How Do You Become An Extra In A Movie?
In Ireland, it’s much easier than you might think! There’s no need to be an actor, to have taken acting classes, or to be in a union. To be an extra in a movie, just sign up with one or more of the major Extras Casting Agencies in Ireland, and you’re all set.
Being cast as a movie extra (also known as background talent or a supporting actor) is a mixture of both glamor and mundanity. Stirring acting is not required. An extra is a nonspeaking role in a movie, TV show, or a commercial. Extras fill out the scenes and make them look more realistic
Depending on your objective, it can be a hobby for retirees, a chance to meet new people, a little extra income, a decent income, a chance to see the stars, or an invaluable first step for new actors to get their foot in the door.
For those looking to go further in the industry, extras work is a low-pressure way to gain first-hand experience on a real film or TV set. You might be paid to just sit in a café or walk (“wipe”) past camera while it’s rolling, but you’ll see experienced actors and crew working, and gain an understanding of the terms of the trade. Over time, you’ll build relationships with assistant directors and production assistants. This’ll be invaluable as you progress your acting career. Being an extra can mean long hours, outdoor shoots, and sometimes uncomfortable conditions (e.g. fighting in the mud, rain, and cold in the Wicklow mountains as a Viking), but it’s great prep work for bigger roles.
How to Join an Extras Casting Agency
The two most popular Irish agencies are Movies Extra and Celtic Casting. They each charge about €70 per year. You can sign up online, and complete the process on a smart phone. It’s not necessary to audition or read a script. Upload your details, a decent headshot and body photo (they don’t have to be professionally taken—just clear, honest, and in colour), and you’ve just become an extra!
When a suitable role on a movie, TV show or commercial comes up, they’ll send you an Availability Check by email. This asks whether you’re available on a certain date at a certain location for a specific wage. The agency sends the request to multiple suitable people. You can reply to say you’re available or not. The agency forwards the list of suitable & available extras to the production company, who decide who best matches their requirement.
Those selected are then booked by email. The production company makes payment about 2 weeks after shooting, via a regular PAYE payment by bank transfer.
How Much Do Movie & TV Extras Get Paid?
In Ireland, extras earn the minimum wage (€11.30 an hour in 2023) for a 10 hour day, excluding an hour or so for lunch and breaks. We have all the details on how much movie extras get paid at this page.
How Does an Extra Look the Part?
Depending on the size, scene, and budget of the film, there might be just one extra on set or hundreds. For movies set in the modern era (restaurant scenes, church scenes, funerals, courthouses, etc.), supporting artists usually provide their own wardrobe. Where a supporting artist undertakes a speciality role, the Wardrobe Department will fit the person in advance or on the day. For a big budget, historical period film, the Hair, Makeup & Costume Departments will go nuts on you! Every background acting job will be different. For a day or two, the set will transport you to a different world. Having access to a tuxedo or formal wear will open up more opportunities for an extra.
Production companies are shooting in Ireland every month. Since 2020, big budget movie and TV shows funded by Disney, Netflix, Paramount, and AMC have provided thousands of days on set for Irish extras, particularly in Dublin and Wicklow. 2023 is set to be even bigger! The secret to being an extra who gets hired often is to look so average as to be near invisible, to have basic acting skills, and to behave exactly and repeatedly as instructed. Be comfortable with the following and you’ll fit right in!
- Play with your food, but never actually eat it
- Mime a conversation in a pub, but look thrilled
- Stand in a crowd cheering, when there’s nothing to cheer
- Look sombre at a graveside, surrounded by your otherwise comedic acting friends
- Act like a hardened WWII soldier, while carrying a rubber rifle
And That’s a Wrap!
Best of all, a few months after your big day on set, you’ll see yourself and your new buddies on TV or the big silver screen! And … Action!