On Saturday we visited the open call for extras for The Dark Knight Rises to check out the process and fulfill our lifetime dream of starring in a superhero blockbuster. When we arrived at the 2 p.m. call time, the line of hopefuls stretched all the way down 19th Street between 6th and 7th avenues. Even though Warner Brothers had attempted a clever ruse by calling the film Magnus Rex, every superhero nerd in NYC called their bluff.
Of all the people we spoke to, not one of them had ever tried to be an extra before—"It's Batman! It's Christopher Nolan!" exclaimed extra hopeful Jason Ruiz, "I've been a Batman fan all my life." Most had heard about the casting call through fanboy websites like Batman News and Superhero Hype, and of course, Gothamist. The casting notice called for people with military and police experience, but except for one woman who was on probation, nobody heeded the casting guidelines and showed up just to be part of the experience.
The process was quick and painless: fill out a sheet with your personal details (contact information, body measurements, etc.) and then pose for a Polaroid to accompany your fact sheet. And then, the waiting game as you constantly refresh your Gmail hoping that you've been picked!
Anyone can be an extra so long as they have valid photo ID (driver's license, state ID, student ID, etc) and the willingness to hang out eating delicious snacks from craft services while chatting with Gary Oldman about British foreign policy and the Arab Spring. You can also expect long hours of mostly waiting around—but it pays pretty well (especially if you're currently unemployed), and you do get a peek inside the Hollywood filmmaking process. Here are our tips for getting into extra work:
Find the jobs. There are a few agencies around town that specialize in extras casting, so check their websites frequently for updates about open calls. Grant Wilfley Casting, Barabara McNamara Casting and Central Casting are the three biggies. Some even offer a database where you can submit your information and then they will contact you if they are casting your type.
Dress the part. You don't need to show up in full military regalia if they're looking for that type (that would be way too intense) but you shouldn't show up in that cute new Anthropologie sundress either. If they're looking for types to play law enforcement, as they were on this casting, wear clothes that offer a subtle suggestion in that direction: boots, dark colors, button down shirt, etc.
Be professional. If you get picked to work as an extra, prove your worth by being punctual, polished and professional. Show up on time, listen to what people tell you and don't be a hassle. If word of your poise spreads back to the casting agency then they are more likely to call you in for future jobs. If you show up sloppy and generally make everyone miserable... well, you get the idea.