Above: An aired clip of me sitting next to one of the main characters on an airplane on the show “Grey’s Anatomy” this year, a gig I got thanks to my background extra service!
Whoever said it was hard getting cast for background extra work here in Los Angeles must have never heard of these things called “background extra casting services.”
When I first moved to California, I wanted to do background work as a way of bringing in some much needed income. Unfortunately – and anyone who first moves here can attest to this – the only one I knew of was Central Casting. They are a very well-known company that gets lots of freshly-minted west coasters to sign up with them, but using their services is actually more work than should be necessary.
For starters, it’s a call-in service. They give you a number you can dial up throughout the day to see what jobs may be coming up the next day. Of course, for the person who has other stuff to do during the day when they’re not trying to get a gig, having to remind yourself to call them up every few hours (in case they’ve FINALLY updated the line) can be more of a hassle than a benefit.
Furthermore, you are more than likely to miss out on a gig simply because you didn’t call them at the right time. I remember one time when I called them 5 times in a day. The first 4 times I called, the line hadn’t been updated with any new jobs or with any jobs that I’d fit the description for; when I called the fifth time they HAD updated the line, but I had called too late to be considered for it!
How is a person supposed to get any extra work in this town?!?
The answer came to me about a year after I had moved here. One of my friends had told me about the amount of extra work he had been getting recently (including a Taylor Swift music video!), and I asked him how he was able to do it.
His answer: background extra casting services!
Apparently – and, again, if you’ve just moved out to L.A. or are thinking about it, you may not yet know this – there are companies set up out here that actually do the work of submitting for extra gigs FOR you.
It’s pretty simple, actually: you contact the company, submit your picture and sign up for an orientation. At orientation, they explain how their company works; then, once you sign up with them, they either take your picture or have you submit a picture for them to use. That picture gets sent out to various casting directors who are looking for extras to use on their sets. If they pick you, the company you’re signed with sends you a note letting you know you’ve been booked…
…and that’s it!
Now, there is a sign-up fee and/or monthly fee for these services – after all, they ARE the ones who will be doing the calling/picture submitting on your behalf. I know many people will start to think “well, I don’t want to pay them ’cause they might be a scam,” but this is normally not the case. You just have to be aware of the ones that are legit and the ones that are just trying to get your money.
The easiest way to do that is simply to ask an actor – ANY actor, what service(s) they use to get extra work. And believe me, just about EVERY actor in Hollywood has been an extra in something, and can usually tell you which ones to use.
For example, I use two services right now, both of which actually work with each other: Cut Above Casting (www.CutAboveCasting.com) and Background Talent Services (www.backgroundtalent.net). Both these services do a great job of getting me regular background work. I especially like Cut Above Casting because when you join, they give you an online calendar you can mark with the days during the week you’d be available to do extra work; that way, they can make sure they only try to get you work on your open days.
With these services, you can either pay them month-to-month, or you can get a discount in price by signing up for 3, 6, or 12 months. And if you’re worried about whether or not you’ll make your money back, don’t be; when I first signed up I did the 3-month plan, and within my first 3 gigs I had made all my sign-up money back… and still had 2.5 months of paid-up service left to go!
In closing, if you’re thinking about moving out here and becoming an actor, or already live here and are wanting to do extra work but can’t seem to get it on your own, I highly recommend connecting with one of these services. I’ve done TV shows, been on movie sets, and even shot quite a few commercials – and I didn’t have to do any of the work myself to get them!
Ah, companies that will book background extra work for you… now THAT’S something to be thankful for!
– Aaron P. Taylor