Michael Greenblatt ’83 is a fitness trainer by trade, but for more than two decades he’s had a fun side gig: movie extra. (His credits include Deep Impact with Robert Duvall, A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe, and Creed with Michael B. Jordan.) Greenblatt says anyone, regardless of acting experience, can find work as an extra. He explained how:
It might seem impossible to get in a movie, but it’s not. They’re always casting and there’s a lot of work out there. When I started, The Ross Report listed the casting director for every TV show, soap opera, movie. These days, there are lists and lists of casting-calls on the web.1 Look through those and decide what you want to apply to.
Go to Staples or Office Max and buy yourself a box of 100 manila envelopes. Put your resume in there. Make it look as impressive as possible: If you’ve got some skill related to the movie, include it. Say it’s a movie about dancing they’re casting for—put something in your package that shows you know how to dance. Put your picture in there too. It doesn’t have to be a professional headshot. When I got hired for Creed, I sent a picture of me running on the beach with my famous cat, Roadrunner2. I figured Rocky is athletic, so why not send a picture like that? I used that same picture both times3 and got hired. If you’ve had any publicity, attach that to your resume too. It doesn’t matter if it’s related to acting. Whatever it is, publicity sells. They like to see that you’re in the news.
From there it’s a numbers game really. You just have to send out enough packages. I probably had 98 rejections before I got my first job. That’s fine. I was just spending money on postage. These days, some casting directors just want an email, so you don’t even need the postage.
When you do get hired, they’ll tell you what you can and can’t do on set, and what to wear. Just follow their rules, be respectful, and don’t be a know-it-all. Make a good impression, because you want to be hired again. When you’re done, send a thank you letter to whoever hired you at the casting agency. It doesn’t take long, and you can even email it. Maybe they’ll never read it, but at least you’ll know you did it, and it’ll keep you in the loop for the next time.
1 Two that Greenblatt recommends for the Monmouth area: castinghl.com and backstage.com.
2 Greenblatt’s cat has appeared in national TV commercials for Optimum.
3 Greenblatt will also appear in the upcoming Creed II, due out this fall.