We all see them, the guy eating a hamburger in the next booth over, the girl silently walking past the camera on a busy city street, the couple dancing in the crowd at a party. Background actors; we may not know their names but their role is just as important as the top-billed stars we see on screen. Hollywood is the land of networking and "knowing someone" but that is all changing thanks to technology. So, how do background actors find jobs in the film and television industry?
Some of the most well-known actors of our time started as extras, for example, Sylvester Stallone, Matt Damon, and recent Academy Award winners Brad Pitt and Renee Zellweger. Once, when Brad Pitt was an extra in a restaurant scene he was directed to silently pour champagne. He wanted to become a member of The Screen Actors Guild so he added his line to the scene without permission. While being given a speaking line in a union film can technically bump you up to a day player and turn you into a SAG member, it is not recommended. In his own words, this is how Brad's attempt at adding his own line went, "the first AD goes, 'Cut, cut, cut, cut,' and he came over to me and he said, 'You do that again, you're off the set.'"
Many actors find they can have a pretty fulfilling career while doing background work regardless if they plan on transitioning to principal roles or not. One popular background actor, Tommy Bechtold, was recently featured in a Hollywood Reporter article after winning a lifetime achievement award for his background acting work. Bechtold was one of 1,500 entrants for The Stanleys, created by the company Stanley PMI, and his background roles in over 40 movies and television shows had him noticed as their first-ever winner. Bechtold says, "If you're out here and if the thing you're contributing right now to the entertainment industry is showing up to be a background actor or an extra, I just hope that people remember that that's important and that matters." The Stanleys creating this award is a big step towards recognition for background actors as they often go unnoticed by well-known awards dedicated to lead and supporting actors.
In the not-so-distant past, extras were cast via open casting calls or, as some refer to them, "cattle calls". Hundreds of actors would be given a time and place to show up, resume in hand, and be booked in bulk. More recently, extras have used call-in services at casting agencies to find jobs. A call-in service is a way for actors to contact a number related to a job and give their information in hopes they'll be a good fit for what the casting director is seeking. Some casting agencies will even send texts out requesting availability from actors that have said they are available for background work and book them that way. While these techniques have proven successful, they are not conducive to how we work in the modern world, where you can do almost anything instantaneously with a touch of a button.
One of the latest digital platforms to enter the industry is Castifi. Available both as an app and website, Castifi is revolutionizing the background casting industry. Casting Directors are looking for a simple way to hire actors in the same way a background actor is looking for a simple and streamlined way to be hired. Castifi is the solution for both. In addition to easing the process of casting, Castifi also helps productions by offering talent payroll within their platform.
Castifi offers an intuitive website and mobile app where, as a background actor, you can submit to projects, get booked, and be in control of your work. The casting director can view your profile, confirm your availability and offer you the job all in one place. You can receive all call time and shoot updates via your account so there is never a misunderstanding about where you need to go and when. Production will even send your contracts through Castifi so you can keep everything in order and refer back to them as needed. Another unique feature is the ability to access payroll directly through your account; no more waiting in lines with hundreds of other extras at the end of a long day on set.
In addition to matching actors for television shows and films, Castifi also has casting options for trade shows, reality television, commercials, music videos, promotional events, and projects within the growing digital series market. While there may be multiple ways to find a job in background acting, the clear choice is Castifi.
It is Castifi’s mission to provide a helping hand, especially when it comes to navigating the complexities of a career path in the entertainment industry. If you found this post helpful, please share it with others and subscribe to our newsletter for more content like this, as well as upcoming events, product updates, and new product features.