Ever fancied a job as a henchman? Here's your chance. Studios are always on the look out for palace guards, car crash victims, groupies, and passers-by to supply the cannon-fodder of film and television. For anyone who is not dazzled by the razzle and has enough time on their hands, "extra" work is a great way to make a bit of money and have some fun.
At between £70 and £130 a day it is also a decent rate of pay for frankly very few skills. "It really is a job for everyone," says Wayne Berko, the head of the extras agency UniversalExtras, which lays claim to the biggest database of extras in the UK. "One guy might be right for one production, and wrong for another. It's that easy." The only qualification is age. If you are over 16, Berko should be able to find you work.
For the best pay, and most reliable employment, it pays to have a "look". And the ideal is to look like someone more expensive than you are. Lucy Hobbs, 17, is still doing her A-levels, but has already worked on two films as a look-a-like for the strawberry-blonde beauty Cate Blanchett, and was offered work this summer as Michelle Pfeiffer's body-double. She had to turn it down as she was on a school trip.
Hobbs started doing extra work last year after her mum saw an article in the paper. It was free to sign up, so she thought to herself, "why not?".
"I didn't think anything would come of it. I'm not really a dramatic type, I just needed a job," she says now. "But a week later I heard back from them saying they had a job for me."
Hobbs gets paid around £100 a day, a long way from a star salary, although she has enjoyed some star treatment. At one stage she even had her own trailer.
"It was fun to do," she says. "The best part was meeting the celebrities. I had a chat with Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench in make-up, and the costume people are nice."
If you are not lucky enough to look like anyone famous, the next best thing is having a distinctive look of your own. Few things are more distinctive than being one of a pair of identical twins. Joe Reid, 20, and his twin brother, Oliver, have been doing extra work for the last four years, ranging from the first Bridget Jones film through to Green Wing and Casualty.
The Reids got started after their mum and some of her friends worked as extras on a local shoot for a James Bond film. In the four years since, Joe reckons he and his brother have done 15 different projects, totalling 60 days work, at an average of £70 to £100 a day. "The work isn't a big strain," he admits. "And obviously it's quite fun." One film the twins were in recently featured Phoebe Thomas as Lady Godiva riding naked through Oxford on a horse.
Nudity notwithstanding, it can get a bit tedious on set. "The worst part is the waiting," says Joe. Although it does give you a chance to hang out with what he calls "the eclectic band of odd people" that regularly do extra work. And it makes watching the end product a completely different experience. "It's a bit of a giggle, it's quite fun to spot yourself in the background," adds Joe. "But to a degree it ruins the film. You spend all your time looking for people you know."
Some extras do make the move to the foreground. Carla Chase, 22, worked as an extra while she was training as an actress at ArtsEd, a school in Chiswick, London. She has just signed up with an agency and is now starting castings. She found extra work a bit of a mixed blessing. "It was just a good thing to do for money," she says. "Now I'm unsure whether to mention this experience." The danger is in appearing to be some kind of career extra.
"But nothing hurts," she adds. And, says Chase, extra work does at least expose you to how the film industry works and can offer up networking opportunities. "It is interesting," she says. "You get to know what's going on. It's been hugely valuable to me."
Most of all, though, for Chase, as for other part-time extras, it is simply an easy way to earn a bit of spending money. "It's great fun," she says. "And it's great money." Which is more than can be said about working in your local pub.Reuse content