A few years back, I jumped into the world of film extras in the UK, also known as supporting artists in movies and TV series. I didn’t hear from the agency for a while, and then the pandemic hit, affecting both our lives and the film industry. Productions either paused or adapted to strict safety measures.
Before that, I had some filming experience in Bulgaria, working on a TV series and a movie, but that was back in 2012. The UK’s entertainment industry is massive, especially since many Hollywood productions choose to film here due to cost-effectiveness. You can imagine the demand for extras, making it a great part-time job for students with decent pay.
Fast forward to 2021, and I finally got a break. The agency contacted me for a role in a Netflix film called “The Swimmers,” where I portrayed a Syrian refugee. This opportunity involved two days of filming and required two COVID tests for safety.
During this experience, I had the pleasure of meeting a diverse group of people, each with their unique backgrounds and stories. It was an eye-opening experience that fueled my desire to become even more involved.
While on set I asked around for recommendations on additional agencies and signed up with all of them.
Within days, I started receiving more and more requests, propelling my journey as an extra on film sets.
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What’s The Pay as an Extra on Film Sets in the UK?
Payment definitely varies, but you can count on a minimum of £118 for just a few hours of filming. Personally, the lowest payment I’ve received for a day of filming was £150, which I consider pretty good, considering we didn’t even film much.
As of writing this blog post, I recently wrapped up a Disney production that I can’t disclose just yet, but let’s just say it involves “lightsabers.” For only four days of filming, I earned over £1000, which is amazing considering I didn’t have to do much. I just filmed for under 20 minutes.
Payment depends on various factors, like your start time. You receive extra money for early starts, like 6 a.m., or if your lunch break gets delayed. Even if your lunch was on time, but they called you back from the holding area before your full hour was up, they pay you extra.
The production will also reimburse your travel expenses generously, and if you have to provide your own clothes as part of your costume or if you choose to drive to the set instead of using their free shuttle, they compensate you for that too!
All of these details can be found on the FAA/PACT sheet, which outlines all the scenarios where you should receive extra pay. For instance, late lunch payment kicks in if you eat six hours or more after your call time. If your call time is 7 am, you should ideally have lunch no later than 1 pm; otherwise, you’ll get an extra £20.
Usually, it all adds up to over £250 for the day, and sometimes even reaches £600.
Can You Make a Full-Time Career as a Film and TV Extra in the UK?
Absolutely, you can!
In the beginning, it’s a good idea to set up profiles with various agencies and start as a part-time gig. But as you accumulate experience with a few productions under your belt, you’ll notice that more and more opportunities come your way.
The industry values reliability, so it’s crucial not to cancel any of your bookings – this is paramount!
I’ve been heavily involved in it during the summer, and I can attest that the earnings are quite substantial. I could comfortably sustain myself solely through this work. However, personally, I wouldn’t choose to make it a full-time career.
Best Agency to be a Film Extra in the UK?
There are numerous agencies out there, and I can confidently say they are all pretty good. However, I must admit, I did stumble upon one that raised some concerns with their practices.
To maximize your opportunities, it’s advisable to sign up with all these agencies and maintain a personal diary to keep track of your bookings, preventing any double bookings.
I typically accept all job offers and keep myself available because, realistically, about 3/4 of them won’t select you, and you might end up with some free days. It’s worth noting that cancellations sometimes happen, even the day before a shoot.
When you’re booked for a gig, you have a couple of options. You can either withdraw your availability from any conflicting productions or wait until closer to the date because schedules often shift or jobs get cancelled.
Here are the agencies I’m currently signed up with, and they’ve been sending me plenty of requests and job opportunities.
Universal Extras, a prominent agency in the world of movie extras, was a top one on my list, but my experience with them has been far from satisfactory recently.
Despite their claims of working with major productions and providing a user-friendly app for job coordination, my interaction with the company raised several concerns. When I sought clarification and assistance regarding a ban on their platform, the response from their director, Liana Berko, was less than reassuring.
Notably, Liana seemed uninformed about my situation and displayed a lack of empathy or willingness to investigate further. This raised questions about the company’s commitment to addressing customer issues and ensuring fair treatment.
Furthermore, the ban itself appeared arbitrary, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was rooted in discrimination, racism, or personal bias. This suspicion was fueled by the initial interaction where pleasantries were noticeably absent, despite my polite and friendly approach.
In light of these experiences, I would advise caution when considering Universal Extras. While they may offer opportunities in the industry, their customer service and transparency leave much to be desired. The £30 or £50 membership fee, along with a 16% commission on earnings, may not be justifiable if you risk encountering the kind of treatment I faced.
One highlight of my experience was being part of the ‘Andor’ production, a Star Wars project, which I’m grateful for. However, it’s important to note that there are alternative agencies, like Casting Collective, that can also provide access to such prestigious sets. Plus, it was one of the only two jobs I got booked with them in 3 years.
In conclusion, my personal interaction with Universal Extras has left me disappointed, and I believe potential users should approach this agency with a critical eye and consider alternative options in the realm of movie extras.
Entertainment Partners is a remarkable agency that takes your opportunities as a film extra to the next level. What sets them apart is that when you create a profile with them, you’re not just joining one agency – you’re automatically signed up with an additional 20 agencies. This vast network has been the primary source of my film extra work in the UK.
Among the agencies affiliated with Entertainment Partners, you’ll find well-known names like ExtraPeople, Key Casting, Catnap Casting, Sabell Casting, Two10, and many others. They consistently handle major productions, including Marvel films, Netflix projects, and a plethora of British TV series.
One thing to keep in mind is that communication with Entertainment Partners can be a bit more challenging compared to other agencies. In some cases, I’ve experienced delays in confirming bookings for days I had previously agreed to months in advance. This can be a minor inconvenience, especially if you need to plan your schedule carefully.
Another aspect to consider is the absence of a sign-up fee, which makes it incredibly accessible, particularly for newcomers like students. However, they deduct a 20% commission from your earnings, so it’s essential to factor this into your financial planning.
In summary, Entertainment Partners offers an unparalleled platform for film extras by connecting you to a wide array of opportunities through its extensive agency network. While communication may require some patience, the absence of a sign-up fee and the chance to participate in exciting projects make it a worthwhile choice for those seeking a break in the industry.
My experience with this agency has been nothing short of exceptional. It was the first agency I signed up with, and it has delivered remarkable opportunities. I’ve had the privilege to work on two feature films through them – ‘The Swimmers’ and my current project, the film adaptation of the beloved musical ‘Matilda.’
One standout quality of this agency is its seamless communication. I’ve found it incredibly easy to connect with them, and they consistently display a high level of flexibility and politeness in their interactions.
One of the great aspects of this agency is its fee structure. There’s no upfront signup fee, which is a welcoming change compared to some other agencies. However, it’s important to note that they deduct £65 from your earnings after your first pay. Additionally, they do charge a 20% commission on your income.
In summary, this agency has proven to be an excellent choice for anyone pursuing opportunities as a film extra. The chance to work on feature films and the ease of communication make it a top pick. While the £65 deduction may initially catch you off guard, the absence of an upfront fee balances out the equation, making it a reasonable investment for those aspiring to break into the industry.
Casting Collective is undeniably a heavyweight agency in the film industry, and my friends who are signed up with them have landed roles in major productions like ‘The Flash’ and ‘Captain Marvel 2.’
However, it’s worth mentioning that signing up with them can be a bit of a challenge due to their specific picture requirements. If you’re considering it, you’ll want to prioritize taking those pictures ASAP – trust me on this!
As for fees, I believe there isn’t an upfront signup cost, but I’ll provide an update on this post once I’m fully signed up and have all the details.
StarNow is an interesting platform when it comes to finding work as a film extra in the UK. While it may not be the easiest, it’s not impossible either. I’ve had some success with ad campaigns, extra roles, and influencer opportunities, and I even appeared on ‘Eating with my ex’ on BBC3 and iPlayer through StarNow.
However, it’s worth noting that it’s a bit on the pricey side, with a standard membership costing £75 for 6 months. If you have a strong portfolio and are confident in your abilities, you can find some well-paid campaigns without the need for an agent.
In general, I recommend having a browse on StarNow before committing to a membership. One advantage is that all opportunities are fully visible to anyone, so you can assess whether it aligns with your goals before signing up.
I haven’t had the opportunity to sign up with Rachel’s People yet as they currently have a full roster.
However, one important detail to note is that they primarily seek individuals outside of London for their talent pool. So, if you reside outside of London, it’s worth checking their website for more information.”
Unicorn Casting has approached me with several opportunities, mainly in the world of reality TV. However, if your aim is to become a film extra in the UK, it may not be your preferred option.
The process is straightforward: you complete a form, and they add you to their WhatsApp group where they share information about upcoming castings.
Regarding commission, I’m unsure since I haven’t been cast for any projects through them yet.
Guys & Dolls stands out as one of the prominent agencies for film extras in the UK. They conduct casting sessions only twice a year, typically in November and May.
To become part of their roster, you’ll need to undergo a DBS check, which will set you back about £23. The good news is that the basic DBS check is valid for a year and can be used for applications with various other agencies.
As for my personal experience, I’ve completed my application and am now eagerly awaiting their November intake.
TalentTalks is a paid website that charges £10 per month for access to most castings.
They boast an impressive lineup of brands collaborating with them, making them a popular choice in the industry.
However, based on my experience, I signed up for about 8 months without landing any booked jobs, which led me to discontinue paying the fee.
Backstage, now under the ownership of StarNow, is a popular platform among actors, offering numerous casting calls, including opportunities for extra work.
Operating on a monthly subscription model, it’s worth considering your casting needs before committing to a subscription.
If you’re looking for occasional film extra gigs and acting opportunities, this might not be the most budget-friendly choice.
Top 5 tips for people working as film extra in the UK
- BYO Water Bottle: Don’t forget to bring your own water bottle. Cups can run out, and you might not have access to water for a while on set.
- Stay Patient When Wrapping: Avoid rushing to leave the set. If you were brought in by a production bus, everyone must change and check out before departure. Use this time to maximize your earnings. Every 15 minutes counts.
- Entertainment Essentials: To combat potential boredom during long days, consider packing a book, laptop, or Nintendo Switch. There’s no guarantee you’ll be called for filming, but you’ll still be compensated for your time.
- Comfort is Key: Early call times are expected in the industry. If you have an early start, like 5:15 a.m. with a 4 a.m. pickup, having a pillow can make a world of difference, especially if they don’t need you on set straight away or at all.
- Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with FAA/PACT rates and penalties. Make sure you request all the penalties straight after receiving your chit. ( That is something like your payslip. It details your check-in time, check-out, and what you are being paid for.)
Embarking on a journey as a film extra in the UK can be a rewarding and exciting experience. The vibrant industry, abundant opportunities, and competitive pay make it an attractive option, particularly for students and those looking to earn extra income.
While there are numerous agencies to choose from, each offering its own unique advantages, it’s crucial to stay organized and maintain a personal diary to navigate this dynamic field effectively. Remember that reliability is highly valued, so strive to honour your commitments and avoid last-minute cancellations whenever possible.
From my own experiences, I’ve discovered that this path can be financially lucrative, offering opportunities to work on incredible productions. However, it’s also essential to strike a balance, as the industry’s unpredictability and occasional cancellations can affect your schedule.
One recommendation I would make is to exercise caution when considering Universal Extras, as my experience with them revealed certain limitations and policies that may not align with the flexibility you seek in this profession. My experience with them was really traumatising and I have had the need for therapy.
In the end, working as a film extra in the UK can be a fulfilling venture, opening doors to exciting adventures, unique connections, and memorable moments on set. So, if you’re ready to dive into the world of film and television, don’t hesitate to explore the myriad opportunities available through other agencies. Your next adventure on the big screen might be just around the corner!
Let me know in the comment section if you need to know anything extra.
I’ll answer you directly, but I’ll also be able to curate a second blog post covering all the questions.