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Why You Should Try Background Acting AT LEAST Once!

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind-the-scenes of film and TV productions?  A lot more goes into the world on-screen than you may think, and the best way to experience this secret behind-the-scenes magic is to become a part of it

Getting involved in the film industry can open your eyes to a whole new world on-set.  The best way to get a front-row seat of the enchanting movie magic that intrigues us all?  Background acting!

Like most things in life, background acting can have pros and cons. For instance, background acting is a great experience to have even as a one-time gig.  Not only do you get to see what’s involved in movie-making, but you get to meet a lot of really interesting people! In addition, you can have a flexible schedule by choosing which opportunities you want to apply for.

However, while it is a great experience to have, there are also other things to consider when applying for a job. If you’re not a morning person, background acting might not be for you.  My earliest call time was 4:30 a.m., forty minutes away.  Other call times I’ve had have been 6:45 a.m. or earlier in Boston, which is almost two hours away from me.  Thank goodness for coffee!

While it’s true you can prepare for transportation and lodging needs ahead of time, it’s not uncommon to receive your call time only hours in advance.  This can be tricky because you have to be awake to figure out what time you have to be there by. But sometimes, you may not even know until after midnight!  Not to mention, you usually have to pack rather abundantly.

Many productions will have actors and extras bring many different costuming choices for different scenes.  These costumes include shoes, clothes, jackets, purses, and more.  There are specific colors and patterns you cannot bring; and they’ll usually have a list of requirements for each costume piece. In addition, you’ll need to bring all the required documents and identification so that you can get paid, as well as something to do during your down-time.

Once you get to your assigned location, you will meet production assistants and other crew members who will direct you to a shuttle where you’ll be taken to holding.  The shuttle is used so that the location of the set remains anonymous at all times.  At holding, you’ll check in, do all of your paperwork, get your outfit(s) picked by the wardrobe department, and get your hair and makeup done too. 

Depending on your role, you might not be needed for every scene.  When you’re not on-set, you’ll stay in holding until they need you for shooting.  If your role is small it can be hours of waiting so bring a book or activity to keep you busy. A typical day of filming is usually 13+ hours which can be  rough, especially in outdoor scenes with extreme weather. 

Although it’s a difficult job to do at times, it’s a worthwhile experience nevertheless!  You’ll have the opportunity to meet other actors, cast members, and crew members along the way.  In my experience on sets, I’ve had the opportunities to meet lots of cool people that are involved in other projects throughout the country. 

In addition, I’ve been able to work with more high-profile actors such as Chris Evans, Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, Kristen Froseth, Michelle Dockery, Jaeden Lieberher, and many more.  It’s a great way to meet people of all sorts of backgrounds and learn more about the film industry and the roles involved within it.

On-set, you can gain a whole new perspective into the filmmaking world!  You can also see what goes into the production process which is a lot more than you might think.  While you may only see a few people on-screen, I can assure you there are probably hundreds of cast and crew members off-camera, working their butts off to make sure everything looks perfect!  It’s just amazing how film crews can transform everyday locations into brilliant, new scenes!

From production assistants to boom operators, camera operators, sound equipment and light technicians, directors, the makeup and wardrobe departments, and many more, it’s truly amazing to be a part of such an astounding team of people and see all the work that goes into every scene.  The mise-en-scene is completely created by the crew – the cars that drive by, the rain that pours down, even the food being eaten – everthing is set up by the crew behind the camera.

So if you couldn’t tell, I think participating in such an experience is an amazing opportunity despite its difficulties.  I highly recommend sticking your foot in the door if anything, for the experience!  All great things have downsides – it’s just a matter of what’s more important to you.  Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is so rewarding!  Even though it may be scary, it’s also very liberating and once you do it, you can look back and be proud of yourself for doing something you never thought you would. In addition, seeing the results of your efforts is an amazing experience when you know all the work, effort, and creation that went into the project.  These experiences have completely expanded my perspective, improved my understanding, and increased my respect for the film industry, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything else. Take chances and live life – you won’t regret it!

Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5: (Image Courtesy of Author), 6

Alexandria Faneuf

U Mass Amherst '21

Ali is studying Communication and Journalism major at UMass Amherst. She loves traveling, watching movies, health, fitness, acting, and writing. Ali hopes to inspire, entertain, and motivate others through her writing and content creation. Get to know her better by following her on Instagram @alimorgan413.