What You Should Know About Background Acting for Kids

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Photo Source: Netflix

Over the years, many of my students who have become professional actors started out as background talent. Background work is a fantastic way for new actors to gain experience for so many reasons and that includes child actors. 

Should your children try background acting? Here’s everything you need to know about background work for kids:

1. Working as an extra is a great way to learn about film sets.
By working as a background actor, your child will come to understand the landscape of a film set. She will get to know the different crew positions, as well as on-set etiquette when the camera is rolling (e.g. “quiet on the set!”). Being on set is an exciting experience! Your child will certainly get a feel for what it’s like to be a real, working actor on a film set. She will also come to understand the level of professionalism and dedication that is required of working actors.

2. There is compensation. 
Great news! Your child can officially call himself a working professional when he books his first background acting role because, for union jobs as well as many nonunion jobs, he will be paid. Check out the SAG-AFTRA website for more details on payments for background actors. 

3. Your child can earn vouchers toward joining SAG-AFTRA.
By working as a background actor, under some circumstances, your child can earn what is known as a SAG-AFTRA “voucher.” According to the SAG-AFTRA website, “any person qualifying [to join] through work as a background actor must have completed three (3) days of work as a background actor under a SAG-AFTRA (or AFTRA or SAG) collective bargaining agreement.” For more information on how to join SAG-AFTRA, check out this article and visit the SAG-AFTRA website.

4. Your child could possibly be upgraded to a principal role.
This does happen! If your child is featured in a scene and given a line of dialogue on a union set, he will be upgraded to a principal role. If this happens, he will become SAG-AFTRA eligible via the Taft Hartley process. Read more about getting Taft Hartleyed here.

5. Your child will learn about the rhythms of sets.
Background actors are essential to the overall success of a film or TV show. They help to create a realistic atmosphere, within which all of the leading actors are able to play and really shine in their roles. Your child may experience some downtime so she should definitely bring quiet activities to keep her occupied (books, quiet games, etc. for the waiting area) and should also be prepared to jump to her feet and head to set at a moment’s notice! 

6. Your child will be provided with an on set tutor.
If your child is working on a union film set during school hours, he should always be provided with an on set tutor. This is the law. One of my students was on a professional TV set a few weeks ago, working as a background actor. She was the only child on set and they had a teacher just for her!

7. Your child will always be within eyesight.
If you’re not able to physically be in the same room or area as your child, you will be provided with a monitor that will allow you to see her!

8. Your child will have fun!
Above all, your child can and will enjoy the process of making a film or television episode. What’s more: your child will be building great career connections by being on a professional set.  

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Mae Ross
Mae Ross is the Owner/ Director of L.A.’s highly acclaimed actor training center, 3-2-1 Acting Studios. Her leadership has garnered 3-2-1 consistent recognition as Hollywood's premier on-camera acting school for kids, teens, and adults. She has launched hundreds of successful acting careers with her expert on-camera coaching and professional guidance.
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