For actors at the beginning of their career one thing is really important: gaining experience. As much as possible.
You might have visited a film school before or taken some acting classes, and you may have learned about acting techniques and how to create a good, trustworthy performance. Maybe you’ve participated in workshops, done cold reads and collaborated with fellow actors but nothing replaces true experience on a real film set.
It might look weird for a trained actor to pursue extra work, because the challenge doesn’t seem really high but there can be much more behind it.
Being on a film set is a completely different world. The hierarchy is different, everything has to be efficient and the pace can be really high. Especially for actors who want to deliver a vulnerable performance, you might feel like a number with all these people running around.
And it’s not that the crew doesn’t value actors or doesn’t see what they’re going through. But they have to focus on their jobs, and it doesn’t matter what that is: It is possibly something that had to be done yesterday.
When you do extra work, you probably don’t have to deliver an emotional performance. It’s probably just required to do something that you are doing anyway in your daily life. And the focus is not on you!
So being an extra can be a good way to get used to life on a film set and learn how to deal with that hectic environment.
You also learn how to stay fresh when you have to wait a long time. It can take a while between your call time and the time you actually go on set. And you have to learn for yourself how to be able to deliver when it is necessary.
When you start your career it is also impossible to get a foot in the door and it can be difficult to get roles with little to no experience.
For extra work there is often no experience required. For many scenes you need a bunch of people and all different kinds of types. So it’s easier to get a role.
When you do extra work, you meet with people that can have an influence on casting decisions. You will probably deal with the casting director when applying for the job and with assistant directors on set.
And they will remember if you were kind and professional. It sticks out when people are nice and easy to handle. They meet a lot of people and know exactly what it looks like to be unprofessional. And no one wants to work with those kinds of people.
So when you behave well, they will recognize you and when you audition for a speaking role they might be in the casting room and not just seeing your performance, but also know who you were on set.
Being an extra is a great way to network and who knows — it might open a door for your creative career that you didn’t even think about.