Soooo… I’m guessing you’re curious about being in movies with the latest Disney stars – who watches Disney anyway? – but not star in it? Man, I feel old. I miss Selena Gomez.
If you want to find out more about my Background article in the January Issue, then you’ve come to the right place. The background industry in Vancouver is buzzing, and it isn’t a hard place to break into at all. It’s also instrumental if you want to break into the movie or tv industry on any given job. With NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED whatsoever, here are my 10 simple steps to becoming a background actor!
Go get yourself a background agent. Background agencies are usually friendly to noobs, and are always looking to add you to their large or small roster. The simplest way is to email them right away! Great things start with a simple email, letting them know that you’re interested in joining their agency, and would love to meet in person is the best starting point. Don’t expect an email back right away, but it would help if you added pictures of yourself for a head start
Go get a decent picture yourself! I would recommend staying away from the selfie, and instead: going with a full body, chest to head (or a headshot), hands (for any hand modeling gigs), and some pictures that show off your personality. Find some good lighting that doesn’t cast any shadows on your eyes by waiting for the clouds to come outside, or by standing near a bright window sill.
Once those beautiful pictures are sent and you have received the call or email, the next step is meeting at their office. The office shouldn’t be in a run down condo or in a sketchy alleyway, but should be in an office building near friendly office workers. This meeting isn’t very formal so don’t freak out about wearing a suit yet! Remember to look your best on game day.
After your meeting goes smoothly, make sure you arrange an appropriate system for payment, either through e-interact, direct deposit, pick-up, or through snail mail. Begin to find clothes that have no logos or branding. This can be done through any Value Village or thrift stores, where the larger the variety the better.
Get yourself a headshot photographer!! Not only can this potentially impact how much work you get, but it is also the best investment for yourself. I’ve been shooting headshot photography for a year, and the number of people who don’t have decent headshot still amazes me. It makes a lasting impression on casting directors. Remember the money can be returned easily through 1-2 jobs, so the return is well worth it through future work. Keep those photos updated whenever you decide to change your hair to blue or get a massive haircut.
Get a duffle bag or bring a suitcase for a load of clothing you’ll need for the day on set.
Finally, it comes down to how much you’ll earn. Every non-union background actor starts out with minimum wage, which comes to around $10 after the agent takes a small percentage. Pay gets increases to 1.5 times after eight hours, and then doubled after twelve hours and over. Some days you can earn up to $150 each. Even if you have worked for less than 4 hours, you can still get paid the full amount. If you join the union it’s a different story and you can make $15 an hour, plus the same multiplier. It’s not easy to join the union and it takes time, but it’s worth it to get a hefty sum each day.
Work! Some days can be tough but it’s worth it when the days are recurring, and your schedule is blacked out with lots of work. Flexibility is also great since you’ll have the choice of blocking out any day in your schedule.
See yourself on the tv or movie theater! Shout out that it’s you and take a screenshot or picture for all your Facebook friends to see. You can see a picture of me on Fear the Walking Dead in Link Magazine’s January issue.
Get ready to enjoy those long hours of playing cards with friends or lounging around with free food, while being on some gnarly TV or movie sets!
Background Actor Resources
Vancouver Actors Guide – http://www.vancouveractorsguide.com/resources/agents
Good to know source for more information on acting as a movie extra in Vancouver – https://www.reddit.com/r/vancouver/comments/2y7y8k/acting_as_a_movie_extra_in_vancouver/
Great place to form connections with other Vancouverites in this industry – https://www.facebook.com/groups/vancouverextras/
Yes, I am self-promoting but check out my work and contact me! – https://www.facebook.com/jarellalvarezphotography/
UX/UI Designer studying Digital Design and Development (D3) at the BCIT Burnaby Campus. Jarell’s interests are vast, such as running his own photography business, design, music, tech and writing. He loves to go on hikes whenever he can, or work as a background performer when the seasons right. He’s also into tv, movies, and video games, as well as being a Vice President of Internal Communications for BCIT eSports. Check out his portfolio: jarellalvarez.com