Being a background actor means you could be on set for over 12 hours. I have been on set starting at 6pm and didn’t get home till 8am the next day! And here a list of things a background actor needs, to stay awake and comfortable on the job.
Besides forms of ID such as your State ID, social security cards, or passport, you need a few others things too to help you get through the day, afternoon or night:
1. Bring Advil.
2. Bring you own water and snacks, usually there will be a craft service, but the service is scheduled, for example, if you start the job at 6pm, you might not get “lunch” until 1:30am! So make sure you bring some food. Crackers, granola bar, apple, something to hold you over.
3. Bring shoes for wearing on set and also more comfortable ones like sandals, sneakers or flip flops for when you are off set. I have had bad experiences of needing to wear high heels on set and not bringing an extra pair of shoes, and trust me your feet will be killing you.
4. Bring gloves and scarves when shooting in the winter, sometimes there are scenes that need to be shot outside, and sometimes even last minute they might need YOU to stand out side. Regardless if it is freezing, or snowing.
5. Bring something to read and do when you are not on set.
6. Expect to bring your own makeup and hair supplies, and clothing, sometimes two sets of clothing for changes.
Background actors are off all ages and ethnicities, so expect to work with a lot of people of all types, and some terms on set you might want to know are:
When the camera is rolling, the PA with yell “ Background!”…that is when you move, pantomime, and ‘act’ like you are doing something, then you will hear Action, and that is for the main “Actors” speak.
“Extra” another word for a “Background Actor”
“Back to Holding,” this is a cue to go back to the area where the background actors stay when they are not on set.
“That’s a wrap.” That doesn’t mean your day is over, that could just mean that scene is over.
Being a background actor means you are there to help create the mood of the scene, you could be simply walking across a street, portraying a student, or police man, sitting at a café, pretending to notice art at a gallery, or something lifestyle-ish, the next time you watch a movie or TV series, notice the people in the background…it takes the effort of even the background actor, to make the film come together and touch an audience.