Extras - Increase your Chances
By Aislinn Ní Uallacháin I Head of Casting @ Extras Ireland
I love working at Extras Ireland and have been here for almost two years now – how time flies! Having started out as an Extra myself and then working as a professional Actor/Model for ten years I always genuinely admire and respect people who do any kind of performance work because I’ve been there myself. I’ve been chatting to and thinking a lot about Extras this week so here are a few thoughts on how to increase your chances of being selected for projects. All very simple things that are in your control.
1. Make sure your details are always up to date.
If you’re a member of a Casting Website where you can log in and update your own photos and information, make sure you do this regularly. If you’re a member of a Casting Agency (like Extras Ireland) which works internally and personally, make sure you email us regularly with updated photos, credits etc so we can add them to your file. When a request comes in for a woman in her 30’s with blonde hair for example, the Casting Team will search the database for women in their 30’s with blonde hair and then see who is available. If you’ve dyed your hair blonde in recent months and nobody knows, you won’t receive an Availability Check. So make sure your information is up to date.
2. Your photo should be clear and simple.
I get sent photos every day of people wanting to register as an Extra. The best favour you can do for yourself is to make sure you have a clear, simple photo. A simple shot of you in colour, with no filters, hats or sunglasses. No pictures of you with other people, taken from very far away, from strange angles, or with a messy room in the background. A simple photo of YOU, the way you look on a normal day. It’s the main thing that productions will use to select their Extras so make it easy for them to pick you. You don’t necessarily need expensive professional photos – great pictures can be taken on phones these days.
3. Be honest.
It’s a running joke in acting circles that some performers are using the same head shots and photos for the last ten or twenty years. Don’t be ashamed of looking different or older than you used to and try to embrace the way you look now. Be honest with Casting Teams because if you are booked for a job, arrive to set and you don’t look like your photo they may not be able to use you and may in fact send you home. I’ve seen this happen numerous times on sets over the years. Don’t lie about how you look – people are going to find out in the end anyway. Make sure your current photo represents how you look now. We want to see the real you!
4. Respond quickly.
A lot of the time, Extras are the last thing to be organised for a shoot. I know Extras often feel like they’re the last to know anything – which is the truth. But it’s not because you’re not important, it’s because before you can be booked, everything else needs to be in place and ready to go. The Director, Wardrobe and Make-up departments, Locations and Crew all need to be organised so that a shoot day goes smoothly. They need to know what scenes they’re shooting and how they’re going to be shot, which takes a huge amount of preparation. Bear in mind that because Extras are often the last piece of the puzzle, you will often be asked very near to the shoot if you’re available. Production then need to get the extras booked in quickly so the faster you respond to our Availability Check the better your odds of being selected.
5. Be aware of how you present yourself.
At Extras Ireland, myself or the fantastic Rachel Barrett will usually be your point of contact. The ethos of EI as well as our sister company The Production People is that when Production Companies ask for our help, we’ll always send them the BEST options for the job. They want to make something great and we want to help them. We’ll never just throw a load of suggestions at the wall and hope something will stick. We recommend people personally based on what the client is looking for, who is available and also who we think they’ll like having on their set. Clients come to us because we correspond with members directly and personally so we know them – they’re not a number on a website. Think about it – you’re more likely to hire a plumber who has been recommended to you than someone you don’t know from Adam. We’ll always recommend people who come back to us quickly on things, are friendly and polite in correspondence and who we know will be on time, reliable and a great addition to the set. We want production companies to have the most talented and easiest people to work with so be sure to present yourself that way.
I hope these tips have been helpful and are food for thought – next time I’ll be giving some tips for being on set.
What tips do you have for extras out on sets from your own experience?