by Sandra Miska (from Industry Insider)
"I started out doing audience work a year ago, attending the tapings of various talk and game shows for pay. When sitting on my butt for eight dollars an hour got boring, I took the plunge and signed up with Extras Management, one of several booking services for background workers. (You don’t have to be with a booking service to land background work, but it sure makes it easier. The monthly fee is definitely worth it!)"
"Any rising actors reading this, I highly encourage you to purse background work, as it can lead to union work; not to mention, you get to see seasoned performers like Johnny Depp and Betty White practice their craft."
"1. Don’t expect to make friends with the stars. There’s an unspoken rule that an extra can’t speak to a lead unless he or she is spoken to first. It’s not that the leads are unfriendly to the little people; the fact is they need to focus in order to prepare for scenes and don’t want their concentration broken." In case you’re wondering, the nicest people in showbiz (out of the ones I’ve encountered, at least) are: Justin Timberlake, Charlie Sheen, Jon Hamm, Cory Monteith, Nathan Fillion, Lizzy Caplan, David Zayas, Garret Dillahunt, and AnnaLynne McCord, just to name a few."
2. “Quiet on the set!” Ever notice that when you watch a scene in which the leads are having a conversation in a crowded restaurant or on a busy street, you can always hear them clearly? That’s because the background actors are often silent, pretending to carry out tasks or talk to each other, or pantomiming. Pantomiming can be awkward, especially if you’re paired with a stranger you have to have a fake conversation with – not unlike a real first date. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid. It gets easier; I promise."
3. "Don’t be disappointed when that scene that you worked on for several hours finally airs and you’re only a blur, or worse, not there at all. A single scene will often be shot from several angles, with background coverage needed all around. Remember this when that big restaurant scene, the one you told you friends and family back in Michigan all about, finally airs and they decided to use close-ups of the main actors."
4. "Wardrobe, wardrobe, wardrobe. The evening before you go to set, you have to call a number to listen to a recording giving you details about the next day’s shoot, including what to wear. In addition to being “camera ready,” (that is, you have to be dressed and have you hair and make-up done, as if you might be on camera as soon as you arrive, even if your call time is six a.m.), you’ll be asked to bring one or two other wardrobe options. After you check in, you’ll have to visit the kindly wardrobe lady (or gentleman). He or she has final say on what your wear, so don’t get offended if your seemingly perfect first choice outfit gets vetoed. A lead could be wearing something similar, and you simply cannot overshadow him or her with your fabulousness."
5. "While things can move quickly on set, often you have to wait around. Bring a book. If you’re one who likes to play on your smart phone, bring your charger. You can also use this downtime to chat, which brings us to…"
6. "Make new buddies! Even though it’s unlikely you’ll become BFFs with Jennifer Love Hewitt or strike up a bromance with Michael C. Hall, you still have the opportunity to form valuable connections on set. Any of the background actors or P.A.’s you meet could be a principle actor or producer tomorrow (including yourself!), and relationships are vital in this industry. I’ve met plenty of people who’ve offered me everything from advice to a ride home, and I’ve in turn helped out others by lending an ear and connecting them with my own contacts. It’s a tough town, and we all have to look out for each other!"
More free acting tips at http://www.freedrama.net/acting.html