#101: Become a Movie Extra

Admit it, you’ve always wanted to be a movie star.  And with Toronto known as Hollywood North, here’s you chance to be discovered…as a Movie Extra Walking downtown, you’ve probably seen […]

Admit it, you’ve always wanted to be a movie star.  And with Toronto known as Hollywood North, here’s you chance to be discovered…as a Movie Extra

Renee Zwelleger Dazed and Confused

Renee Zwelleger as a Movie Extra in Dazed and Confused

Walking downtown, you’ve probably seen the TV and movie production crews and I’m sure you’ve tried to spot a celebrity. But somewhere behind the scenes lurking in the background are the Movie Extras. They are the blurry, unknown restaurant diners, fans in a stadium and sidewalk strollers. Every movie needs them, and no scene would be realistic without them. Enter my summer of unemployment when I became a Movie Extra.

It’s relatively easy to become an Extra in Toronto. I found an agency in the Classifieds of NOW magazine (or check out the ACTRA website) and went for my “interview” at their office on Yonge Street.  Pretty much all you need are some current photos, pay the admin fee (I paid $75), and I was on their books. Easy as that.  It requires no talent, all you need to do is show up on time and do what you’re told. There’s just no guarantees you’ll make it on  film, there’s very little  glamour, and the money is crap. Welcome to being an Extra.

Within a week, I got my first call to play a Reporter in a made for TV Disney movie. Then I was a bar patron in a Mathew Perry movie,  a hippie in a Kirsten Dunst movie and cast as a Cheerleader. Unfortunately I never made it on screen in any of these.

Bruce Willis - The Verdict

Bruce Willis as a Movie Extra in The Verdict

The biggest surprise of being an Extra is just how slow the movie making process is. They pretty much spend a whole day just to get a few minutes of film. And as a Movie Extra, you have to be able to tolerate a lot of sitting around. But you do bond over the boredom with the other Extras. There seems to be three types of Extras: wannabe actors trying to break into the business, people like me who are doing it for the thrill of being in a movie, or the weirdos who do this for a living as they seem to be adverse to getting a real job. Although Rene Zellweger was a movie extra in “Dazed and Confused” and Bruce Willis was a courtroom Extra in “The Verdict”. Megan Fox was an extra in “Bad Boys 2”  as a dancer in a club scene and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were extras for the Fenway Park scenes in “Field of Dreams”

My biggest Movie Extra moment was a Christopher Lambert movie. It was pretty much a B-grade movie rip off of Brad Pitt’s “Seven”.  The scene takes place in a diner and if you put it on pause, you can see my blurry head in the background. I was also once cast in an education Math CD. I appear in lots of different images but the most bizarre was as a Mom (I was 25 years old) with a Chinese husband 20 years older than me, a 16 year old Chinese son, and a 10 year old Caucasian daughter. The photographer said we were the most unbelievable family ever, sighed and took our photo.

You’ll never get rich being a Movie Extra as you get paid minimum wage (after your agency takes their 10-15 % commission) for what can be mind numbing work and long tedious hours. But making some easy cash while being in the movies, isn’t the worst way to spend a summer.

PS: If anyone ever runs into my Math CD…please send me a copy.

Movie Extra - Resurrection

My blurry head in the background as a Movie Extra

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