Thank you for joining me for this week’s Brown Parachute Club. Today, I have decided to change things up a bit. I am going to conduct an interview with someone who is experienced with the Side Hustle: Movie & TV Extra.
I know that sounds crazy. How can I be in a Movie or TV Commercial? Where would I begin? How does it work? How do I get paid? Do I get to meet the star of the movie? These were all of the questions that I thought of, so I decided to talk to someone who is an expert in this field.
Jakey Staley has been a Movie and TV Extra for 10 years. She has been in Transformers: Dark of the Moon and more recently Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She has been in many other movies as well. I sat down with Jakey to pick her brain on how it all works.
TBPC: Hello Jakey, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. I wanted to talk to you about your career as a Movie and TV Extra. Since I know you have done this for a while, you seemed like the perfect person to talk to about this subject.
TBPC: How did you get started becoming a Movie and TV Extra?
Jakey: Thanks, Jerry. A friend of mine talked me into doing a free movie. She had seen it advertised in the paper. It was when the movie scene was first getting big in Detroit, so we showed up and got to be in a parade. It was for a Made-For-TV movie starring Sigourney Weaver, called “Prayers For Bobby”.
TBPC: Which company or companies do you work for?
Jakey: At the filming of Prayers for Bobby, we saw cards on a table for an agency called “Real Style”. My friend and I both signed up for Real Style, posted our pictures, and met the ladies who started the company. They knew the industry was going to start to get big in Detroit. They saw a need for Extras in the movies and all of the Producers who come to town know which agency to call when they need Extras. Real Style is how I got started in all of this. Your name and picture go into a database and they send you emails on everything that’s coming out.
TBPC: How long have you been doing it?
Jakey: I’ve been doing it for about 10 years. Prayers for Bobby (filmed in Royal Oak, MI) was the first time, so it has been about 10 years.
TBPC: Do you work with Real Style exclusively?
Jakey: Yes, I work exclusively with Real Style. They are THE agency for Movie Extra and Commercial work in the Detroit area. They work primarily in Michigan. I recently got an email for a commercial for a furniture company in Grand Rapids.
TBPC: How much do you get paid and how do you get paid?
Jakey: You get paid Minimum Wage. It’s mostly an hourly wage ($7.40/hour in MI). It can be a set dollar amount, say $300 for the day, or something like that. It’s always right around minimum wage. You are paid directly by the Production Company and receive your tax forms from them as well.
TBPC: How many times do you “Extra” per month?
Jakey: I’ve always had a full time job, so I’ve had to take vacation days. I’ve never been able to do a week or longer shoot. Sometimes the Production Company will ask for 2 or 3 days, with “Whip It”, I did 3 days altogether. It’s normally a string of days in a row for the bigger movies. The smaller movies usually get their shooting done in one day.
TBPC: Is it difficult to get jobs?
Jakey: It’s all first come, first served. When you get the email, if you have the date available, you respond to the agency. They are very organized. They will respond to you with all the details. Sometimes you click on the link and it says, “Sorry, we’re full”. When I first started it was a lot easier to get into the movies. I had more time available back then.
TBPC: If I was going to get started, how would I do it? Just contact Real Style and let them know I want to do it? Would I need a headshot and all of that?
Jakey: Yep, they do them right there. They’re a great company, I’ll plug Real Style!
TBPC: To me it sounds like something that would be fun and interesting to do. Something out of the “norm”. When you’re in my situation, suddenly you’re open to trying something different.
Jakey: Yeah, it is. There were a lot of retired people, who had days available, they just need bodies in the background for movement. They can’t focus on your face. They need as many bodies as they can get.
TBPC: So when you’re talking to someone, your lips are moving, but that’s it, right?
Jakey: Yep, always quiet on the set, you feel like a Mime.
TPBC: Are there any costs for the Extra?
Jakey: The only cost is $25-$50 to get into the database and add your headshot. You can have up to 5 pictures in the database. You should always keep them updated, because the Producers do look for Extras by age, height, weight, and so on. You don’t do any speaking roles, because if you speak on camera, you have to join the Union (Screen Actors Guild). That’s expensive! However, I do know someone who joined and has had a featured role in a movie, so you never know. I have heard that Shia LaBeouf started out as an Extra.
TBPC: How long is the average Shooting Day?
Jakey: Well, on “Whip It”, one of the shooting days was 16 hours! There’s a funny story. I had taken the day off work, I did a 16 hour day on “Whip It”, got home, showered, and went back to work! That was a long day!
Most shooting days are 8-12 hours. Not everyone gets picked. There was one movie where there were about 50 of us and they only needed 20, we all got paid for an 8 hour day. We sat in a big tent and played Euchre all day.
TBPC: Based on the amount of time spent, what do you figure is your hourly wage?
Jakey: You get paid the minimum wage. If you get paid in a lump sum, that is generally for commercials. These Producers have been doing this for a long time, so they know how to watch every dime and are very strict when it comes to the budget for the movie.
TBPC: Do you get to meet the stars of the production you are working on?
Jakey: Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
TBPC: Do you have any interesting or funny stories from filming?
Jakey: “Whip It” was cool, even on the 16 hour day, it was about 100 degrees in there. Drew Barrymore was on skates and a bundle of energy even though it was, like 3 a.m. and we were all dead tired. She picks me and my friend Karen out of the crowd for a scene and says, “You two look cool!” She sets us up at the edge of the roller derby rink. There’s a part in the movie when Ellen Page, one of the stars of the movie skates by, and grabs a poster that Drew Barrymore had given my friend Karen. Ellen Page grabs the poster and tears it up and throws it. The camera was aimed right at us, so we think, “This is it! This is our big break!” When the movie comes out, you can only see the side of my face and Karen’s hands, that’s it! Movie Magic!
There was another time when I was doing, “Gifted Hands” (The Ben Carson Story) with Cuba Gooding, Jr. He was very nice, a friendly guy. There was a scene when he was standing in front of me. I was a nurse at a desk and he was right in front of me. After the movie was released, I saw my boss on the escalator and she said, “I just saw this movie with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and your twin must have been in it, because she looked just like you!” I said, “That was me!” She thought it was great.
Also, during the filming of “Whip It”, Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore were terrific and kept all of the Extras entertained and fired up during the 16 hour night of shooting. They were great.
Well Jakey, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I’m sure your information will be a great help to our readers! We’ll certainly keep an eye out for you in those movies! Thanks for your time!
A list of Jakey’s Movies:
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
Prayers for Bobby
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
This Must Be The Place
The Amazing Cynical Man
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
To find a movie extra casting company in your area, do a search online, or you can go to Casting 360, which has jobs all over the country. I’ll see you in the movies! Break a leg!
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