How to Work as a TV Film Extra, Supporting or Background Talent

Lights, camera, action! The world of film and television is captivating, and many people dream of being a part of it. While the spotlight may shine brightest on the main actors, there’s a vital role that adds depth and realism to every scene—the TV film extra, also known as supporting or background talent. If you’re eager to step into the world of showbiz, this comprehensive guide will provide you with valuable insights and tips on how to work as a TV film extra.

St Louis Commercial Studio Photographers working with talent on productions.

Understanding the Role

Before delving into the process of becoming a TV film extra, it’s essential to understand the role and responsibilities involved. Extras are the unsung heroes who create the atmosphere, enhance the narrative, and make the scenes come alive. They can be found in a wide range of settings, from bustling city streets to elegant parties, creating the illusion of a vibrant and populated world.

As a TV film extra, your primary task is to fill the background of a scene, adding authenticity and depth. This often requires performing simple actions, such as walking, talking, or reacting naturally to the main action. While you may not have scripted lines or receive significant screen time, your presence is crucial to the overall visual storytelling.

Getting Started

Becoming a TV film extra is an exciting opportunity, but it requires dedication and perseverance. Here are the steps to get started on your journey:

1. Research the Industry

Familiarize yourself with the entertainment industry by researching the different types of productions, such as TV shows, films, commercials, and music videos. Understand the roles of various crew members and how they collaborate to bring a production to life. This knowledge will help you navigate the industry more effectively.

2. Build Your Skill Set

While no formal training is required to become a TV film extra, developing certain skills can greatly enhance your chances of getting hired. Improve your acting skills by taking acting classes or workshops to gain confidence in front of the camera. Practice improvisation, as extras often need to react naturally to unpredictable situations.

3. Create Your Portfolio

Craft a professional portfolio showcasing your suitability as a TV film extra. Include high-quality headshots that capture your versatility and range. If you have any previous experience or training, list it in your portfolio. Make sure your portfolio is easily accessible online, as casting directors often prefer digital submissions.

4. Find a Reputable Extras Agency

Register with a reputable extras agency in your area. These agencies specialize in connecting extras with casting opportunities. Research and choose an agency that has a good track record, positive reviews, and a strong network within the industry. Be wary of agencies that require upfront fees or make unrealistic promises.

5. Attend Casting Calls

Keep an eye out for casting calls and auditions advertised by your extras agency or through industry websites. These calls will specify the type of production, the roles available, and any specific requirements. Prepare your portfolio, dress appropriately, and present yourself professionally during the audition process.

6. Be Flexible and Reliable

Flexibility is key when working as a TV film extra. Productions often have unpredictable schedules and last-minute changes. Be prepared to adjust your availability and adapt to different roles and environments. Punctuality and reliability are also highly valued qualities, as the smooth running of a production depends on the commitment of the entire cast and crew.

On Set: Dos and Don’ts

Congratulations! You’ve landed a gig as a TV film extra. Now it’s time to make the most of your opportunity and leave a positive impression. Here are some essential dos and don’ts to keep in mind:


  • Follow Instructions: Listen carefully to the assistant directors or the production staff. They will provide you with specific instructions on where to stand, how to move, and what actions to perform. Pay attention to their guidance and follow it precisely.
  • Stay Professional: Treat your role as a TV film extra with professionalism and respect. Be punctual, maintain a positive attitude, and interact courteously with the cast and crew. Remember that you are part of a collaborative team working towards a common goal.
  • Be Observant: Pay attention to the main actors and the scene being filmed. Take cues from them and react naturally to create a believable background atmosphere. Blend into the scene without drawing attention to yourself, unless explicitly instructed otherwise.
  • Network: Use your time on set to network and make connections within the industry. Engage in conversations with cast and crew members during breaks, but be mindful not to disrupt their work. Building relationships can lead to future opportunities and valuable insights.


  • Break Character: While it may be tempting to seek attention or engage in distracting behavior, it’s important to remember that you are there to enhance the main action, not steal the spotlight. Avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself or disrupting the flow of the scene.
  • Use Electronic Devices: Unless instructed otherwise, keep your phone or other electronic devices out of sight and turned off. They can be distracting and may interfere with the production process. Stay focused and attentive to the needs of the scene.
  • Discuss Confidential Information: Respect the confidentiality of the production. Avoid sharing any details or behind-the-scenes information on social media or with unauthorized individuals. This includes details about the script, the actors, or any sensitive information you may come across while on set.
  • Complain or Disrupt: It’s natural to encounter long hours, waiting periods, and repetitive tasks while working as an extra. However, avoid complaining or causing disruptions on set. Maintain a professional demeanor and remember that every job, no matter how small, contributes to the overall success of the production.

Growing in the Industry

Working as a TV film extra can serve as a stepping stone for further opportunities in the entertainment industry. Here are a few tips to help you grow in your career:

  • Expand Your Skill Set: Continue to improve your acting skills and explore other areas of interest within the industry. Take on more challenging roles, enroll in advanced acting classes, or consider pursuing roles in theater or independent films to gain further experience and exposure.
  • Network Strategically: Attend industry events, film festivals, and workshops to meet professionals and expand your network. Build relationships with casting directors, agents, and other industry insiders who can help you advance your career. Utilize online platforms like LinkedIn and professional networking sites to connect with industry professionals.
  • Seek Representation: As you gain experience and showcase your talent, consider seeking representation from a talent agent or manager. They can help you find more substantial roles, negotiate contracts, and guide you through the complexities of the industry.
  • Stay Persistent: The entertainment industry can be highly competitive and challenging. Stay persistent and resilient in pursuing your goals. Be prepared for rejection, as it is a common part of the journey. Use each experience as an opportunity to learn and grow.


Working as a TV film extra provides a unique opportunity to be a part of the captivating world of showbiz. By understanding the role, taking the necessary steps to get started, and maintaining professionalism on set, you can make a positive impact and pave the way for future opportunities. Remember to continually grow your skills, network strategically, and stay persistent in pursuing your dreams. Lights, camera, and action—your journey as a TV film extra begins now!


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