How to Become a Movie Extra in Atlanta
Tips For Finding Work and Making Money as an Extra in the Atlanta Film Industry
Hundreds of movies, television shows, commercials and music videos are filmed in Atlanta each year and every production needs extras to make the background come alive.
Whether you're an aspiring actor looking to make industry contacts, a college student hoping to make some extra cash or just someone who wants to take a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite tv show (The Walking Dead, anyone?), this extras casting guide will help you become an extra in Atlanta.
What Exactly is an "Extra?"
Extras (aka background actors or BG) are people just like you that make the background of your favorite movies and television shows come alive.
Check out that photo from Hidden Figures, the Academy Award-nominated movie that was filmed in Atlanta in 2016. Those scientists in the background? They're extras! So is every zombie on The Walking Dead, every passerby in the Fast & Furious franchise and all of the students at Mystic Falls High on The Vampire Diaries (all of which are or were filmed in Atlanta).
Poll: How Many Movies Have You Worked On?
How many movies have you been an extra in?
How Much Do Extras Get Paid?
Extras who work in Atlanta typically get paid a rate of $58/8, $60/8 or $64/8, depending on the production.
What's that boil down to? About $7.25, $7.50 or $8 per hour. Yes, it's minimum wage BUT most filming days last at least 12 hours, which means you'll earn time-and-a-half for every hour you work after the first eight hours.
Here's an example:
Let's say you work 12 hours as a zombie on The Walking Dead, which pays the standard rate of $64/8. You'll earn $8/hour for the first eight hours and then $12/hour for the final four hours, which would add up to about $112 before taxes.
Not too bad for spending a day on the set of the most popular show on television, huh?
Top 10 Extras Casting Agencies in Atlanta
- Extras Casting Atlanta
- TaylorMade Casting
- Rose Locke Casting
- Catrett & Associates Casting
- Tammy Smith Casting
- Cynthia Stillwell Casting
- New Life Casting
- Hylton Casting
- Pierre Casting
- Background Artists Casting Atlanta
Who Gets Picked to be an Extra?
Different scenes need different extras. When a scene is about to be filmed, the director and/or producers of the movie or television show ask the extras casting agency to find people with a highly specific look, age, sex or talent — whatever is needed to make the scene feel real.
This means that an extras casting director might be asked to find grizzly biker dudes, pregnant women, heavily tattooed gang members, homeless folks and 1920s southern belles all in the same week for different projects.
In order to find those unique people, nearly all of Atlanta's casting agencies use Facebook.
The people who get picked to be extras most often are the ones who:
- Fit the look.
- Respond quickly to a Facebook post or e-mail.
- Have a reputation for being on time and professional on set.
- FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!
Tips For Getting Booked
➊ Here's a real post from CL Casting for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: "Seeking thin-framed men and women to work Wednesday, January 8th south of the city. MEN MUST BE WILLING TO GET HAIR CUT." When an extras casting agency posts something like this on Facebook, ONLY submit if you fit the description! If you aren't willing to cut your hair for minimum wage, CL Casting doesn't want you blowing up their inbox. Consider the ages and wardrobe requested. If you look much younger or older than what the scene requires or you don't have the appropriate clothing, do NOT reply to the post. This just wastes the casting director's time and may make it difficult for you to find work in the future.
➋ If a casting agency is looking for folks to work an all-day shoot on Thursday, ONLY submit if you are 100% positive you can work! If you have a dentist appointment or soccer game at 4 p.m. the night of a shoot, you probably shouldn't apply to work. Filming days often last at least 12 hours and leaving early will only make it harder for you to get booked again (not to mention that you won't get paid for the day!).
➌ You don't need a professional headshot to get booked as an extra but you DEFINITELY need a high-quality photo of yourself. This means no blurry Facebook photos, over-filtered Instagram group shots or awkward school pictures. The best photos are the ones that show casting agents what you ACTUALLY look like. You don't have to be tall, thin and/or incredibly beautiful to work as an extra but casting agents will be less likely to use you if they think you don't look anything like the photos you submit.
10 Reasons You Might Want to Become an Extra
- It's fun to spot yourself in a movie or television show.
- Extras get paid.
- Extras learn firsthand how movies and television shows are made.
- Extras meet new people on every set they work on.
- Extras network with other extras, which helps them get more work.
- Extras get to be someone — or something — else for a day.
- You don't need an impressive resume to get hired.
- Extras save money on groceries by eating on set.
- Extras hang out with famous people (sort of).
- Extras have a flexible work schedule.
How to Earn More Money On Set
If you're interested in making more money while working on set (who isn't?), keep an eye out for "featured extra" and "specialty" requests. Featured extras typically get more time in front of the camera, while specialty extras are cast because they have a unique ability that's being used in the scene, such as juggling, dancing or playing tennis. Both can be paid a higher rate, but it's up to the production company to decide.
Extras can also receive pay bumps, ranging from as little as $5 to more than $100, for things like driving their car in a scene, wearing a particular outfit (or nothing at all), getting drenched in the rain or performing minor stunts such as falling down on cue.
Your best bet for earning more than the usual rate is to get hired as a stand-in. Stand-ins take the place of actors while the crew sets up lights and other important elements of a shot and are typically employed for the entire duration of a shoot, which can last up to nine months or more. Stand-ins usually have the same skin tone, hair color, height and weight of the actors they're standing in for. So if you look even a little bit like an actor or actress that's filming in Atlanta, you could have a shot at making more than $10 per hour.
Extras who are interested in becoming crew members can sometimes use their on-set connections to get hired as production assistants (or PAs). PAs, who are always underpaid and often underappreciated, are the lowest rung of the crew ladder. They handle a huge variety of tasks, their average workday is 14-16 hours long and there's no guarantee that another job will be there when the current show ends. Although you may end up with a paycheck that's smaller than a stand-in's, PA'ing is a short-term commitment that will help determine whether you actually want to work on tv shows and movies.
Poll: Which Casting Agency is Your Favorite?
Which extras casting agency in Atlanta is your favorite?
How To Be an Extra on The Walking Dead
Who casts extras for The Walking Dead?
Extras Casting Atlanta
What's it like to be a zombie on The Walking Dead?
Being an extra on The Walking Dead is pretty much the coolest thing ever. Some zombies, such as those in the deep background of huge scenes like Season 2's barn-burning finale, only wear masks or are quickly air-brushed. A very lucky few, however, are chosen to be "heroes" and go through an hour-long make-up process that involves prosthetics, contact lenses and more. And unlike many movies and television shows, The Walking Dead recognizes and respects exactly how important its extras are to the show's success.
How do I become an extra on The Walking Dead?
The Walking Dead is by far the most difficult show to get hired for — especially if you're hoping to be cast as a zombie. Many of the show's walkers are regulars, hand-picked by Greg Nicotero, the show's zombie guru, and other executive producers because of their skinny bodies, missing limbs and unique features. Most have been working for the show since Rick Grimes crawled out of that hospital in Season 1. To make things even more challenging, Extras Casting Atlanta very rarely advertises their Walking Dead casting calls. Instead, they use a generic email address. To increase your chances of getting hired, follow ECA on Facebook and be on the lookout for posts calling for thin-framed folks.
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