What to Expect: First Time Background Actor

If you’re reading this, you’re probably new to background acting and feeling a mix of excitement and uncertainty. That’s perfectly normal! Stepping onto a film set for the first time can be both thrilling and a bit overwhelming. Let’s walk through what you can expect and why some things might feel like they’re up in the air until the last minute. It’s hard to cover everything, but it’s a good start.

The Excitement of the Unknown

Getting your first background acting gig is a big deal. You’re excited, maybe even a little nervous. One of the first things you’ll notice is that you often don’t get all the details until the day before your shoot. If you’re lucky, you’ll know earlier, but usually, it’s a last-minute deal. Why? Because film schedules are constantly changing. Weather can affect outdoor shoots, creative inspiration might strike, and securing locations can be unpredictable.

The Ever-Changing Call Time

Your call time, the time you need to be on set, is another thing that can change frequently. The casting associates using background work are ALWAYS waiting by their email, ready to hear from production assistants about when background actors are needed. Filming schedules are like living organisms – they change and evolve. We always push for information as quickly as possible, but ultimately, we’re at the mercy of the production schedule.

Wardrobe: Flexibility is Key

Wardrobe is another area where flexibility is crucial. Sometimes production has a clear idea of what they want you to wear, but this can change depending on the director’s vision and the shooting schedule. Weather changes can move scenes around, and suddenly, the wardrobe needs to be adjusted. Certain networks also have strict rules about what can be worn on set (like no crop tops), while other projects might be more flexible.  If you have formal wear that you can bring to set – make sure to add those pieces to your profile to help stand out.  We’re always hearing that productions like to understand who has special pieces. 

Working Hours: Be Prepared for the Long Haul

One important thing to remember is that working hours can vary greatly. You might be on set for as little as 3 hours, or it could turn into a 12, 13, or even 14-hour day. It all depends on the size of the scene, if the director is getting the shots they need, and several other factors. This is especially important for kids in the industry. Rules change depending on their age, but for example a child between 12-15 could be on set for up to 12 hours, and they need a guardian with them, making it even more unpredictable. The kids we’ve heard from have had incredible experiences, sometimes even getting to meet the principal actors, which can be a highlight (though not always guaranteed).

Food: Be Prepared

When it comes to food, set life can be a bit different. Crew and union members often have access to catered meals, but background actors can have access to light snacks, but should  bring their own food. I’ve always wanted to be able to send food for our actors on set, but due to the logistics of set locations and the last-minute nature of filming, it’s not currently possible. One day my wish is we will find a way and partnerships with productions to remove this barrier, but for now, especially in the warmer months, make sure to bring plenty of food and water to keep yourself energized throughout the day.

Booking Your Role

When you apply for a project and get cast, you’ll receive an invitation to accept the role. While you might have a preference for certain roles, like being a nurse or a cop, production might have specific needs that don’t align with your preferences. Our casting directors always try to match you with your preferred roles, but sometimes, being open to different roles can lead to unexpected and enjoyable experiences. Once you’ve accepted your invitation, that lets the casting team know your availability is still good and they will send you wardrobe and call times once they are available.

Communication: It Happens Late in the Process

A common piece of feedback from first-time background actors is that they didn’t realize how much of the communication happens later in the process. Once you’ve been on set, you’ll feel more confident for the next time. That’s why we’ve created a small checklist or toolkit to help both first-timers and seasoned background actors prepare better and feel more at ease.

Gratitude and Looking Ahead

I’m deeply grateful for all our background actors. Your work is essential to the magic of film and television. Remember, every set you step onto is a new adventure, and with each experience, you’ll grow more confident and skilled.

Thank you for being a part of our community, and we look forward to seeing you shine on set!