How To Be A Killer Movie Extra In Chicago—& Beyond!

While many folks associate Chi-town with food before film, truth be told, the Windy City gets quite a bit of action when it comes to having a presence on TV and the Silver Screen. From Chicago P.D. to The Dark Knight, it sure is fun plucking out places we recognize — and maybe, frequent. But, if you'd rather be on the tube instead of the couch, we found a little help that just might get you there.
But, because you have to get your foot in the door somewhere, Erin Stewart and Jess Gisin of Chicago-based 4 Star Casting Agency put together a list tips for being an extra like a boss. The friends and business partners have a myriad of production, acting, and casting experience, so they know the industry inside and out. Whether you're curious about what to wear or not sure how to submit an inquiry to an agency, these gals have got you covered. Who knows? Your big break could be a click away.
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To get the job, you have to submit for it, and the best place to find opportunities are online via Facebook, Twitter, and casting and film websites.
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In short, follow the instructions. If you can't submit correctly, the casting agencies won't trust that you can follow directions on set. Also, if you are required to submit with a certain subject line, don’t make up a subject line to stand out because it will likely lead to your email being deleted.
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Actually, be early. Production runs a tight schedule, so there isn’t time to wait for you to show up to an extras holding session. The show will go on, with or without you — most likely, without you. It may also affect whether or not you'll be booked again.
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Never be a no show. If you can’t be on set for any reason, make sure to notify casting as soon as possible. So, don’t call at 7:15 a.m. to say you won’t be on set at your 7:30 a.m. call time. Not only will the casting agency not have enough time to find a replacement, you also took a job away from someone else.
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If you are playing a business man, bring a suit. If you don’t have a suit, then don’t apply for that extra job. To increase your chance of working on any set, take yourself shopping and stock your closet with some casual, business casual, and business wear. Find a classic upscale look as well. You don’t have to break the bank; thrift stores are perfect places to find great options. Keep those clothes in your closet until you need them for work, and make sure you have a rolling suitcase you can bring to set.
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How you behave on set is critical. Pay attention, be ready to go when called, and learn the terminology used by the crew so you understand what's going on.
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Patience is required. You will spend a lot of time in extras holding waiting to be called to set. Bring something to do in your downtime. A book, a crossword puzzle, etc.
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Rule of thumb for approaching actors on set is don’t. Don't talk to the actors unless they speak to you first. If they approach you, and if they start the conversation, then of course you can respond. The actors are there to do a job, and you don’t know what their mindset is to do that job. A simple conversation may interrupt their process to provide the best performance.
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Understand that this is a job for you, too. Yes, it can be exciting and fun to be on set, but ultimately, you have agreed to work. Treat it with the same professionalism you would treat any other job.
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No photography. Because cameras are a part of our phones, the temptation to snap a shot on set and broadcast via social media is high — but don’t do it. Even if you don’t sign confidentiality papers, what happens on set is considered confidential, and should remain that way.
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