If you’ve always hankered to play in front of a camera and rub shoulders with the stars, becoming a movie extra could be for you.
And although Sydney isn’t quite the epicentre of the film and television industry in Australia, between pay-TV, film companies and streaming services, there’s work available.
Be warned, though; you’re unlikely to make much money from being an extra. It’s more about the fun and the glory (or not) and the experience you’ll gain.
How to become an extra
The established route is to sign with a talent agency who can then put your profile forward for any extras work that comes up. You don’t need any acting experience unless you want to progress to being a featured extra. Mostly, you need to be reliable. You also need a great attitude, flexibility, patience and your own transport. Often, filming takes place outside public transport hours or might be in a location that doesn’t have good transport links.
Will I get paid?
The MEAA (the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance) sets a minimum pay rate depending on the type of job for which you’re engaged. Pay rates range from $28 an hour for a minimum of four hours to around $35 an hour for a four-hour minimum callout. Depending on the agency and what pay rate you fall under, you’ll be paid at overtime rates if the shoot runs over. Generally you’ll pay a monthly fee to your agency. Some agencies offer to set you up with a professional photoshoot and organise your profile (at a cost to you).
Don’t be seduced by the big dollars with which the agencies try to entice you on the online job boards. If you make much more than the standard rate, you’ll be the exception rather than the rule.
What happens on the set?
I’ve never been a film extra or TV extra so I don’t speak from experience but I understand that there are many early starts, late nights and loads of waiting around. You’ll become obsessed with the catering truck and drink much more coffee or tea than you would normally.
How can I get extras work if I’m not with an agency?
As we mentioned earlier, most jobs get allocated through agencies as it’s easier for casting agents to flip through hundreds of headshots in the one place and choose the people with the look they’re after. However, if you want to have more control, you’ll find many extras jobs online through job sites like Seek.com or Jora.com. Admittedly, most of the so-called ‘jobs’ are offers to join agencies. For Sutherland Shire residents, the closest studio is MAMM, which provides ‘talent’ for TV commercials, TV series, online content and more.
Acting classes in Sutherland Shire
If you’re keen to make a bit more of an impression or want to spread your acting wings beyond extras work, Arts Theatre Cronulla runs acting classes for children and adults. Even if all you want to do is become a better extra, the classes are useful, especially useful for teaching you how to move around a space without bumping into the furniture. Suzi Dougherty of Home & Away fame runs acting classes in both Kings Cross and Millers Point if you’re willing to travel.
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