Picking background actors


Let’s say we want to film a new *some superhero* movie. Picking the actors we will most probably need professionals for the protagonist and supporting actors, we will have to pay them. But why pick background actors who will ask for money? There are so many *some superhero* fans out there that would just help without requiring us to pay them. That “strategy” would apply for the needed people closer and closer to the protagonist not easily but we will save some money, right?

Of course I respect and understand, someone giving service has to be paid, and I do not support any kind of labor without pay.

I hope I made my thought process clear for you and that you can help me.

Thanks in advance!

In: Other

I know people who “background act”. They have headshots and reels and if there’s a good shot of them in whatever they just worked on they’ll add it. They enjoy the work. They get to be on-set, learning if they want.

In some productions they can and do use locals and people on the street. But for some the extras have to be able to understand what the director wants. On-set directors use production lingo. The serious background actors understand blocking terminology and how to move in front of the camera. People off the street probably won’t know that.

And the reason they don’t use fans is because time is money on the set. Every fan the star signs an autograph for potentially costs the production a couple grand.

That’s probably more than you wanted to know.

it’s probably the same few extras, so that they won’t need to go through the whole process of finding new extras every movie. Maybe they’ll accept some applications. Maybe.

Extras need to be there all day. Usually for several days for a shoot that lasts from early morning to late evening. You want people who are going to stick around. People doing this for free aren’t going to.

You also want to outsource it. There’s going to be an agency that organises a bunch of extras and can arrange for exactly the right number to turn up.

It is true that there are a large number of people willing to be extras in movies, especially if they are big fans of an existing franchise. Hollywood movies are usually made by union workers, and the unions have rules about requiring payment for work done. If the film makers don’t pay background actors, that may cause all the union workers on the movie to walk out, even from non acting fields like cameramen, makeup, catering, etc.

On the occasions where fans do get small background roles, they often actually have to join an acting union to do so.

Another factor is that fans may not be very good actors, or may not look the part. A gawking fan may not be very good at playing a pedestrian minding their own business. Filming a movie is very expensive, and if a background actor messes up even a single take, that could be thousands or tens of thousands of dollars worth of wasted time and effort on the part of the crew.

It is also much easier to higher professional background actors out of a database of available actors than to fly fans out from all over the country, put them in a hotel, and teach them the basics of acting.

Lastly, large crowd scenes may or may not require paying everyone. Big budget movies may hire thousands of extras to fill a stadium or be soldiers in a massive army, just so that they can be sure everything looks exactly right. Smaller budget movies will often just film in public places and take advantage of the existing crowds, hoping that no one in the background pulls a funny face to the camera.