15 Feb 2022
TV commercial extras are often known as background actors because their task is to act in the background of scenes while the main actors are performing. But why are tv extras so important, and what is their full role? Our quick fire guide has all the answers you need.
TV Commercial extras are needed in many different types of filming from tv commercials to tv shows, all the way up to full blown blockbuster movies. Even though they may be seen as background actors, extras are almost as important as the main cast, as without them the scenes would look entirely unrealistic. Think of extras as being needed to help fully dress a shot – firstly there is set decoration where the physical scene is made to look as realistic as possible, but human decoration is also required to create a realistic environment. For example, if the footage is being filmed on a city street, it is unlikely that the main actors would be the only ones there. Background actors add a real-life element to the background of the scene, making it more believable to the viewers.
Extras can be used for a lot of different roles when filming. The most common is a general background extra performer. These are the people in the backgrounds of scenes that are filmed but do not speak and are unrecognisable as they blend into the environment. There is no interaction between general background performers and main actors, and they are not completing any action that would draw the viewers attention.
A step above a general extra is a featured background extra performer, who works in the background but in a more recognisable position where their faces can be identified. They would still not speak while on camera and would have no shots just on themselves, but may be placed in a more prominent area of the shot than general extras.
Stand-in extras do not get filmed, but they are there in place of main actors when it comes to blocking scenes before they are recorded and finalising lighting. They are there to stand in for the principal cast while they are getting ready to shoot.
Body Doubles or Image Doubles are a step above stand-in extras as they pretend to be one of the main actors, while being filmed. This will not be a full shot, but could be from behind or only part of their body such as an arm. These extras are not recognisable as themselves, as their whole purpose is to fool the audience into thinking they are one of the main cast members.
The cost of using extras depends on a number of different variables such as the quality of your production, the experience of extras and the time they are needed on set. General rates of pay for extras range between $100 and $500, with the opportunity for higher pay if they do more than a general TV commercial extra role.
This may include getting special make up, wearing a certain costume or doing something additional in the scene such as working with an animal or driving a vehicle.
Read about the Power of TV Commercial Ads.
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