| So, You Want To Be In Movies? |
By Maxann Crotts
Maxann Crotts has been in the entertainment business since the ?70s, first booking bands and musicians and then as a talent agent. In 1985 she opened her own talent agency but was continually asked to cast. By 1990, Maxann decided to concentrate strictly on casting. Since then, Maxann?s Casting Company has cast many national commercials, including NASCAR, Coca-Cola, Ericsson Cell Phones, and America Online, some of which are still on the air today. Maxann is now known in the industry as ?The Queen of Extras? and has recently cast extras in the movies Carrie II, Blackdog, Major League III, The Day Lincoln Was Shot, and The Lottery as well as a few speaking parts in the Breakfast of Champions.
Boy, how many times have I heard this! This is such a fascinating business and everyone wants to be involved. Unfortunately, people think that they can be a ?star? automatically. Fame usually doesn?t occur overnight, so don?t quit your day job!
Many people want information regarding how to begin. You really don?t need to have a lot of money to get started. It just depends on how serious you are. If you just want to ?see? what it?s like, make sure you have a recent photo of yourself (a snapshot or a Polaroid). The photo needs to be recent, not something that was taken years ago, and your picture should be taken rather closely, like from the waist up. You should also be the only one in the photo ? not posed with your dog or other family members!
The next step is to look in your local yellow pages to see if there are ?Casting Directors? or ?Casting Companies? that are close by. You may need to call the capital city in your state and request a list of casting directors from your State Film Commission. Ask if you can submit a photo. Another first step is to look for casting calls that are usually held at local malls or sometimes in a large meeting room at a local hotel. Remember, you need to take a photo with you, and it won?t be returned.
After you?ve found a casting call, you?ll discover that there are usually lines of people waiting to be seen. You will fill out a form, and sometimes the casting director is there to look at each person who may fit some of the special roles that need to be cast. You?ll either be in and out very quickly or you?ll do a lot of waiting. If you don?t have a photo, usually they?ll take one for you. Sometimes there?s no cost. However, other times it may cost $1 to $2.
During this phase, keep in mind that you need to ?fit the look? of what the casting director is desiring in a particular film. If the character is a woman with brown hair, age 23-35, and you are a blond girl, age 15, then don?t expect to be chosen. So ask the casting director, or the person in charge at the casting call, what it is that he or she is looking for.
Also, keep in mind that extras are referred to as background. They are crucial to the production in order to make the scene feel real. If the scene takes place in a restaurant, then extras will be used as waiters, waitresses, cooks, and as other diners to fill in the spots at tables. This is where you, as an extra, can have your first experience in a movie!
So NOW you want A SPEAKING PART!
Speaking parts get paid more than extras. Extras usually earn $50 to $75 per day, whereas speaking parts can earn up to $500 per day. For a speaking part, you must look professional, and you most always need an agent! (Notice I said, ?most always.? If you want to work a great deal in this business, you will most likely need an agent.) You will also need to ask around, get references from different actors, call the local state film office, and ask for a list of agencies to decide which agent will represent you the best! (Remember, don?t pay any up-front fees! Agents earn money from their commissions. They make from 10% to 20% of their clients? pay.)
If speaking parts are a career decision, then talk to your agent about headshots. He or she should know qualified photographers, because you will need your headshot to be professional for your agent to send out when a casting director calls and requests photos of talent for any upcoming project. (Prices differ, but expect to spend from $50 to $150 for a photo shoot and $75 to $300 for your photos to be mass produced.) If speaking parts are a career choice, your picture is your ?calling card.? The camera is your ?business,? and you should make it your job to be the best that you can possibly be. This includes appropriate training, seminars, and reading all the material you can on this business. However, if you just want to be an extra for fun, then you will only need a recent photo of yourself. There?s no need to spend a lot of money (or hire an agent).
Finally, once you?ve been accepted as an extra, be prepared to stay 10-12 hours on set, sometimes longer! Be flexible as you?re usually called the night before. (Make sure you have an answering machine! If you have a beeper or cell phone, make sure the casting company or agent also has these numbers. This sounds like common sense, but you can?t be in the scene if you can?t be found.) You?ll probably be asked to bring changes of clothing. Bring three or more changes, and stay away from solid white, black, and red, unless told differently. White colors reflect light into the camera, and red and black are so popular that they blend in with the crowd and can?t be noticed. Additionally, bring something to keep you occupied while you wait for the right time for your part. Twelve hours is a long time to wait without something to do.
You may be wondering what type of people audition as extras? I?ve had lawyers, doctors, secretaries, bank personnel, judges, restaurant owners, pharmacists, car salesmen and many other walks of life placed in films and commercials. You don?t have to be ?model? material or beautiful. It?s okay to have scars and imperfect hair! We like all walks of life, whether you weigh too much or not enough, are too short or too tall. It doesn?t matter, because anyone can do this! I don?t make promises or guarantees, and no one should, but I try my best to get people into a movie or commercial as an extra. And I always make a special effort to find different looks for special or uncommon parts. You never know. People are discovered every day.
If this is your dream, go for it! It?s a fun business. Plus, you might get to see that famous actor or actress that you?ve been longing to meet in person. But most importantly, you get to see yourself on the big silver screen!
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