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How To Become A Background Actor?

How To Become A Background Actor

  1. What Is A Background Actor?
  2. Is There A Difference Between A “Background” And An “Extra”?
  3. What Skills Do You Need To Be A Background Actor?
  4. How Much Do Background Actors Get Paid?
  5. How Do I Find Work As An Extra?
  6. Is Being A Background Actor Worth It?
  7. What Casting Directors Want In Background Actors?
  8. Bottom Line

What Is A Background Actor?

A background actor is one of the performers that appear in the view of the focal focus. Despite also being in the foreground, these appearances are away from the primary focus on lead actors, who are having a dialogue or doing other activities related to the scene’s plot. Normally, background roles are in a silent - non-speaking, and non-singing - capacity. Often these appearances include doing things you’d do or see daily yourself, like walking or standing on the street or in venues, driving cars on the road, working in the public, e.g. vendors or construction workers, and so on.

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The purpose of background actors is to bring the scene a realistic and authentic appearance. Without background actors, a scene set in a vibrant city would instantly look like a post-apocalyptic setting, and war battle scenes obviously can’t be fought only amongst a couple of main portrayals. While these roles are minor ones and usually end up being uncredited, they are a very integral part of the scenes they are being used for.

Useful Link: Is It Possible to Make a Living by Being a Film Extra?

Is There A Difference Between A “Background” And An “Extra”?

When viewing casting calls, you might see, or have already seen, not only the term “background actor” but also “extras”. In reality, there is no technical difference between both these terms. Whether the casting director says he is searching for “extras”, or “background actors”, it will always mean the role is to appear in the background in a silent, uncredited capacity.

Useful Link: Movie Extra Jobs Near Me

Sometimes “featured” or “core” could appear in front of both these terms. This would mean that the appearance will be for a longer time period, or for more than one scene. The purpose of multiple appearances for the same background actor is once again for the continued authenticity, as, e.g. a construction crew or a media team doesn’t hire different employees daily. They aren’t official terms though, and only are used for extra clarity over what will be expected from the actor, so it doesn't mean increased pay for the appearance.

What Skills Do You Need To Be A Background Actor?

You do not have to be a professional actor with extended experience on stage or screen to get casted as a background actor. These are the jobs that are open and possible to get to everyone, regardless of age, race, or looks, unless specifically stated so. Of course, all background roles are different but some of the primary things you should be able to do are to be able to memorize the movements required from you, as well as creatively and realistically appear during those. Since it’s very unlikely the scene will be shot in one take, be prepared to have the physical stamina to do the same thing over and over again without losing the quality of your background performance. Ultimately, while some professional experience can always become in-handy, the main thing for a background actor is to be motivated and try your best at all times.

Background Actor Skills For Your Resume

How Much Do Background Actors Get Paid?

Being a background actor isn't free labor, of course. In the United States and Canada, background actors are usually paid the minimum wage but the salary could be higher depending on the given project. Not paying background actors is a violation of state and federal laws. Overtime work gets extra compensated, as well as using your own belongings, like clothing or vehicles. As with all jobs, you’ll need to provide your social security card and identification, such as a passport and driver’s license. As you see, becoming a background actor has its perks financially, and is a lucrative enough way to start your acting career.

Useful Link: How to Become an Actor With No Acting Experience

How Do I Find Work As An Extra?

In today’s digital age, you don’t have to immediately relocate to one of the big cities with a huge industry presence and spend your days going from casting door to casting door. You don’t have to hire an agent or join an agency either.

How To Find Movie Extra Jobs

Sites like provide a perfect place for aspiring actors with or without professional experience to find casting calls, including opportunities as background actors. It's very simple and straightforward! You have to sign up on, then fill your portfolio with the required information. Once that’s done, you are good to go to search the thousands of casting calls, find the ones you match, and, finally, start booking the auditions. Good luck!

Is Being A Background Actor Worth It?

When being an aspiring actor, you need to find a starting point. The quick and easy way you’ll gain experience while being a background actor is priceless. From the on-set experiences to seeing all the work that gets done behind the scenes, and not only interacting with industry professionals but also being able to see them in action and possibly learn from them, your understanding of the entertainment scene and your confidence as an actor will skyrocket. While a rarer occurrence, sometimes background actors even get upgraded to a speaking role. You will also be able to list these background roles in your acting resume, which ultimately could help you make steps further with your aspiring career.

What Casting Directors Want In Background Actors?

When searching for background actors, casting directors won’t be looking into your acting experience. As mentioned previously, you can get cast without any previous experience. They will usually base their decision on the headshots and full-body shots of the candidates, so keep those up to date. Once you get cast, the directors will expect you to always arrive on time, while keeping it quiet and respectful on the set at all times, since the shooting hours could be long but you might not be busy during many of those. When it’s your time to perform, you’ll be expected to precisely follow what is expected from the background role. It’s fairly simple - be professional and do your best.

Useful Link: Skills for Acting

Bottom Line

Some of Hollywood’s brightest stars started their acting careers as background extras. It’s a fairly paying job that requires no experience and will give you the much-needed tools to carve the stepping stones for a further acting career. At, the process of finding background acting roles will be as easy as it gets. Sign up and make your talent available now!

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