Getting a sliver screen job in a poor economy

Written by Neal F. Litherland. Posted in Pennies Saved & Pennies Earned

Published on November 30, 2011 with No Comments

Everyone, at some point in time, has had a dream of being on the big screen.

Whether you wanted to be a glamorous starlet, the hulking action hero or even the guy that got all the laughs, daydreams of stardom are common in a culture as saturated with movies and film as is ours.

Even in poor economic times the movie industry is thriving.

And if you happen to live close to a major city, like Chicago, where they’ve filmed the recent Batman movies, or a historically important place like Crown Point, which saw the film “Public Enemies” come through fairly recently, then you might be able to get in on the ground floor and get a job as a movie extra.

Extras, those people that fill up the backgrounds on your television shows and movies, are always necessary when you make a movie.

You usually don’t get speaking lines, and you will probably have to stand around for huge portions of the day, but you will be involved in movies and if you want to make that your life’s calling you’ll build up credit and a resume. And even better, you don’t have to have abs that can strangle someone, or a perfect celebrity look.

Often the more normal you are, the more likely you are to get a role as an extra.

But how do you go about getting work as an extra?

This is the stumbling block that most people run into; they don’t know how to get started.

Fortunately you don’t need much. Some good quality photos, specifically head shots, are a good starting place since you’ll most likely be cast for your looks. Also include job experience, both acting and non-acting. If you’ve been a professional security guard for instance and the movie needs someone to stand around and look official at a scene in a bank, then you are much more likely to fit the bill a casting agent is looking for.

Once you have your resume together, you have to find out where you can audition.

Your first stop is going to be the Indiana Film Commission at This is the state’s official listing of movie and television castings and jobs, and you can find calls for work there ranging from big films to local products in cities like Indianapolis, South Bend and even Fort Wayne on any given day.

Each state has one of these offices, and they’re referred to as a state film commission.

Here there will be parts for actors, cast, crew and every position you need in order to make a movie. For those who want to try and get in on the bigger city action when movies come to Chicago, visit the Illinois Film Commission at to check for job listings and open calls for actors and extras by city.

The state government sites aren’t the only places you can find acting work. Additional places that you can check are, as well as the gigs section on in order to find local, last minute listings.

The benefits of these sites are that you can look for free, and you can narrow down your search by area to see if there are any opportunities in cities near you. You can also check with local production companies and television stations to get their information to find out when and where casting calls are going out. After you find a listing just follow the instructions on the listing, provide all of the necessary information and wait to see where and when you need to show up if you have been cast.

Working as a movie extra, and in movies in general, has become a huge industry. And like any industry there are those who try to make money off of the ignorance of people trying to break in.

So whenever you find a business that expects you to pay up front to get work as an extra or which explains how you need to have top-quality photo work done with expensive, “industry standard” paper, you’re becoming the victim of a scam. Companies that provide extras get paid a fee for being the middle man, and many times movies will simply hire extras on their own through casting calls.

There’s no reason for you to fork over up to $100 just to get your name and picture listed, especially when you can do it yourself.

A final caution.

Making a living wage as an actor is hard, despite what you may see in Hollywood. Extras often get paid little or nothing, and they don’t receive overtime.

But if you want a side job, or you have a passion for acting and you’ve always wanted to be on screen, then being a movie extra is a nice gig to have if you can fit the part and take direction well.

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About Neal F. Litherland

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Neal Litherland is a Valparaiso resident who has been a freelance writer for several years. A graduate of Indiana University, he holds a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice. He offers advice on money-saving tips using common-sense tactics. He welcomes suggestions and comments. Contact Neal:

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