What is a Featured Extra?

by on December 4th, 2014
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Throughout my time spent on major motion picture film sets as an extra, stand-in and actor I have come across many interesting people. I think one of the most interesting situations, which is surprisingly common, is when an extra arrives on set thinking he will be in the foreground of a shot only to be placed in the back of a scene. Of course, his reaction is never a pleasant one. I always have the same thought whenever this situation occurs, “If only he knew the difference between an extra and a featured extra.”

Many first-time extras have a misconception about the difference between an extra and a featured extra. While being a standard extra may allow you to be placed close to the camera, typically these performers are placed the background as ambiance. However, featured extras are placed up-close-and-personal, and may have a decent amount of screen time.

When contemplating this article, I went back-and-forth about the information that should be written. After outlining several drafts, I finally came to the conclusion that a basic, yet informative, definition of a featured extra will help starve off confusion amongst extras. If you are planning on being an extra, or a featured extra, then you should continue reading to discover exactly what being a featured extra is.

Basic Definition:

A featured extra is just that – a featured extra. Within this role, you will be placed either beside the lead actor, or the camera will actually focus on you before panning out to the primary actors. Featured extras are guaranteed a little more screen time, and when you watch almost any movie you will find an example of a featured extra.

Do I Talk?

This is where confusion often sets in. Featured extras may be seen on camera; however, they never speak – not even one line or one word. If a director decides to give a featured extra a line or two, the featured extra is immediately bumped up to a “day player,” which garners higher pay and if it is a union (SAG) production this makes the former featured extra eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild. Do not take on a speaking role unless you are clearly informed about the increase in pay, and sign a “Taft-Hartley,” which allows you to be eligible for joining SAG.

Compensation:

The compensation amount for a featured extra is typically more than a standard extra. The exact amount can greatly vary. I have personally been paid as little as $80 to as much as $150 to be a featured extra. If you are a member of the Screen Actors Guild, the pay will be much greater. You should check with the current SAG rules regarding featured extra roles before taking on a project to ensure the production company is following the current standards.


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