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Getting Extra Work in Washington D.C.

Not everyone really understands the purpose of an extra, when people think of acting they tend to lump everything together. However, extras don’t really need as many skills as an actor though the availability of work for an extra can be less than the typical acting job. You can still work as an extra too on top of being an actor in Washington D.C. Extras are typically used to help make the scene being filmed at the time appear more natural and to populate the background if the scene calls for it. Extras are used a lot in Washington D.C. for various short films, independent films and some major feature films too.
When you're working as an extra you will not typically have any lines to recite or read and there are also extras that work as what they call “featured extras” in the entertainment industry. Featured extras tend to get more screen time and they also work in close proximity to the lead actors and they're also typically paid more as well in Washington D.C. and other cities around the country. They may even have spoken lines if they are bumped by a “day player” and typically have a higher pay grade working as a featured extra. The actor may actually be eligible to join the acting Association SAG (Screen Actors Guild) if the film is in fact a SAG production at that time. Sometimes you will work on the sets of non SAG productions too. Just depends on the demand for extras in Washington D.C.
Location can be the key you need to find extra work in Washington D.C; try and show up at a shoot as a spectator and perhaps even try to show interest in working as an extra to someone else that is working on the production. Without being intrusive that is. It can be a rare occurrence in Washington D.C. however sometimes the crew that is working on the production may invite the people that are spectating in the area to come up on to the set as extras. This happens usually when they have come across the problem of having the extras they originally hired fail to show up on set that day or if the director spots someone that has the look that he has in mind for someone in the background of a scene.
A good tip for those that are seeking work as an extra in Washington D.C, it is generally a good rule of thumb to avoid wearing white, red or anything that sports a major brand logo on it. Seems odd but it is hard to be cast as an extra if you have a major label on your tee shirt, then it will seem like that brand has a promotion in the production and if that is untrue it can cause issues with the production as well. It is also good to understand that there may even be a chance that the work that you do as an extra may not even make it to the final cut of the production; sometimes this just occurs for creative reasons or they needed to cut out the scene you were in for whatever reason or the other.
When working as an extra you need to know and understand that there is a call time in which the extra must be ready to go on set when they are assigned to by the director or the assistant director in Washington D.C. and from time to time wardrobe fittings and wardrobe will be provided for the extra but typically they all wear their own clothing or outfit with maybe just a little bit of instruction from the director or assistant director on what they should wear to best fit the background scene in Washington D.C. If the film is supposed to be set during a specific time period, wardrobe is automatically provided and you'll be fitted by the Wardrobe Department for the production in Washington D.C.
Typically the companies that are working with Extras in the Washington D.C. area will keep record of the Extras that work with them by filing a photo of them away with their registration information. The photo they use is a headshot, this type of photo is normally an 8”x10” headshot with a resume attached and trimmed to fit the same size as the headshot, this will be taped on the back. However, do keep in mind that resumes are not all that necessary when working as an extra though they can help obtain work and should have a list of your physical attributes listed on there as well with any relevant experience you have had as an extra in Washington D.C. or anywhere else you have worked.
A good resume for an extra will not only have the previous experience that they have had as an extra listed but will also include a good list of physical attributes like height, weight, hair and eye color. The extra should also make sure to include their measurements for dress, shirt and pant size along with all the important contact information that they have. It doesn’t hurt to also include a small list of special skills, hobbies and sports that you do. Make sure you keep your resume updated, this can not be stressed enough. You could be looked over for a good job if the casting director is calling the wrong phone number for you.
Even Extras working in Washington D.C. should be well aware that there are many different scams out there in the entertainment industry, so they can avoid falling victim to one of these scams and worse off in their career for it as well. Sometimes one kind of scam you will see is the extra or actor being asked to pay fees or help fund the production. Anything that will be worth your time and effort will not ask for some kind of monetary donation before you can work for them or use their services to have headshots and resumes printed.
When on set as an extra it is good to know what to expect as you are waiting for your moment of glory so to speak. On a normal day the extra will be back behind the scenes for some good time until the extra gets the cue to walk across a scene, always done in the same way and manner with the same timing; meanwhile this is done while the larger scene is actually shot several times. You may cross that set a good 50 times before the scene is finalized. Extra work can be easy to come by and often you will get called up much more often if you have skills in juggling, martial arts, dancing etc. These special skills will make you stand out and sometimes the make or model of your car may get you called upon to work on a project in Washington D.C.
Realize that your look alone could be the reason you get noticed in Washington D.C; especially if the director feels like you create a certain vibe or atmosphere around you. Though be assured that even if you do happen to have the look that the director is looking for a certain scene you should still be well prepared and plan ahead of time when you are planning to do extra work because a good portion of that work may require you to be on set for up to 18 hours at a time and projects can vary in length of time needed on set by days to even weeks in Washington D.C. Also know that you may find that you are just on set just standing around until you are needed for that brief second of screen time.
In Washington D.C. when hanging around the set the whole time with directors, crew members and even the other actors on set, you should always remember to have some manners like your parents raised you, don’t act like you were raised by a pack of wolves. Be polite and cordial at all times and be sure to remember the names of the directors and other people you are working with. This will not only help you to expand upon your network as an actor or extra but will also help you to be more personable on set and enjoyable to work with. This could also help you get more work in Washington D.C.
Pay can in fact be quite good for an extra working in Washington D.C. however on the other hand the frequency of extra jobs can leave much to be desired and serve as a bit of a challenge. Especially since the casting director will hire union extras before non union. You should also keep in mind that if you have union affiliation that can be a factor in your pay as well. The consistency of work in your area really depends on location and how often films are being shot near you. When you live in a place like Washington D.C, your chances for getting extra work actually goes up quite a bit. The more experience you have the more often you will find yourself on set in Washington D.C.
Granted to be an extra you don’t really have to be part of a union like the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), they do provide good support to actors however, the ties to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists better known as AFTRA could be very helpful if you are looking for extras work in Washington D.C. Upon getting membership to any of these unions; you should keep a photo (headshot) and resume at the headquarters for AFTRA in their “extras” file. Producers tend to get in touch with AFTRA on a regular basis to look for extras that are also looking for work in Washington D.C.
If you are seeking to join the Screen Actors Guild you should be aware that there are prerequisites to becoming a member, such as being a member with another performers union for at least one year prior. For example start out with a union like AFTRA. You would also need to work as a principal extra at least one time in that union's jurisdiction. Usually an extra will start their career in Washington D.C. as a non union member; though with that said there is a huge difference in pay for someone that is a member of SAG versus someone that is non union.
Now don’t lose hope though, you can be hired on as a SAG extra to help you obtain membership with the Screen Actors Union in Washington D.C. This is the case in any city where SAG is active. When you are hired on as a SAG extra, you can work for just a minimum of three days to qualify for a SAG membership. In Washington D.C. all productions have a requirement placed on them to hire a small handful of SAG extras for every day that they are filming on set before they are allowed to hire non union extras. If a SAG extra does not show up for the shoot that day a non union extra can be handed a voucher to fill that slot for the day in the Washington D.C. area.
When this occurs , the non union members pay for the day and it will only take three of these vouchers to get qualified to join SAG in Washington D.C. or any other city in the US. If you want a SAG voucher as a non union member you will have to impress the assistant director, which is why it is important to be polite and remember their names and keep small talk courteous and sweet (while avoiding being a bother if the assistant director is busy). Be helpful if you want to empress however be sure that you do stay out of the way and be tactful with your performance; with patience and being easy to work with. A thank you note sent out to the assistant director after working on set can make a good impression as well in Washington D.C. You can always find the assistant director’s mailing address online in the Director’s Guild of America (DGA), (