Royal Roads University offers course on how to be a film extra

Thanks to a low dollar, film production is booming in B.C. And that means lots of work for extras. Royal Roads University is offering a course to get those extras ready for their big break.

University offering one-day course for extras looking for their big break

Dozens of movie extras are playing zombies in a still-to-be-announced production filming inside Vancouver's old post office this month. (Chris Corday/CBC)

So kid, you want to be in pictures, do ya?

A boom in film production in B.C. — largely brought about by the low Canadian dollar — also means a booming market for background players.

Royal Roads University is offering a new one-day course called Lights, Camera, Action: Everything You Need to Know About Being an Extra in Film and Television that aims to get prospective extras the tools they need to survive on set.

Annie Klein, a casting director and one of the facilitators for the course, says there's a lot to know for non-speaking performers.

"A lot of people think, 'Oh, I don't need to know anything, I'll just be sitting around all day,'" Klein told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

"We have them fill out the paperwork, then we talk about hair, makeup, wardrobe ... attitude for sure, is very important."

Klein says extras need to remember three changes of wardrobe — "You could be a lawyer in one scene and a passer-by in another," she said — and those changes are the extra's responsibility, unless it's a period piece.

Extras in position for the filming of a Sarah McLachlan video. The low dollar means background performers could see more opportunities. (Ruth Hartnup/Flickr)

The worst mistake extras make on a regular basis? Lying about their size, Klein says.

"Men are worse than women on this one. If you're playing a policeman, and we have one police uniform, and it has a 34 waist, and if you used to be a 34 waist, or you'd like to be a 34 waist, but the reality is you're a 38 waist … we're all in trouble!" she said.

Klein says extras can make good money if they're in the Union of B.C. Performers — around $22 an hour — but non-union extras are looking at minimum wage.

Other tips? Don't look at the camera. Don't talk to the speaking actors and remember, it can get complicated.

And if you're looking for your big break, it can happen.

"I've seen it happen on several occasions, where a scene just doesn't play unless an extra is given a line," Klein said. "And so suddenly, that person making minimum wage goes up to being an actor."

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Want to make your big screen debut? Royal Roads offering course on being an extra


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