Is an Acting Career Right for You?

How to Become a Background Actor

Written by Graeme Petrie

Quiet On The Set!

Becoming a Background Actor

Working as a background actor (extra) on a TV series or feature film can be a very exciting experience for those new to acting. It’s a great way to get a taste of what it feels like to be on set to see if this is what you want to be doing for a living. Some make a career out of doing background work, especially if they live in production centres like LA, NY or Vancouver.

Becoming a background actor requires NO previous acting skill, however it does require:

  • a mature and professional attitude
  • punctuality and reliability
  • understanding and adherence to on-set policies and etiquette
  • high availability and willingness to work long hours
  • mobility (a car or access to public transit)
  • preparation and attention to details regarding any wardrobe requirements you are given

Sign Me Up!

Signing up as a background actor is simple, just go online. provide your name and profile information, as well as pictures of yourself. BCF Casting is an example of a background agency that has a huge database of people for feature films or productions. BCF does not charge a sign up fee or commission fee (the production company pays them to find you, so you keep 100% of what you make).

There are also specialized “Background Agencies” (In Motion, Local Color, etc) who do charge a commission to represent you (between 10-15% of your gross pay when you book).


Pay is usually minimum wage and overtime is paid, if you work over 8 hours.

Young Background Actors

If you have a child who is interested in doing background acting, and they are 14 years or younger, they will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian while on set. Depending on their age, they will only be permitted to work a limited number of hours per day.

Call Times

Although confirmation to work on a production will be received well in advance, final call times and location may only be sent out the night before. Production times can change and may start very early or run very late, so don’t be surprised to find yourself working a 12 hour (sometimes 16 hour) shoot. And definitely do NOT complain if you do.

Checking in

The place you check in will usually be a holding area, and you may be sent by shuttle bus to the actual shooting location. You MUST make sure you are arrive ON TIME or you will likely never get a call back again.

Be sure to bring your SIN, official photo ID and any other necessary paperwork (if you’re a PR Resident you’ll need to bring a copy of your Visa). Give yourself adequate time to get there in case traffic is bad or transit is late. There are no acceptable excuses for showing up late.


Meals are provided during breaks, however the really nice food is sectioned off for the “high paid talent” (so don’t try wandering over thinking nobody will notice).