Many people just think about doing a background, but never get the chance. When you watch a film or television show and the action takes place in a public setting, there is likely to be people moving in and around the environment in which the scene takes place. These are background performers (AKA extras), and they help create the world of the public atmosphere.

Working as a background actor on a TV series or feature film can be a very exciting experience for those new to acting.


Absolutely! Becoming a background actor requires NO previous acting skill, however it does require:

  • a mature and professional attitude
  • be reliable, responsible and have a flexible schedule
  • understanding and adherence to on-set policies and etiquette
  • high availability and willingness to work long hours
  • mobility (a car or access to public transit)
  • preparation and attention to details regarding any wardrobe requirements
  • you are given
  • enjoy working with people


If you’re booked, take the opportunity seriously, and be sure following directions and to act professionally and respectfully at all times.

Although confirmation to work on a production will be received well in advance, final call times and location may only be sent out the night before. Additionally, you never know how long a shoot will last. Even if you’re told you’ll only be filming for a couple of hours, clear your schedule for the entire day. So don’t be surprised to find yourself working a 12 hour shoot. Plan to be there all day. Try not to book anything that same day or else we may not be able to shoot with you at all. If you do have to leave at a certain time, please let us know before your shoot day. If something comes up while you are with us, please let the casting director or 2nd Assistant Director know ASAP. Having a flexible schedule is helpful if you want to be an extra.


You must be a resident of British Columbia and be able to legally work in Canada with a valid Canadian Social Insurance Number. In order to be paid, you’ll need to bring the documents required to every shoot, for paperwork purposes: Photo copy of copy of your SIN, and a government-issued photo ID, and Photo copy of your most recent Federal Tax Notice of Assessment, or Photo copy of a British Columbia utility bill, showing your name and current address. If you are in Canada on a work permit, production will require a photo copy of your Social Insurance card and your work permit so they can verify that you are eligible for employment. If you forget these, getting paid will take longer and be much more complicated.


Arrive at least 20 minutes before your call time. Timing on films is very important. Never arrive late to a set. It’s unprofessional. You MUST make sure you are arrive ON TIME. Give yourself adequate time to get there in case traffic is bad or transit is late. You should receive instructions on parking and checking in when you’re booked. As soon as you arrive on set, check in with the designated member of the crew, such as the assistant director, a production assistant, or an “extras wrangler”. The place you check in will usually be a holding area, and you may be sent by shuttle bus to the actual shooting location. Bring something to do while between shots. Sometimes, there’s a long wait before you’re actually called to set. This can be due to any number of things. Bring a book, your laptop, iPad, knitting, homework, etc.


Before you arrive, you’ll likely be told what to wear, how to style your hair, and how to do your makeup, if the company isn’t providing it for you. For longer shoots, you may need to bring multiple outfits. If so, pack them in a garment bag along with the right shoes and accessories to keep them clean and organized. If you’re filming a period piece, the crew might do your wardrobe, hair, and makeup. Try to look polished or fit the role’s description to the best of your ability. The better you look, the better your placement in the scene will be.


The most important things about being an extra are looking the part, blending in, and following instructions. Make sure you clearly understand what a production assistant or assistant director instructs you to do in the scene. Listen for cues such as “Action,” “Background action,” “Cut,” and “Quiet on the set,” and always do as you’re told. When the camera’s rolling, we ask everyone to stay quiet until cut is called. This includes no whispering, moving around, or making noise. Cellphones must be off during roll. Wireless signals can cause issues with sound recording.


  • Don’t leak any details of what was filmed. Even telling your best friend about the scene you shot could be breaking your contract.
  • Taking pictures is forbidden. That means no selfies, either!
  • Never ask for autographs or talk to lead actors unless they talk to you first. Remember, this is their craft, so don’t take it personally if they don’t smile or talk to you. They’re more concerned with getting into character than engaging in small talk or meeting their biggest fan.
  • Please no photography of the cast on set.
  • When you’re on set, the 1st Assistant Director (AD) will help place you according to where the director wants you placed. PAs or the 2nd Assistant Director may also help give direction on what you’ll be doing in the scene.
  • Never look directly at the camera during filming. Or speak when the cameras are rolling, unless the director specifically asks.
  • Wait until you hear your cue to start. Your cue will most likely be the word “background!” The AD will run a rehearsal before rolling to make sure you’re all clear and the director likes what you are doing. Feel free to ask the AD questions about movement and performance.
  • Please be respectful of our cast and crew and try to keep non-scene related questions off-set. However, if you are given direction or terms you don’t understand, you are more than welcomed to ask the AD for clarification.
  • When you are asked to fake a conversation with another background actor, we will ask you to “pantomime” the conversation. Miming simply means moving your mouth as if you were actually talking. You won’t actually be talking! Many people silently say “watermelon ruder baker” over and over again. Be careful to not whisper!
  • Please remain quiet between takes. When there are a lot of background actors, it becomes quite loud on set when everyone is having a conversation between takes.
  • When an AD tells everyone to “go back to 1”, this means you are going to do the take over again. Your “1” or “first position” is the position you are in at the beginning of the take.
  • If the schedule requires you to stay through lunch period, please wait until a PA or assistant director invites you to the lunch line once cast and crew have lined up.
  • When you need to use the restroom, Please notify a PA or an Assistant Director before leaving the holding area or set.
  • When you’re wrapped, a PA or AD will be present to make sure you get back to the holding area to gather your personal belongings and make sure your paperwork is filled out correctly. Once you’ve checked out with the Wrangler or AD, you are all set to head out.
  • Act professionally at all times! Take the opportunity seriously, and remember that being an extra is a job!


If you have a child who is interested in doing background acting, and they are 15 years old or younger, they will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian (chaperon) while on set. Depending on their age, they will only be permitted to work a limited number of hours per day.


The standard pay rate for a non-union Extra is minimum wage in British Columbia. Lunch breaks are not paid. After 8 work hours, overtime is paid per Provincial standards. The payroll companies take approx two weeks to process your pay and mail it to us. We have five days to process your pay and sent it off to you. We usually process e-transfer out Friday or Saturday night.

*Remember to mark “cheque to Agent” on your documents when on set.


ACTRA: The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television, and Radio Artists. Professional Actors Union.

ACTRA COUNT: The number of union background performers designated for each production. It can be different for each one. Some productions may have a 10 ACTRA count, some may have a 30 ACTRA count. After the ACTRA count is met, and then non-union performers are hired.

FULL MEMBER: A full member of the professional actors union.

APPRENTICE: An apprentice with the professional actors union.

BACKGROUND PERFORMER: Still get paid the non-union rate.

NON-UNION: A performer who is not part of an actor’s union.

AD/2nd AD/3rd AD: Assistant Director. The people who literally run the show.

BASE CAMP: Main location for crew members on a location shoot.

BG HOLDING: Designated meeting or waiting area for background performers.

BOOKING: A job! Once all details have been confirmed, we will say “YOU ARE BOOKED” or “BOOKING YOU” – without this, your job is not confirmed.

BOOKING REQUEST: Email with details of booking – not a confirmed job offer. Usually includes questions or requests clarification. Always read all the details and answer all questions when replying. These are specific to each booking and only sent to performers who are appropriate. We do not send booking requests to our entire roster. We take the time and only send them to performers who we feel fit the look that the casting director is asking for. Please reply to EVERY booking request that we send you to let us know if you ARE or ARE NOT available for the booking.

CASTING DIRECTOR: Person hired by production to cast talents for the production.

CALL TIME: Industry term for the time you must be on set or location, ready to work. NEVER BE LATE.

COMMISSION: Compensation received/paid for agents’ services.

CIRCUS: Makeup, Hair and Wardrobe Trucks, Honey wagons, Mobile Dressing Rooms, and Catering.

“CUT”: The call to stop the action. Before releasing any lock-up make sure you hear cut from the 1st AD.

DECLARATION OF RESIDENCY: Form you must fill out your first time on each different production you are on. It declares you are a BC Resident for tax purposes.

EMPLOYER: The person/company who employs you/pays you. THIS IS NOT YOUR AGENT, THIS IS PRODUCTION.

EXTERIOR/INTERIOR: Outdoor/indoor shot.

EXTRAS: Background performers – talent used to fill in and complete the background of a scene (walking by on the street, ‘eating’ in a restaurant, standing in line at the bank, watching a sports game, etc).

“GO AGAIN”: Repeat the same shot. (Get used to hearing this one).

GO-SEE: Similar to an audition – you “go” so the casting director/producer can “see you”. It’s basically an open casting call and an opportunity to meet the casting director in person.

LOCATION: Area allocated for the production.

“LOCK IT UP”: Short for “Be quiet and get ready for cameras to roll”.

PHOTO DOUBLE: An extra hired because of their specific resemblance to an actor.

PICTURE CASTING: When the casting director specifically casts you by your picture.

“PICTURE’S UP”: Rehearsal is complete; cameras will roll on the next action.

“ROLLING”: Film and sound are rolling, action is about to begin. Be quiet and still!

SHUTTLE: Transportation provided by production to get to a set

S.O.C.: Silent on camera. Actor role that does not speak.

SSE: “Special Skilled Extra”. Specific category of extra that’s hired for a particular skill. Pays a higher rate.

“STAND BY”: Hold your positions for a temporary delay, and be prepared for rolling.

STAND-IN: A performer whose job is to ‘stand-in’ the place of an actor for lighting and focus purposes.

STUDIO: Large building used for shooting.

T4A: Legal document provided by your employer for tax purposes. Please note that we are not your employer and as such, do not issue these documents.

TALENT AGENT/AGENCY: Person or persons who represent performers/talent and market them to the casting directors.


UPGRADE: When an extra is chosen to speak on camera and it becomes an ‘actor’ role. If this happens on set you must contact your agent IMMEDIATELY so we can arrange for a contract for you. There is a time limit for an upgrade to go through (30 days) so let us know right away if you are lucky enough to have this happen.

VOUCHER: Timesheet that you receive when you report to work. You must sign in and out on the voucher and hand it in at the end of the shoot day. They will give you a copy as well. KEEP YOUR COPY. It is your receipt/proof that you worked.

WARDROBE: Industry term for your costume or clothing requirements. Applies to clothing/accessories given to you or that you wear/bring yourself.

WORK PERMIT: Documentation required by all performers who are not Canadian Citizens to prove they are legally entitled to work in Canada. Issued by the Government of Canada. You must take a copy on set with you.

WRAP: “It’s a wrap” or “You’re wrapped” means you’re finished work for the day, can sign out, and can then leave (after you have signed out).

We’re very excited to have each and everyone of you coming along with us in this adventure!