If you keep up with Peach Buzz or the supermarket tabloids, it’s no secret that scores of Hollywood actors are invading the South.
The Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act, signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue in May 2005 and updated in May 2008, provides not only tax incentives for the film industry, but boosts our state’s economy as well. This translates into jobs and, according to the Georgia Film Commission, approximately 25,000 of them were created since the legislation was approved.
With more productions taking place right here in our own backyard, why not step up and take a slice of the pie? Big budget productions and locally filmed television series such as “Drop Dead Diva” and “The Walking Dead” need background players, lots of them. As a result, there are casting agencies in metro Atlanta looking for someone just like you.
“We are always in need of people of all shapes, sizes, ages and ethnicities,” said Rose Locke of Bill Marinella Casting. “People get the impression that they need to be all glamorous. That’s not true. The realer you are, the better.”
Another misconception is that you need to invest a lot of money into expensive photographs or pay for call listings. Most extra casting agencies only require a recent digital image, your contact information and general statistics, and they publish casting calls online for free.
Patrick Ingram of Extras Casting Atlanta told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that there is no reason for anyone to pay to find extra work.
“We are always posting new opportunities on our Facebook page that anyone can see and apply for,” Ingram said. “If you’ve got the time, there is more than likely a production that needs you. Generally, anyone asking you for money is pulling a scam.”
Ingram cast the background players for “The Blind Side,” “Zombieland” and “Hall Pass,” just to name a few. He is currently in need of kids who can play soccer as well as average-looking small-town folks of all ages for the upcoming Disney production “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” starring Jennifer Garner. Filming will take place in Canton and Madison. Ingram encourages those interested in participating to e-mail a clear and recent photo to Oddlifeextras @gmail.com.
If it all sounds a little bit too easy, keep in mind that the odds of you getting “discovered” are low, the hours are long and the pay is usually minimum wage. For large crowd scenes, such as in “The Change-Up” that recently filmed at Turner Field, you are lucky to walk away with a free T-shirt. Some extras reported that they make about $500 a week, sometimes more if time runs over, which it typically can, Ingram said.
“Typically in Georgia extras get paid $7.25 per hour with the guarantee of an eight-hour day,” said Lee Thomas of the Georgia Film Commission.
However, that does not discourage Steve Warren of Atlanta. He’s been at it for more than 20 years. As a freelance film critic, he finds the work enjoyable and easy to schedule in between writing gigs.
“It can be hard; it can be boring and you may not even be visible in the finished product,” Warren said. “I wouldn’t have had the patience to do this kind of work when I was younger, but in Atlanta, I have found that the people I meet are so friendly and kind.”
Warren, whose acting is not limited to background work, suggested volunteering for a local independent project first to get an idea of what happens on a larger scale on a major studio film or television show. He also said to stay patient.
“You never know when the director might spot you on a set, give you a speaking part, let you deliver a line or two,” Warren said. “At least your pay for the day will increase and you can apply for membership in the Screen Actor’s Guild.”
Warren said he has witnessed such an occurrence more than once.
That is exactly what happened to Vin Diesel, who was doing crowd work in New York, always keeping to himself on the set, never trying to stand out in the crowd, fearing that if he was only seen as an extra that directors wouldn’t take him seriously. He signed in and then hid somewhere.
“That all changed when he worked on ‘Awakenings,’ starring his longtime idol Robert De Niro,” said Janel Bersabal, also a casting agent at Extras Casting Atlanta. “When he was on set, Diesel could not help watching him, leading the film’s director, Penny Marshall, to notice him. The day he walked out of the shadows was the day Marshall cast him as a hospital orderly on the spot.”
To paraphrase legendary filmmaker Woody Allen, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.”
What you’ll need
● Take at least two good digital photos that truly represent your everyday appearance: a close-up of your face and one that shows your full form. Casting directors don’t want to see your glamour shots; they need real people.
● Know your measurements from head to toe.
● Bring proper ID to the set.
What to expect
● Don’t be on time; be early, and prepare for a long day.
Though lunch is usually served, eat before arriving.
Honor your commitment. Leaving the set for carpool or anything less than an emergency probably guarantees loss of work.
● Quiet on the set. Extras are meant for seeing, not hearing, except if you are in, say, a crowd scene at a sporting event.
● Bring a book, magazine or MP3 player and something comfortable to sit on. Do not bring cameras and no chatting on your cellphone. You are at work.
● Do not ask for autographs or speak to the principal actors.
● The Georgia Film Commission maintains a hotline listing extras casting at 404-962-4055 or on the website at http://georgiafilm.org/; click “Entertainment” and the “Help Wanted Hotline.” This information is also on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/gafmde.
● Extras Casting Atlanta also posts calls on their Facebook page. E-mail them a digital photo with your contact information to: firstname.lastname@example.org along with your age, height and weight.
● The William Reynolds Agency (www.william reynoldsagency.com) accepts similar submissions via e-mail at Rwreynolds2@cs.com.
Bill Marinella Casting Facebook Page regularly posts calls, often last minute, online and via Twitter.
● See also Cherrix Casting ATL on Facebook, a local agency that books talent for “The Vampire Diaries.”
Lastly, try Craigslist.org under the “Gigs” section, narrowing your search with the key word “extra.” There are legitimate jobs, but remember that anyone can post on the site. Use your best judgment.