I found this very interesting post in BAFTA website. It is about background acting.
Hope you like it too.
“I don’t mind what you call me. Supporting artist, background artist, extra – I think they’re all fine to use, though there are a few people who get touchy about it.
I started in 2009. I wanted to be an actor and I didn’t have a clue how to do it. Nobody in my family’s in the industry. So I started taking classes at the Actor’s Centre in Covent Garden, thought I’d sign up to some background casting agencies and work it out from there. It was about trying to set up my life flexibly so I could take classes and also have a steady income.
I started working straight away. My first job was a Morrison’s commercial. I was part of a chain, all dressed as farmers, passing punnets of strawberries from the car park into the shop.
From not knowing anything about the industry, being on set and watching pretty big names take after take, as well as the multimillion-dollar crews, it really woke me up.
For some reason, there is a stigma attached to it in this country. It’s different in the States, where it’s seen as a natural progression. In the UK, because of drama schools, people come out trained and they think they’re too good to do it. But they’re having to go and take a bar job that pays even less, washing glasses and waiting tables.
The basic pay is around £90 for a 10-hour day and that will include a lunch hour. Or certain film rates will be about £120 per day. The agency take their cut from that.
But that starts to change if you’re called to set before a certain time, or if you go through lunch or go into overtime. If you’re asked to have a haircut or ride a bicycle, you get paid a bit more. If you’re body doubling, the rate will be at least £200 per day.
I’ve been plucked from the crowd many times. Many extras are not interested in making it as an actor so it can be a marvellous way to get spotted. You’ll be on set and they’ll say, ‘who’s a trained actor? Do you fancy saying a line?’ Before you know it you’re talking to the casting director and the crew and even the cast.
It’s always the assistant directors (ADs) who are picking faces. They go from job to job and they get to know faces and who they can trust.
I was Martin Freeman’s body double for quite a few weeks on Sherlock. That was a surreal experience, sitting in a make-up van at eight in the morning next to Martin Freeman. Next to him is a guy who looks like Benedict Cumberbatch who’s his body double and then next to him is Benedict. We’re all sitting there being wigged, making small talk about the weather.
I’ve also doubled for Niall from One Direction and in Skyfall, I was a commuter on a train. Daniel Craig comes rushing through the train chasing the villain and I was standing by Javier Bardem, reading a book. I’m in it for a couple of seconds.
To be successful, I would say smile lots and be patient. You never know who you’re talking to, or who’s beside you. You’ll see someone in a scruffy jacket who you think is an extra and she’s the producer or has written the whole series.
But patience is a big thing. People think it’s glamorous, but it’s very long days and the glamour soon passes. If you’re happy and patient, you’ll work more.
It can be a great experience though. I was working on a WWII film and we were filming in a field in the middle of Oxfordshire. I was going to the loo in the bushes and I looked to my right and the lead of the film – a massive Hollywood star – was having a wee next to me. I said hi and he was like, ‘hey buddy’. It was surreal.
Now I’m doing a Masters degree in European classical acting at the Drama Centre. I don’t have an undergraduate degree, so they saw me thanks to two references that were written for me, based on industry experience. My goal is to make it as a jobbing actor.”