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How to get work as an extra in movies and television, according to casting directors

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Manitoba is quickly becoming a hub for film and television, with a number of productions filming in the province year-round.

This means many opportunities for Manitobans to take part in casting calls and background acting, which can lead to some extra crash, unique experiences and a potential brush with celebrities.

However, those wanting to get involved in the world of entertainment may not know where to start or what to expect, so CTV News Winnipeg spoke to some casting directors to find out.

What is a casting call?

A casting call is when a film or television production’s casting director puts out a request or a character breakdown for a certain type of actor to take part in a project.

Nowadays, most of the casting calls take place through a digital forum as things have shifted since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I’m making a search for a particular actor for a particular project that is all done through the internet, through the casting workbook or through different online approaches,” said Jim Heber from Jim Heber Casting

Derek James Trapp with DJT Casting explained that every casting call is different, noting sometimes the request is very broad while other times it is more specific.

“Some require certain ethnicities, some are different ages, some are different locations, like Brokenhead, Selkirk, Winnipeg,” he said.

Both casting directors note that experience is not necessary in order to get involved.

“I’m always keen to see actors that are just starting out, because that’s how you find new talent,” Heber said.

“That’s how you develop and create the professional actor of the future. Everyone has to start somewhere.”

What to expect on set

If you are lucky enough to get cast as an actor or extra, you can expect your time on set to include a bit of paperwork, and visiting the hair, makeup and wardrobe departments. However, it could also include some waiting around.

“We always say in the movie industry, it’s called, ‘Hurry up and wait,’ because the days can be long and they could either want you on set immediately or they could want you on set in seven hours,” Trapp said.

“So it could be a lot of sitting around, waiting, meeting new friends, mingling, bringing stuff to keep you busy, like little board games.”

He added working on sets provides background actors with the opportunity to meet new people, make a little money and even potentially get to see some of their favourite celebrities.

Advice for those who want to get involved

For anyone interested in taking part in a casting call, Heber said Manitoba is a great place to begin an acting career as there are many opportunities.

“What you would do is you would send myself a headshot and resume and that could just basically be a statement about what your creative or career aspirations may be and then we would begin to audition,” he said.

For Trapp, he said persistence and consistency are the keys to success.

He explained that if he sees someone who often submits for casting calls, he will take that into consideration.

“I’ll always try to give them a job, because I see how hard they’re trying to get work,” he said.

“I look for that kind of stuff and see who’s actively applying and who’s really motivated to try it out.”

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