Stepping into the World of Movie Studios: An Overwhelming, Surreal Experience


Okay, picture this: Lights, camera, action! We are all familiar with those three magical words, especially those starstruck by the entertainment business. It’s no surprise that film studios hold unique appeal to aspiring actors, performers, and entertainers. TV and movie studios feature elaborate setups with staged furniture, lighting, backdrops, audiovisual equipment, props, etc.

As a newcomer to this bustling industry, you are likely enthralled by the prospect. Your first day on the job will totally blow your mind, like the first time you walk into a mega casino in Las Vegas, marveling at all the casino games, jingling jangling jackpots, and action about. That overwhelming, almost surreal feel is what you will experience on a movie set for the first time.

There are many ways to get started in the industry, notably through casting agencies and talent scouts. Becoming a Hollywood superstar is no mean feat; you’re far more likely to land work behind the scenes on a production as a gaffer, camera operator, makeup artist, assistant, et cetera than you are to become a hotshot on the silver screen. Stay motivated; it’s entirely possible. Before he was Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford was a carpenter who happened to be spotted by Steven Spielberg.

Hollywood sign and cityscape
What’s It Like to Work on a Movie Set?

The legendary Sylvester Stallone was a down-and-out artist with nothing but a script for Rocky to his credit. He was offered a ton of money to sell his script, but he refused and instead was determined to star in the film as the lead. The rest is history. As you can tell, success in the industry relies heavily on who you know, how far you are willing to go, and how well you are received by the audience, among others. Talent, good looks, and determination are sacrosanct.

What’s It Like to Work on a Movie Set?

But what’s it like to work on a movie set?

It’s a lot of back-and-forth. This is especially true if you are an extra – the lowest rung on the ladder. Extras must be on-site for the full duration of the daily/nightly shoot at the studio’s discretion. That means you will spend more time with other extras in the studio, in rooms where beverages and snacks may be provided. Extras indeed play a crucial role in creating the ambience and atmosphere of a scene, often without any spoken lines. The behind-the-scenes coordination and the multiple takes required for scenes to meet expectations can make the filming process tedious.

Now, people in charge of extras direct you to the precise location where you will be needed. Your wardrobe is planned, and makeup may be required to prevent glares on screen. For the most part, extras do not speak at all during film shoots unless they are featured extras with small bit parts. What you hear on TV or the big screen is often carefully crafted background chatter by film studios – it’s hardly ever the extras talking themselves. So, you behave like a mime, chatting to other extras on set without a sound.

The Perks and Challenges of Extra Work in the Entertainment Industry

You may be moved about at will by production assistants, casting directors, or others in the studio. Multiple takes often occur until shoots meet expectations. Be prepared to sit or stand for quite some time, inside or outside, depending on the set. We know of extras who dressed like knights and laid out on the grass in the hot sun for hours while production on King Arthur films took place. It all depends on individual TV and film studios. Pay for extras is minimal, but featured roles and speaking parts can pay substantially more if you get noticed, especially in Hollywood studios. Best of luck to you! 

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