One of the things about being home we’ve had to consider is how our eldests (we have twins) could earn money to fund their many interests. I think we’ve come upon something that fits our need to hit the road and has the flexibility to say “no” when it doesn’t fit our family plans. What is it you ask? Working as a background extra on a movie set.
My older three were recently booked for a movie as background extras and it has been a great fit for our family. Since we homeschool, we can work our studies around when the boys have to work and the work environment when the boys are on location is such that while they are waiting to be in a shot in the holding area, they can work on an assignment.
Atlanta is becoming the second Hollywood some say — filming popular motion pictures like the Hunger Games and the TV show, the Walking Dead. If you want to get started in working as a background extra, you’ll want three professional photos of yourself in various outfits. You’ll also need to know your measurements like height and weight. These details need to be included on the photo along with the color of your hair and eyes — and finally your age. The casting company will send out certain criteria they are looking for — usually with an age range. If you fit the age range, you’ll want to submit your photo via email and the details that are listed in the casting call. Then you wait. And wait. And maybe you’ll be chosen or maybe not. I met one father of a 15 year old that said his son had been in four movies as a background and submitted for about 20 casting calls — so don’t expect to get in each time. And as for our experience, they chose people from all looks and ethnicities, so you never know what the casting company will go for when they are looking for background extras for their movie.
Be prepared for a long work day as a background extra. You’ll need to plan on additional time getting to and from the job site. In addition, you need to expect to work a long day. Law dictates that anyone who is under 18 is limited to a 10-hour work day, so the kids get paid their hourly rate for the first 8 hours and then overtime is at a designated slightly higher rate. They expect you to be there no later than 15 minutes prior to your call time (your call time is when you clock in essentially.) So, a 10-hour work day is really an 11-hr plus commute time there and back for us. When we were called to work as a background extra, the casting company called and discussed what days we would be working. The start time usually varies and you won’t know your call time until the day before. In our case, this movie has the boys booked for 10 days that vary over the course of several months.
Be prepared to furnish your own wardrobe as a background extra. Depending on the needs of the film, the casting company may ask you to bring several outfits. You are to arrive ready to go in the outfit that you like best, but be prepared that Wardrobe may change you into something else. They will also have some clothes as an option depending on your fitting size. I do have to say that this is the more difficult part of this job for me as I scramble the day before their booking (because they don’t tell you until the day before what you’ll need to bring) to pull together enough wardrobe for three people to bring to set.
If you are interested in looking into this as a possible source of income, you can do a local search for casting agencies in your area. Not only L.A. films, but also in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and elsewhere around the nation depending on the movie being shot’s needs. You can also go onto Facebook and “Like” these casting companies and select the default to show alerts in the top of your feed. (Heads up: I don’t understand Facebook’s algorithm because I’ve done this step, but it still doesn’t post alerts in my feed, so I have to go to the page to check on updates.) Just be forewarned that you want to make sure it’s a legit casting company. Some have posed as a casting company and requested information including social security numbers. Be careful when submitting that you are working with a reputable casting company.
You have to be able to keep a secret. You are often asked to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement promising that you will not share details about the film or share on social media sites film details. You are not even allowed to take photos on set.
If you’re looking to pick up a part time job that gives you flexibility to travel, this is one option that you may want to consider.
*Due to a non-disclosure release form the kids signed, we can’t go into details regarding what the movie is, where it is being shot, or specifics about the movie until after it has released in the box office.