Extras perform actions in the background or in crowds during filming. They do not contribute to the plot directly but they are important to create a certain atmosphere.

Extras typically do the following duties:

  • Follow the instructions provided by the casting director, assistant director, or production staff regarding the desired actions and behavior for each scene.
  • Portray a specific character or role, which may include roles such as pedestrians, restaurant patrons, party guests, or office workers, depending on the requirements of the production.
  • Maintain consistency in appearance and actions throughout multiple takes and scenes to ensure continuity.
  • React naturally to the main actors and their actions while remaining aware of the camera and avoiding any distractions that could disrupt the filming process.
  • Pay attention to details such as hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language to create a believable and authentic presence on screen.
  • Follow any special instructions related to wardrobe, makeup, or props provided by the production team.
  • Be punctual and available for long hours on set, as filming schedules can often be unpredictable and may require flexibility.
  • Collaborate with other extras and background performers to create a cohesive and realistic background environment.
  • Adhere to the rules and guidelines set by the production, including maintaining confidentiality and respecting the privacy of the main actors and crew members.
  • Stay focused and attentive even during extended periods of waiting or downtime between scenes.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to extra:

film extra
background actress
walker on
background artist
television extra
motion picture extra
TV extra
background actor
movie extra

Working conditions

The work of an extra involves being on set and following the production schedule. This may include long hours, irregular working days, and the possibility of working in various locations. Extras are often required to be patient and adaptable, as they may have to wait for extended periods before being called to set or during scene setup. The work environment can vary depending on the production, ranging from indoor studios to outdoor locations. Extras should be comfortable working in different settings, such as crowded spaces or specific scenarios that require specific actions or reactions.

Minimum qualifications

No formal education or specific training is required to work as an extra. However, having some experience or knowledge of on-set protocols and procedures can be beneficial. Many extras gain experience through local casting agencies or by networking within the entertainment industry. It is essential to be professional, reliable, and cooperative, as well as to demonstrate the ability to follow directions and adapt to different filming conditions. Extras should have a flexible schedule to accommodate the unpredictable nature of the industry and be prepared to work in various locations and environments.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Extra is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Extra career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to extra.

stunt performer
costume attendant
location manager
camera operator

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of extra. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of extra with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

voice-over artist
production designer
lighting director
casting director

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of extra.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of extra. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Photography: Art and practice of creating aesthetically appealing images by recording light or electromagnetic radiation.
  • Acting techniques: The different acting techniques for developing lifelike performances, such as method acting, classical acting, and Meisner technique.
  • Lighting techniques: The characteristics of techniques used to create atmospheres and effects on camera or on stage; the equipment required and appropriate setup to use.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of extra. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Use firearms: Shoot one or several types of firearm being aware of safe handling techniques, aim of the firearm and the fire.
  • Rehearse role: Study lines and actions. Practise them before recording or shooting to find the best way to perform them.
  • Practice martial arts: Practice one or several codified combat systems or traditions. Use your martial arts techniques for self-defense, self-development, performance, health, or other purposes.
  • Work with the camera crew: Work with the crew responsible for the camera operation and movement to get directions from them on where to stand for an aesthetic result.
  • Dance: Perform in artistic productions of differents disciplines such as classical ballet, modern dance, contemporary dance, early dance, ethnic dance, folk dance, acrobatic dances and street dance.
  • Practice dance moves: Study and practice dance moves required in artistic productions.
  • Work with the director of photography: Work with the director of photography on the artistic and creative vision that needs to be followed during production of a movie or theatre production.
  • Analyse a script: Break down a script by analysing the dramaturgy, form, themes and structure of a script. Conduct relevant research if necessary.
  • Ensure cooperation among production, costume department and make-up department: Work with the staff responsible for costumes and make up in line with their creative vision and obtain directions from them about how make-up and costumes should look.
  • Exercise sports: Exercise or practice under the direction of sports and athletic trainers or professional coaches to develop skills, improve physical condition, or prepare for competitions.
  • Sing: Use the voice to produce musical sounds, marked by tone and rhythm.
  • Practise singing: Study and practise lyrics, melody, and rhythm of songs.
  • Work with the lighting crew: Work with the crew responsible for the lighting setup and operation to get directions from them on where to stand for an aesthetic result.
  • Ride horses: Ride horses, and pay attention to ensuring the safety of the horse and rider, and applying proper horseback riding techniques
  • Adapt to different roles: Adapt to different roles in a play, regarding the styles, ways of acting and aesthetics.

ISCO group and title

3435 – Other artistic and cultural associate professionals

  1. Extra – ESCO
  2. Featured image: By upyernoz from Haverford, USA – lounging actors, CC BY 2.0
Last updated on July 4, 2023

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