When you watch a film or television series, there is likely to be people moving in and around the environment in which the scene takes place. These individuals are called background [BG] performers (AKA Extras).
When the film industry in the North is booming, like it has been these past few years, there is high demand for background performers. We are looking for all ethnicities, shapes, sizes and ages. Most importantly, we are looking for professional individuals who are able to follow direction.
Working as a background performer can very rewarding and an excellent experience.
If you are thinking about becoming a background performer, it is useful to become acquainted with what is currently in production. CION’s Hotlist [http://cionorth.ca/en/hotlist/], the ACTRA website and DGC website provide an up-to-date resource of what is filming in the North at any given time.
THE SUBMISSION PROCESS:
When a production requires background performers, most times they engage a background casting director to fill their requirements. The background casting director will release a project breakdown to the public. This breakdown lists all of the pertinent information including location, dates, specific requirements, production company, etc. In Northern Ontario, Facebook is one of the most up-to-date places to find Background Casting Calls.
Review the breakdown carefully and look for the following information:
- Filming Location: Do you live in the city or are you able to travel? If you do not live in the city and are unavailable to travel in, please do not submit this time around.
- Outside Dates: When submitting your information, please list the dates you are NOT available. Filming often takes place during the week. We need to know if you work 9-5 and are unavailable for the day.
PLEASE READ THE SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY [They are there for a reason!]
Attention to detail is very important as a background performer.
Our office prefers email submission. This means no office drop-ins and no phone calls please.
When emailing in your submission, we require the following information:
WHAT WE WANT: We are looking for a recent photo, in colour, of you standing upright on a basic backdrop. The purpose of the photo is to determine how you look today. If you have made any physical changes (i.e. changed the colour of your hair) you will need a new photo. Many times, we are casting for a specific look and we base our casting on the photo you submit. Ensure your photo is recent. Ensure your photo is in jpeg format - not PDF.
WHAT WE DO NOT WANT: Please do not submit family photos, photos of you drinking alcoholic beverages, mirror “selfies”, black and white photos or photos of you laying down. In this business, you cannot make a first impression twice. Ensure your first impression is professional. Please do not send boudoir photos, unless specifically requested. Often times, we send our background photos to the director & team to approve. We will not send along your photo if it does not meet professional standards. We do receive a number of submissions with no photograph attached. These submission do not get reviewed.
You MUST include the following:
- email address
- two contact numbers (home & cell)
- the city where you reside
*Failure to include your contact number will result in your submission being discarded.
What days during our shoot are you NOT available? What hours are you NOT available. Please understand that our filming days run 10 - 12 hours, sometimes less. You need to be available for the FULL day. Are you someone who can be available at a moments notice? If so, include this in your message.
THE BOOKING PROCESS:
You receive an email from our office stating that we would like to book you. Great! Now please read this email very carefully. Ensure you know call time, location, wardrobe requirements and that you are available for the full 10 - 12 hours, if required.
Once you have read the email, please email us back as soon as possible to confirm receipt and to confirm if you can commit to attending.
Please understand that we usually do not receive the official call time and location until the evening prior. Please do not badger us for the time & location. We will make sure you get the information as soon as possible. To help speed up the process, please sync your email with your cell phone and check your email often. Be available by phone so we can reach you if need be.
WHAT DO YOU BRING TO SET?
You will ALWAYS be required to bring the following documentation to set:
Social insurance number (SIN)
Proof of Residency (Utility Bill, Drivers License, etc.)
Workplace Health and Safety Certificate - http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/training/workers.php
You need a HARD COPY of your Proof of Residency and Workplace Health & Safety Certificate. At the end of the day, these documents go to our accounting department and are processed to ensure prompt arrival of your payment. Do not delay your payment. Please bring a copy of Workplace Health & Safety Certificate and Proof of Residency
Wardrobe requirements vary from set to set. Please always bring THREE (3) clothing options. Failure to bring extra clothing options limits you and without the proper wardrobe, we may be unable to use you. Please No RED and No LOGOS. If you are unsure about what you are being asked to bring for wardrobe, please ask for clarification.
Most sets have a craft table for background performers. If you have specific food requirements or allergies, please pack a snack or lunch. Do not expect craft & caterers to accommodate you. As you will be unable to leave set during your shoot, please be pro-active and bring snacks with you.
There may be some downtime during your day on set. Please bring something to help pass the time and keep you occupied.
WHO DO YOU REPORT TO ON SET?
In your booking email, you will find a contact number for the BACKGROUND WRANGLER. The BG Wrangler will be your on-set contact for most days. You will also be reporting to the 3rd Assistant Director. When you arrive to set, please find the BG Wrangler or 3rd AD immediately so they can process you. We know being on a film set is exciting, but please listen carefully to the directions provided by the crew and BG Wrangler throughout the day.
WHAT IF YOU ARE RUNNING LATE OR NOT ABLE TO ATTEND?
LATE: Individuals who are consistently late, do not get called back. If you are running late on the day, please be courteous and call the BG casting office to inform us. If you don’t call us, we will consider you a “NO SHOW” and we will replace you. If you do call us, please give us an ETA and we will inform our contact on set.
NO-SHOWS: I have a two strikes policy. We understand there are emergencies and situations arise preventing you from keeping your commitment. That being said, being a NO-SHOW because your alarm didn’t go off, you can’t find a babysitter, you can’t get a ride, etc. is NOT acceptable. Being a NO-SHOW and not providing us with at least 3 hour to replace you is not acceptable. We have a job to do and that job is to get X number of BG to set each day. Please do not make our job difficult! If you are someone who is consistently late and cannot keep a commitment, do not expect a call back. PLEASE do not ask if we can bring you in another day if you were a NO-SHOW. Put yourself in our position.
SET: Do NOT leave the set without notifying the 3rd AD or Background Wrangler. We require you for continuity and must keep you until filming is complete. If you need to take a smoke break, please notify us first.
PROFESSIONALISM: Be professional to everyone you meet on set. If we hear that you were disruptive or difficult to work with on set….we will not have you back.
CELLPHONES: Do not take your cell phone on set, EVER! You are not permitted to take photos on set and your cell phone must be turned to silent at all times.
CAST: Please be respectful of the cast. They are here to do a job, just like you, and many have a specific process to allow them to get into character. Please do not disrupt them on set for photos and autographs. Ask the background wrangler if there is an appropriate time to ask for a photo.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Do NOT post photos of the set on social media. Many shows require you to sign a release or confidentiality agreement. Read the agreement that you sign carefully. You are not permitted to post photos of the set or details of the scenes you were in on social media.
BE RESPECTFUL OF THE CREW: Do not barge in on Hair & Makeup demanding attention. You should always come to set hair and makeup ready, unless otherwise instructed. If Hair & Makeup would like to touch you up, they will ask you. Do not ask the Craft Service to make you something special or replenish the BG table with different options. Everyone has a job to do and your job is to
TAKE DIRECTION: If you are asked to stay in background holding, please do as you are instructed. A film set can be very chaotic. Please help us keep organized by following direction.
COMPLAINTS: If you have a complaint, please notify the background casting director and we will do our best to resolve the issue. Do NOT complain to crew, the director, the producers, etc. It is a sure way to never find yourself on set again.
NETWORKING: Working on set as a background performer is a fantastic way to see the inner workings of a film set. You will learn a tremendous amount and it will give you a new appreciation for filmmaking. Please enjoy your time on set and do not use this time to ask the director a number of question or try to pass your resume to the producer. This comes across as being unprofessional. The best thing you can do is stand out as a fantastic background performer.
ETIQUETTE: Make all of your decisions on set based on how you will be perceived by the crew. Be professional and kind. Remember to bring all of your documentation and appropriate wardrobe. Do not complain.
QUESTIONS: Do you submit your information and never seem to get a call? Have you been late to set or a NO-SHOW? It’s never too late to make amends, reach out to us. Are you confused about something in your booking email? Please contact us and we would be happy to clarify.
Most background positions are paid. The going rate is $12.00 per hour. Payment will arrive via cheque approximately 2 - 4 weeks after you complete filming. Please understand that if you did not bring hard copies of your documents on the day, your payment may be delayed. If you did not fill out your voucher correctly, your payment may be delayed. Contact us to inquire about the status of your payment after 2 weeks if you have not received in the mail.
For everyone who has worked for us on a film or series set - thank you! I appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to join us. Please remember that you are valued and appreciated. Always be professional on set and treat everyone with respect. We remember those who take direction and come prepared.
Melissa A. Smith