There are thousands of people in the UK who have enjoyed working as a Film and TV extra. We explain how you get started and what to expect.
Do You Need To Apply To Extras Agencies To Get Film And TV Extra Work?
There is a lot of unpaid extra work that you can source yourself, usually for microbudget and student films. Facebook Filmmaking Groups and the casting website Starnow are good ways to connect with these unpaid projects.
However, if you want to be paid as a Film and TV extra, you need to apply to extras agencies. They will be your contact point for opportunities, set calls and payment.
We have identified some of the reputable Extras Agencies who will accept applications from UK adults. If you’re under 18, you’ll need to approach agencies which specialise in extra work for young performers.
You should research each agency thoroughly before making an application. Our article on fake agencies is just as valid for supporting artistes as it is for actors.
Who Can Work As A Film And TV Extra?
Anyone who legally lives in the UK can apply to be a Film and TV extra. You do not need any previous experience, though it can be useful.
Extra work is usually allocated at the last minute. Therefore the opportunities for those who need a Child Performance Licence are limited. That means extras agencies prefer to recruit adults who are over the age of 17 or 18 because that is where the work is.
Each extras agency will assess your looks, location, and experience when deciding whether to accept you onto their books.
How Much Will I Get Paid As An Extra In the UK?
Most extras agencies will charge you a fee for your acceptance onto their books. Sometimes it’s an upfront cost, and sometimes it’s an annual fee. Some extras agencies charge an annual fee but only deduct it when you do your first day of work with them. You do need to exercise caution about how much should sensibly be paid because work cannot be guaranteed. There are a lot of people on agency books who rarely obtain work.
The production company will set out how much each extra will get paid for the work offered. A good agency will demand the rates are in line with industry agreements. You will be told the gross pay rate when you are asked for your availability before you ask to be considered for the job. After you have successfully completed the work, the production company will pay your agent and your agent will then deduct their commission and pay you the remainder. You will often be lucky to receive the minimum wage.
You also need to accept that being a Film and TV extra can never be a full-time job. Even if you live next door to a studio, the work will be sporadic.
Therefore it is essential to see Film and TV extra work as life experience rather than an income source.
How Do I Apply To An Agency To Be A Film And TV Extra?
Each Extras Agency will have their own recruitment process. Some will be happy to accept clear headshots and body shots, whilst others will want to meet you.
Most will be looking to charge you a fee. Do not pay this unless you are sure the agency has a strong reputation for getting work, and the fee is appropriate. You should have done enough research to assess this.
Some extras agencies will ask you to provide clear photos for your profile. Others want you to attend an annual photography session with their chosen photographer. You are normally asked to pay for this, although the rates are usually much lower than an independent photo shoot.
What Happens When I Am Accepted By An Agency To Be A Film And TV Extra?
Once an agency has taken you on their books, they will email you when an opportunity arises which you might be right for. The email will give exact dates or ask for good availability during a specified window. If you aren’t available, you don’t need to reply. If you are available, reply by email to confirm you are. Only those who confirm they are available will be submitted to the casting team.
You must keep the dates clear even though you may not hear until the day before. There will be a large number of applicants for every single extras slot on the shoot. If the casting team does not pick you, then there will be no further communication.
If the casting team chooses you, an email will arrive from your agent. It may be the day before the shoot. You must email the agent straight away to confirm you have received the instructions and are ready to work.
If there’s a problem, address it immediately. Never, ever fail to turn up for booked work. It is unfair to all those people who were not chosen. It lets the production team down big time. Your agency will remove you from their books if this happens.
Bookings For Film And TV Extra Work Can Be Cancelled
It is a common experience for a Film and TV extra to be booked for work and then receive a last minute call or email to say they are no longer needed. You do not receive any refund of travelling or accommodation costs. You do not receive the extras fee even if you have given up a day’s paid work elsewhere.
Why Won’t My Extras Agency Reply To Emails?
The extras agencies staff are working hard. They negotiate the contracts to work with production teams and organise the crowds of people used for each shoot. The extras agencies have staffing, IT and premises costs to pay but only earn a few pounds in commission from each working client.
They can’t spend all day answering the phone or emails from people asking why they haven’t been chosen, when the next job is coming, or which photo to use on the profile.
Instead, you need to be an independent adult. Respond to the agent by email if they ask something, check your dates properly, wait patiently and don’t ask what is happening. Turn up when and where you have been told to.
If you can’t do that, don’t become a Film and TV extra.
Can I Join A Union for Film And TV Extras?
There are two unions which Film and TV extras can apply to join. They are important as they work with the industry to set rates of pay. If you don’t get paid for work you have done, the Unions can provide advice.
BECTU is a UK media and entertainment trade union. Their members work in broadcasting, cinema, film, digital media, independent production, leisure, theatre, and the arts. They also represent the interests of Film and TV extras. They have been working hard to stop major production companies paying less than the agreed rates or trying to recruit extras for expenses only. Subscriptions are normally £10 a month but can vary in some circumstances. Most Film and TV extras do not work enough or earn enough to justify this outlay.
Equity is another union which offers to represent Film and TV extras. You have to have met minimum contract and/or earning limits in order to qualify for membership.
What About Tax?
You will need to register as a self-employed person if you receive payment for Film and TV extra work. You must declare all income received.
Items such as professional photography costs, mileage, and agency commission as eligible expenses. Unless it is something you cannot wear normally, such as a specific uniform (which are normally provided by wardrobe anyway), then clothing is not an eligible expense.