on set, the 1st Assistant Director (AD) will help place you according to where the director wants you placed. PAs or the 2ndAssistant Director may also help give direction on what you’ll be doing in the scene.
-Never look directly at the lens during filming.
-Wait until you hear your cue to start. Your cue will most likely be the word “background!” The AD will run a rehearsal before rolling to make sure you’re all clear and the director likes what you are doing. Feel free to ask the AD questions about movement and performance!
-Please be respectful of our cast and crew and try to keep non-scene related questions off-set. However, if you are given direction or terms you don’t understand, you are more than welcomed to ask the AD for clarification!
-When you are asked to fake a conversation with another background actor, we will ask you to “pantomime” the conversation. Pantomiming simply means moving your mouth as if you were actually talking. You won’t actually be talking! Many people silently say “watermelon ruder baker” over and over again. Be careful to not whisper!
-Please remain quiet between takes. When we have a lot of background actors, it becomes quite loud on set when everyone is having a conversation between takes. Crew and cast will need a quiet set to keep communication flowing, so please be courteous and keep conversations and volumes to a dull roar while on set.
-When an AD tells everyone to “go back to 1”, this means you are going to do the take over again. Your “1” or “first position” is the position you are in at the beginning of the take.
-When you’re wrapped, a PA or AD will be present to make sure you get back to the holding area to gather your personal belongings and make sure your paperwork is filled out correctly. Once you’ve checked out with the AD, you are all set to head out.