Let's start this article with an obvious but important question and answer.
Q: What are "Extras"?
A: Extras, also referred to as background actors or background talent, are performers placed in the background of a scene in a film or TV show to make scenes/atmospheres feel more realistic to the viewers. Aspiring actors can perform 'extra' work on television or movie sets as a part-time job to make money, or to help boost their acting careers.
"With any part you play, there is a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it's just not acting. It's lying."
- Johnny Depp
Hollywood Stars Who Started as Extras
Believe it or not, some of Hollywood's biggest stars started as extras! Below are just the Top 5 Megastars that came from the background to the centre stage!
- Brad Pitt - 'Less Than Zero' (1987). Brad's portrayal as a partygoer in a vest top and sunglasses got him noticed for other future roles.
- Jackie Chan - ‘Enter The Dragon’ (1973). Yes! That's right everyone's favourite 'Rush Hour' star started off by getting his neck snapped as an extra in a Bruce Lee film!
- George Clooney - ‘Centennial’ (1978). It's hard to believe that Hollywood's most desired bachelor for over three decades, I know most beloved actor once started off as an extra. But very few people could pull off a peasant tricorn hat the way George didn't very first role as he lugged a heavy barrel in the background of a scene.
- Renee Zellweger - ‘Dazed And Confused’ (1993). It's hard to believe that our beloved Bridget Jones/Miss Potter came from the background and didn't just emerge as a star! But, Renee simply started her career as an extra in a scene as just one of the many high school girls enjoying the beginning of summer.
- Sylvester Stallone - ‘Bananas’ (1971) Before he was Rocky or Rambo, like the rest of our Megastars on this list, Slyvester Stallone started out as an extra. He starred in a small but memorable role in the comedy written by Mickey Rose and Woody Allen.
So needless to say, if you were wondering if it is worthwhile being an extra, the answer is yes!
"I am not the richest, smartest or most talented person in the world, but I succeed because I keep going and going and going."
- Sylvester Stallone
Check out our article that talks about famous Irish actors.
Free Ways to Become an Acting Extra
There are a few different ways to become an acting extra, first, we are going to look at the options that mean you don't have to pay. However, as always, if you're not going to pay for a service it does mean you will have a lot more work to do yourself.
Netflix is one major company always looking for extras and, they don't just use agencies. Netflix advertise everywhere! On social media, in local media (newspapers and radio) and online adverts.
When they have acting roles they want filled Netflix are all about getting the right person for the role despite your level of experience so I highly recommend googling and searching on your social media accounts for Netflix extras auditions on the regular.
Reasons to Pay for the Job to Come to You
If your budget allows it's a good idea to sign up for at least one Extras Agency.
I can already hear you questioning this advice, but if your time is limited when it comes to seeking out roles for yourself, being part of these agencies means that they will submit your portfolio to every casting call it's appropriate for.
It's also important to remember that agencies have access to movie and tv casting calls that the general public doesn't. So the subscription and contract fee may end up worth it while you're waiting for your big break!
"I think acting is something that is within you. It's a very natural thing for me. It comes from myself, really."
- Saoirse Ronan
What Extras Agencies are in Ireland?
There are actually quite a few different extras agencies in Ireland. For this article, I'm going to focus on the ones whose clients end up on the set of the shows and films you know and love.
The Extras Dept
Despite their headquarters being based in Belfast Nothern Ireland, The Extras Dept is one of the biggest Extras agencies on the entire island of Ireland. The Extras Dept is actually free to sign up to which is rare so why not visit their website and get started?
Based in Wickl0w MovieExtras.ie have been involved in over 1,200 productions from tv shows to films and even advertisements. Joining MovieExtras.ie costs €89.95 for a year per adult.
Your acting technique will vary depending on your medium. Acting for the camera is very different from acting for a live audience; doing commercial voiceover work will require different training than preparing for a musical theatre audition. Of course, many actors move from stage to screen and back again throughout their careers.
But it may be helpful, as you begin your acting career, to consider which medium you're most interested in. That way when you sign up for an extras agency you will know which jobs you want to take.
The 3 main types of acting?
- Screen acting: Films, television, commercials, web series
- Stage acting: On-Broadway and off-Broadway, musical theatre
- Voice acting: Animation, radio ads, podcasts, video games, audiobooks
Whichever type of acting you venture into, we wish you all the best and hope your journey is filled with memorable and fun experiences!
The platform that connects tutors and students