Should Aspiring Actors Do Extra Work?

It’s A No Brainer!

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on April 21st, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

The short answer is a big fat yes! It is a great way to get on-set experience and to see how things are done. Both for film and television I highly recommend it.

I recall years ago studying acting with a great acting coach, Molli Benson, who brought to the classes attention this absurd notion out there that says actors should not to do extra work if they want to be taken seriously as an actor. “Do extra work and you’ll be seen as extra”, the thinking goes.

This is ridiculous. First, the people that cast extras usually have nothing to do with who casts speaking roles. Second, directors, and casting directors work with so many actors that even if you cross their visual path the odds of them remembering you in any capacity are beyond remote! Can you picture getting a small role in a James Cameron film and him seeing you on-set and saying wait a minute weren’t you an extra in Avatar? Get off my set!If you haven’t been on any or many film or TV sets, extra work will:

  • Get opportunity to see what it is like on a set. Who does what, how directors work, what it’s like on a one, two, three, or four camera shoot.
  • You’ll see how more experienced actors work.
  • You’ll see different directing styles, the list goes on and on, and you will get paid to do this!
  • You can also network, and meet other actors, and crew. Some of these actors and crew might have other projects going on that you might be right for one of the leads!

If you want to do extra work in Los Angeles and you are non-union you would want to sign up with Cenex casting… If you are already in the union, than Central casting is for you. These companies are run out of the same building and their info line is 818.562.2755. Website: http://www.centralcasting.org/

If you are interested in doing extra work for the experience/training or for supplemental income, I would recommend in addition to joining Cenex or Central, you consider joining at least one extra casting calling service company to increase your odds of getting work.

Further, extra work is also means of earning Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) eligibility. To book speaking roles on network television, studio films and many independent projects in Los Angeles and New York, you will have to join SAG (which may be merging with AFTRA).

The book, Back To One, by Cullen G. Chambers and Elisha Choice, is a good all around guide and reference book for extra information and calling service listings. Or you can find a free listing of extra calling service companies here: http://www.workingactors.com/ Click on Actors, and then working, and then casting services.

Be careful of some of the services out there that advertise on Craigslist, they are not all legit. As always do your own research, look for comments on message boards, talk to other actors (especially when you do extra work find out who they use) and so on.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

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