How to get a job in the Okanagan film industry as an extra | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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How to get a job in the Okanagan film industry as an extra

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK

It’s possible to prove yourself as a professional actor by starting out as an extra in the Okanagan’s expanding film and television industry.

The thought of getting paid to be on camera before seeing yourself in the final product can feel exciting. And more of those opportunities are presenting themselves in the region.

But Brenda Connell, founder of BookIt Talent Agency in Kelowna, said it’s important for aspiring actors to know what they’re getting into.

“Be prepared to work long hours and to start out at basically minimum wage,” she said.

Background actors have to be patient for much of the day until they’re needed, and sometimes they’re needed as late as 3 a.m.

“It’s always more glamorous in your head than it is on set," Connell said.

READ MORE: Kelowna talent agency 'overwhelmed' by interest from thousands of Okanagan actors

For somebody just starting out, Connell said the job can pay as well as $225 per day, but only for those lucky enough to secure a union voucher. Otherwise, the rates are likely to be minimum wage. Better pay will come upon successfully joining the Union of British Columbia Performers/Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists.

In order to apply to UBCP/ACTRA as a background actor, you need a minimum of 200 days or 1,600 hours working on set.

During the early days of an acting career, the best way to impress the set director is by showing up on time and treating the role with a professional attitude.

“You signed up to do a job, it’s not just something that might be fun to try,” she said.

For people who don’t love the work – the low pay, long hours and sporadic opportunities can quickly drain their enthusiasm. And arriving late is one of the fastest ways to fall out of favour.

“You don’t want to upset a casting director,” Connell said.

READ MORE: Okanagan city to be showcased in Crave coming-of-age movie

For those who love the work, it’s much easier to persevere in the industry.

“It can be a lot of fun. It’s like a family – for those who have been doing it for years, they love seeing each other again on set," she said

Working as an extra might lead to much bigger roles – actors like Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck had their first roles in the background – however Connell said it’s not very common.

To keep the dream alive and take your acting career to the next level it’s important to learn from reputable schools and coaches.

“It’s delusional to think you’ll get in with no training – even as a background actor there’s a high level of competition," she said.

Connell recommended taking a mini-lesson in set etiquette. Deborah Sawarin, a film industry consultant from Kelowna, offers four-hour courses over Zoom for $50. She can be contacted via email here.

READ MORE: 'A place to make films': Okanagan movie industry coming of age

Those interested in becoming an extra in the Okanagan with hopes of working their way up to better opportunities will be competing for jobs against many experienced actors in the Lower Mainland.

For anyone interested in applying to an agency, she recommended putting an effort into using good photos – a headshot, a full body shot and a profile photo. 

“You don’t want to be just sitting there with your dog, holding a strange object or making a peace sign,” Connell said.

Special skills and training listed in resumes can go a long way too. And if you don't have previous acting experience it helps to emphasize accomplishments in areas like dancing or sports.

"Anything that will get you noticed for those specialized background roles is helpful – even something as niche as knowing how to spray tan or tie balloon animals," Connell said. “There’s quite a bit to it, but the bottom line is that you want to maintain a good reputation.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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