I’ve worked as an extra on more than 60 movies/TV shows. There. I’ve publicly admitted it, despite hearing that many agents/casting directors don’t consider extra work worthy of inclusion on resumes.
But if I don’t have an audition or booking, isn’t it better for my acting career to be on a set, watching both household name (incl. Dustin Hoffman, Will Farrell & Vince Vaughn) and up and coming actors at their craft than to work a part time day job? Won’t I learn more listening to famous, top notch directors (incl. Clint Eastwood and Sam Raimi)? There is also the very slim chance of being “updgraded” and given a line or a bit to do.
I view extra work this way: I’m getting paid (not very much, granted) to attend master classes on acting/directing. How else would you get to sit mere feet from Johnny Depp and hear him working with Michael Mann?
That being said, extras are sometimes treated like cattle, even when filming smaller scenes. Once we were asked to turn our chairs around and face the wall because the crew was eating. Other times, holding area conditions have been less than optimal. Outdoor scenes during Chicago winters can be grueling. Well, extras are people, too.
So I propose the following Extras Bill of Rights:
1) Holding areas will have sufficient lighting and heat/air conditioning. And garbage cans and toilet paper.
2) Water, coffee and some snacks will be available at all times.
3) In cold/hot weather, extras will have breaks to warm up/cool off.