Successfully working as a Film & TV Extra

So you’ve created a profile on, and you’ve added your pictures. What next? The key to getting more work gigs with The Film Link as an Extra or background artist, is to adhere to the following:

  1. Always be honest about your AVAILABILITY. It’s very important to be honest about whether or not you can make a shoot, and rather than giving false hope of pitching on set, it is better to declare yourself unavailable, so that the job can go to someone else who really needs the opportunity.
  2. Punctuality on set – This is actually a very big determining factor for continued work. If you want to work successfully in the Film Industry, you need to be PUNCTUAL and RELIABLE. All productions demand Background artists to be on work on time, for various reasons some of which may be: CHANGE IN SHOOTING ORDER – A production may run ahead of schedule, or omit (cancel) what they were going to shoot, bringing the scenes that Background were suppose to be in a lot earlier on the shooting schedule. THINGS CHANGE WITHOUT WARNING – Actors run late, Vehicles run late, shoot requirements may not all be ready at Call Time, and therefore, Directors along with Assistant Directors, may make the call to shoot scenes with Background first. WARDROBE FITTINGS & MAKE UP PRECALLS – One of the reasons Background Artists are called in early is to get them dressed before actors, get make up done (this differs from production to production, but usually, they will also ask ladies to arrive with their own make up anyway) and also, to DRESS background into the shooting set. It’s very important to know where you’re going to be shooting. Extras usually have a starting point, and an end mark (position where your action ends). It helps with time if Background know this beforehand, after you’ve gone through the works (Make-up and Wardrobe). BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER– One of the reasons you could be called in early, is to ensure that you simply have had something to eat before working. Film hours are long, and it is a disservice to yourself, to work without having something to eat. These are some of the significant pointers as to why it’s good to be on time on set. At times, you may shoot first up and get Wrapped almost immediately, some other times, you may have to wait for your scene/s. On most Commercials and Music Videos, you may be needed for the full 12 hour day, and therefore, you need to make sure you’re ready and Standing by for anything.
  3. One of the things we pride ourselves on at TFL, is STEPPING EXTRAS UP TO BEING FEATURED EXTRAS / BIT-PART ROLE PLAYERS. We want to see you move up the ladder, by disciplining yourself through knowing and understanding set-etiquette, and having an always willing-to-learn attitude. One thing Directors and Assistant Directors love are Extras that take Direction well, and do what is required in the scene. The big challenge about set etiquette, is adhering to set rules such as, NO TALKING ON SET BUT MIMING – What this means is that you pretend to talk to perhaps another background actor or an actor, but you do this without using speaking words, or whispering. You do it as a Pantomime, where your mouth seems to be talking or laughing, or in a natural element, without making a sound. This is good set discipline, and it will be required of you almost of every set, unless otherwise told that you do need to make noise or sounds in a scene.
  4. DO NOT BE EAGER TO WRAP – A lot of Background artists frustrate their agencies as well as productions by asking Assistant Directors “when are we wrapping”. This give very bad rep for you as an extra, and gives you a bad reputation, to a point where you may not get work. Productions talk, and may like your looks, but they will not call for you if you’re always in a hurry to go home, usually without doing your day’s work. Note again, that some productions may only call you in for one scene, others may call you for six, others a full day. So be glad when you’re not working a full day, but also keep the same energy up when you have to work a full day. Do not put anyone under pressure to wrap you quickly. Never do that or else, you will never be called again.
  5. Do not ASSOCIATE WITH CREW and CAST, but keep to your own job, which is as a background artist. We have to all be professional on Film Sets, and you easily do this, by listening to where you’re told to go, where you’re being asked to wait, and coming to set with your phone off, when you’re called. Do not rush to take pictures with Cast or crew that you may know, it comes across as very unprofessional and may get you kicked off a set.
  6. PHONES ON SET are a big RED FLAG and DISTRACTION. Do not bring your phone to set only to be on social media or to take pictures. No pictures are allowed on set, and unless you’re asked to pretend to be on your phone in a scene, do not even take it out of your pocket. Also, DO NOT HOUND ACTORS that may be famous for pictures, unless those actors are the ones offering to take pictures. Remember, that actors have to learn their script on set, and there is nothing more irritating for them, to have someone ask them pictures when they’re trying to get into character.
  7. SIGN-IN FORMS, CHIT FORMS, IDs – Probably the most important rule on set and off set, is to make sure you sign-in when you arrive and before you start work, and sign-out when you’re wrapped for the day. Failure to do this, usually results in you NOT GETTING PAID. The Film Link always takes note of your arrival on set, and we set up Whatsapp groups to remind you to sign in and out, as well as send other briefs that may be essential to your work for the day. This is the single greatest rule. ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOU SIGN IN AND OUT OR ELSE YOU WILL NOT GET PAID.
  8. WARDROBE AND MAKE UP BRIEFS – At The Film Link we will always communicate to you, what the Wardrobe department and as well as the Make up/Hair departments would like you to look like on the day of the shoot. YOU NEED TO PLEASE ADHERE TO THE BRIEF or else you may be sent home without pay. If the Scene you’re shooting is a Funeral scene, you need to wear clothes appropriate for that occasion. If it’s a club scene, you need to wear clubbing clothes, if it’s a scene where you’re playing a Beggar, you need to wear broken down, torn clothes etc. This is very important. Always bring more clothing options to set, in case you have to play different roles on the same day. Get this right, and you will be an easy favourite all around.
  9. NIGHT SHOOTS AND EARLY CALLS – It’s always better, after you’ve been added to a Whatsapp group, to check other background artists in the same group to for travel arrangements if you don’t have your own car. Many extras travel in groups to avoid being late and also for safety. Get to know your fellow TFL colleagues in the Whatsapp group you’ll be added to once called for a job, so that you may all try to arrive at the same time on set, as well as leave together if possible. However, if some extras are wrapped earlier than others, do not sneak out or pressure ADs to release you early because of your group of colleagues. You need to understand that the production needs come first, and therefore, only upon fulfilling them, are you released. For Night Shoots, TFL will always communicate with you what times you will be shooting until, however, we usually get Background that we know will have transport arrangements, unless the production itself has provided. Please, do not say you’re available for a night shoot if you do not have a plan of how you’ll get home. As before, it is better to open that job space for someone who will be able to make it. Because we’re also under Covid-19 restrictions, we will also make sure that production provides you with permits so that you can shoot during curfew. This will all be communicated beforehand with you.
  10. Covid-19 PROTOCOL ON SET – It is normal set protocol as well as Covid-19 Protocol on set to separate Crew from Extras, Extras from Cast, and Cast from both Crew and Extras. Do not feel any way about this, this is done to keep everyone safe. Upon arrival onset, all Extras are required to screen for temperature and sanitize, while other sets do Rapid Tests which give instant results to a quick Covid test. This is also tied to arrival time on set, so that production may get these tests and screenings out of the way before working, so please ensure you arrive at the Call Time you’ve been given.
  • Zukiswa Lepote

    Zukiswa Lepote

    21st Jun 2021

    Film link is good agency that takes care of it’s people, pays in time.

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