A Starter Guide to Background Work

MEGHAN DUBITSKY
BY MEGHAN DUBITSKY  |  MAY 7, 2018
           
Background work on a New York film set

We know that registration and orientation can be a whirlwind, after all there's a lot to know about background work. We've got you covered with all the information you need to book a job and be successful at Central Casting.

Interested in registering your child with Central Casting? Background work for minors has different requirements than for adults; learn how to get your child on TV and movies.

How to find work

You registered and got your photo taken for our casting system, now what? The good news is, you're able to be cast in our productions the moment you finish registering and we've verified your legal eligibility.

Our Casting Directors have many tools available to cast their shows. You can find all the jobs we're currently casting on the job posts section of your location's Talent page. In these posts, Casting Directors will add information on the role they're booking and leave submission instructions. We know you're excited to start working, but please take the time to read the entire post before submitting. The Casting Directors are booking specific roles and it doesn't help either of you if you submit for a role you don't fit.

When you register, you should like our main Central Casting and your location's job posts Facebook pages so you can receive notifications and stay up-to-date. Our Facebook pages are linked to Twitter if you would prefer to receive notifications from Twitter instead. All the posts that go to Facebook/Twitter show up in an easier to read format on the job posts sections of our website.

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Another way you can get background work is through text message. Casting Directors will send text messages out to Background Actors, often checking your availability for a future date. You may receive follow up questions and, in some cases, details through text message. Our article What to Do When You Get a Text from Central Casting walks you through some of the common questions we get about the texting system.

Availability list

If you work in Los Angeles, Georgia, or Louisiana and are not booked for the next day, but would like to be considered for possible rush calls, you can email your contact information to your location's availability email. To be added to the availability list, send only your name and phone number in the subject line of an email between 7pm-9pm. Again, the only information you need to write is your name and phone number in the subject line.

Remember, if you email the availability list, it means you are available for background work the entire day the following day. Be prepared to receive a call in the middle of the night or in the early morning when Casting Directors are booking rush calls or looking for additional people for their scenes.

Los Angeles:

Georgia

Louisiana

In New York, when Casting Directors are booking rush calls they will text out to Background Actors who fit the call or will post the rush calls they need to book in our job posts. So if you'd like to be considered for these roles, keep an eye on your phone and check the posts overnight or in the early morning.

What to do once you've been cast

When you get booked, the Casting Director will tell you how to get your details. This can include calling an information tape or reading a details blog. If you are instructed to call an information tape, be sure to write down the 4-digit tape code you are given. The How to Get Work section of the Talent page has important phone numbers and instructions on how to get details in your location.

The Casting Director will also tell you how to get any call time changes. You should check for call time changes before you go to bed, when you wake up, and before you leave for set. Keep in mind that your call time refers to the time you need to be checked in and ready for work, so factor in traffic, parking time, and any other delays that could make you late to set.

Know the lingo

There are a lot of terms used during casting and on set that you may not be familiar with. Here are some important ones, but you should check our guide for more terms Background Actors should know.

Holding

When you're not filming, you'll be taken to a holding area. You can bring items to Holding, like a book, to keep you busy when you're not on set.

Back to One

When the director (or Assistant Director) says "back to one," you need to move back to your original position. Always pay attention to your movement in a scene so you can recreate it every take.

Cross

A cross is the movement of a Background Actor as they pass through the view of the camera. If an Assistant Director instructs you to do a cross, your path may take you directly in front of the camera.

How to be successful

Like with any job, your success as a Background Actor is tied to how much effort you put into it. There are steps you can take to ensure you're prepared and to let Casting Directors know you're available for background work.

Update your file and photo

Casting Directors use your casting photo and any additional photos they ask you to submit to determine if you're right for a role. We recommend updating your casting photo every six months or right away if your look changes, like when you cut or dye your hair.

You should update your file right away if your contact information changes, if your sizes change, if your union status changes, or if you want to add or remove a car you have on file.

Take a Central Casting University class

You may be wondering, what is there to know about background work? A lot, actually. Our Central Casting University classes offer you the chance to learn from the industry's leading experts in directing Background Actors and Stand-Ins. These are the people who will be directing you on set and have valuable insight into how you can be successful as a Background Actor.

Check your location's calendar for the next Central Casting University class in your office.

Attend a Visiting session

During Visiting sessions, you can meet and ask questions to a panel of Casting Directors. This is a great time for you to get to know Casting Directors, for them to get to know you, and for you to ask questions about the casting process and being on set.

Keep an eye on your location's calendar for upcoming Visiting sessions in your office.

Bookmark the Talent page

Your location's Talent page is your go-to resource to find all the information you need to book jobs, contact Central Casting, and keep track of important dates. Be sure to look through the FAQ section for more information on being booked, getting on set, getting paid by Central Casting, and how to update your file.

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