extra toronto

How to be a movie and TV extra in Toronto

Total Recall, Suicide Squad, Mean Girls, Handmaid’s Tale – those are just some of the many epic movies and TV shows that have been shot in Toronto. I mean, we're called Hollywood North for a reason. 

With the right budget, sets have the ability to transform the city into any universe they want, from the X-Men world to high-traffic cities like New York and Chicago. To pull off those public pedestrian scenes, film and TV crews are always in need of extras to fill in the empty space.

Whether you're pursuing a career in background acting or just doing it for fun, it's a pretty sweet gig. You can choose your own workdays and the job pays relatively well, all you need to do is get your foot in the door. 

Things you need to know:
  • Being a background requires no specific skills, acting abilities, or previous experience. 
  • A lot of background acting is just hanging out on set until it's your turn to shoot; bringing a book or some work is highly recommended. 
  • Some days you'll have wardrobe and stylists provided. Other days, you'll be required to bring your own wardrobe, depending on what the director is looking for. (i.e: warm tones only, business attire, etc.) Make sure to bring extra options. 
  • Food provided to background actors usually suck (especially for non-union actors). Bring your own snacks. 
  • Expect long hours: average shoot times run between 8 and 18 hours. 
Join an agency or extras service

Sure, you can go agent-less and try to score some gigs through Facebook posts, casting websites and Kijiji. But if you're new to the business, you likely won't have your finger on the pulse for all the city's hot new gigs. 

Having an agent or joining a service will help you find work on a larger scale instead of hunting for opportunities online. They'll reach out to you if you fit the description of a role and send you the details like where, what time, and what to bring. 

Some services will require a headshot, while others will help you take the headshot for you. Either way, it's important to choose an agency that's right for you, since you'll have to sign a contract and cost an annual fee plus commission. Watch out for scams. 

Background actor agencies:

Finding castings yourseff: 

Union vs. Non-Union

There are two types of background actors in the industry: ones who are part of ACTRA (The Alliance of Canadian Cinema), Canada's English-language media labour union, and those who aren't. There are advantages to both options. 

Joining ACTRA

ACTRA, Canada's English-speaking media labour union, has a special category for actors who want to become an  In order to apply, head to the ACTRA membership office and provide the following:

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship or PR
  • A current head shot
  • Proof that you've worked as a background actor at least 15 days in the past year (which constitutes as April 1 to March 31) 

ACTRA Additional Background Performer. Annual fees are $30, and if you become an ACTRA member, you won't be allowed to work on non-union productions – probably the biggest draw of joining. 

Benefits, however, include getting paid way more money per hour (around $26.75 as opposed to the average $14) and being provided more regulations to ensure safety and better working conditions (and way better food). 

Plus they get access to some studio facilities for free and retail discounts via the Membership Advantage Program. 

ACTRA members also get access to work opportunities that non-union actors aren't allowed to take: 

  • Background work in union commercials
  • Work in Toronto Indie Productions 
  • Work in Toronto Co-op production
Non-union members 

Do: 

Bring outfit alternatives if you're required to bring your own wardrobe.

Make sure you follow hair and makeup instructions closely if you're required to do your own. 

Be quiet on set


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