A background actor or extra is a performer in a film, television show, stage, musical, opera, or ballet production who appears in a nonspeaking or nonsinging (silent) capacity, usually in the background (for example, in an audience or busy street scene). War films and epic films often employ background actors in large numbers: some films have featured hundreds or even thousands of paid background actors as cast members (hence the term "cast of thousands"). Likewise, grand opera can involve many background actors appearing in spectacular productions.[ citation needed ]
On a film or TV set, background actors are usually referred to as "junior artists", "atmosphere", "background talent", "background performers", "background artists", "background cast members", or simply "background",  while the term "extra" is rarely used.[ citation needed ] In a stage production, background actors are commonly referred to as "supernumeraries". In opera and ballet, they are called either "extras" or "supers".[ citation needed ]
Casting criteria for background actors depend on the production. It is not entirely true that background cast members require little or no acting experience, as any type of unrealistic portrayal must include some form of imagination and acting. Punctuality, reliability and the ability to take direction also figure prominently for these cast members. Background actors are generally selected on short notice, after all other preparations for the shoot have been finalized. 
Several casting agencies specialize only in background work, whilst in the UK the directory Contacts published annually by Spotlight lists all accredited agencies and productions.   Some agencies charge a registration fee, and some (mostly commercial background casting) will take between 10% and 15% commission from any booked work. Artists may be required to provide a basic one-page A4 sized CV/resume, that states basic personal details and dimensions, any significant skills (e.g. stage combat), and includes two 8×10-inch photographs on the rear: one head shot; one full body shot.  
When hiring background actors, casting directors generally seek those with a specific "look", such as "high school students" or "affluent senior citizens", consistent with the context of the film. Casting directors may also look for background actors with a special skill for the scene, such as rollerblading, bike riding, skiing or dancing. A background actor is often expected to bring his or her own wardrobe to the set, although there are also "fittings" for a specific scene or period. A casting director may favor the one who already has the required costume or prop, such as a police uniform, or a musical instrument. On other occasions, where a costume has already been prepared (for example, to fit another actor who is now unavailable), a background actor may be selected as a "costume double" simply because they are the right size to fit it. On smaller productions or student films, background actors may be hired en masse with little formality. 
The length of a background actor's employment on a production largely depends on the needs of the director and the scenes being filmed. Some background actors are needed on the set only for a day or two and are paid on a daily basis, while others may remain with the film for an extended period. For instance, on James Cameron's film Titanic , a group of 150 "core background actors" was hired to play the ship's passengers, and employed throughout the filming.
The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.(August 2010)
In the United Kingdom, the distinction between an actor and an extra is defined by agreements between the actors trade unions Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) and Equity, and the various commercial trade and production bodies.  These state that once a performer says 13 or more words in any scene, they must become a contracted actor in that production.  Minimum pay rates are defined by UK Government minimum wage regulations, and both BECTU and Equity have agreed rates with each body. However, even on non-union productions an extra's pay is an agreed day-rate for ten hours of production time.  All performers under agreement with BECTU/Equity are paid on-going royalties. Hence on many advertisements, which are often shown multiple times and distributed internationally, whilst the extra is paid a contracted day-rate, the largest payment is nominally due from ongoing royalties. Due to the resultant complex calculations from multiple international showings, performers under a union managed agreement are often bought-out of their advertisement royalties with a one-off payment. 
Since 2012, in the US, most major film and television productions fall under the jurisdiction of the SAG-AFTRA union, previously before SAG-AFTRA was AFL–CIO's affiliate, the two unions were separately named as: Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). 
SAG-AFTRA signatory AMPTP producers are allowed to hire non-union background actors after a certain number of SAG performers have been cast; non-union background actors are usually paid the minimum wage. On productions outside of union jurisdiction, payment for background actors is at the discretion of the producers, and ranges from union-scale rates to "copy and credit" (i.e., no pay). Those producers who do not pay their actors may be in violation of state and federal laws about minimum wage for a job.
From 1946 until 1992, background actors (in film and television) were largely represented by the Screen Extras Guild. The Screen Extras Guild was dissolved in 1992 (legally dissolved in 1994  ) and its portrayal was transferred back to SAG as "West Coast extras". 
Notable extras during the Studio Era include Bess Flowers, Ellinor Vanderveer, Symona Boniface, Minta Durfee, Florence Wix, Maurice Costello, Lester Dorr, Philo McCullough, Barry Norton, Larry Steers, and Shep Houghton. Notable American extras of the modern era include Emmy Collins and Jesse Heiman.
Charles Chaplin tackled the subject of film extra work in three of his early short comedies: The Masquerader (1914), His New Job (1915), and Behind the Screen (1916).
The 1922 novel Merton of the Movies by Harry Leon Wilson depicts the tribulations of a male extra.
The silent film The Extra Girl (1923) portrays a small-town girl who comes to Hollywood and becomes a background actor in her attempt to achieve stardom. Souls for Sale (also 1923) depicts a young woman's career trajectory from extra to leading lady, though her progress is more haphazard.
The novels Extra-Girl by Stella G.S. Perry (1929) and I Should Have Stayed Home by Horace McCoy (1938) depict the working lives of Hollywood extras during the Great Depression.
The feature film Movie Crazy depicts a would-be actor (Harold Lloyd) working as an extra.
The quasi-documentary Hollywood Extra Girl , directed by Herbert Moulton, depicts the experience of a young female extra working on The Crusades (1935).
In his novel Infinite Jest (1996), David Foster Wallace refers to silent extras in sitcoms as "figurants", commenting that the need to include them is a concession to reality, even while their complete silence is unrealistic. 
The British television sitcom Extras (2005–07) follows the exploits of two professional background actors, Andy and Maggie. They spend most of their time on set looking for a speaking role and a boyfriend, respectively.
In the Hindi black comedy film Mithya (2008), the protagonist is a background actor whose facial similarity to an underworld crime boss lands him in trouble.
The Filipino comedy-drama film Ekstra (The Bit Player) (2013) centers around the life of a divorcee named Loida Malabanan, whose odd job as a bit player for various acting roles enabled her to send her daughter to college.  The movie is a social commentary on the exploitation and mistreatment of the marginalized sector in the television production industry in the Philippines.   
The Chinese-Hong Kong film I Am Somebody (2015) is about extras working at the Hengdian World Studios. 
The Actors' Equity Association (AEA), commonly called Actors' Equity or simply Equity, is an American labor union representing those who work in live theatrical performance. Performers appearing in live stage productions without a book or through-storyline may be represented by the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). The AEA works to negotiate quality living conditions, livable wages, and benefits for performers and stage managers. A theater or production that is not produced and performed by AEA members may be called "non-Equity".
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) was an American labor union which represented over 100,000 film and television principal and background performers worldwide. On March 30, 2012, the union leadership announced that the SAG membership voted to merge with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) to create SAG-AFTRA.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) was a performers' union that represented a wide variety of talent, including actors in radio and television, radio and television announcers and newspersons, singers and recording artists, promo and voice-over announcers and other performers in commercials, stunt persons and specialty acts—as the organization itself publicly stated, "AFTRA's membership includes an array of talent". On March 30, 2012, it was announced that the members of AFTRA and of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) had voted to merge and form SAG-AFTRA.
In the performing arts industry such as theatre, film, or television, casting, or a casting call, is a pre-production process for selecting a certain type of actor, dancer, singer, or extra for a particular role or part in a script, screenplay, or teleplay. This process may be used for a motion picture, television program, documentary film, music video, play, or advertisement, intended for an audience.
Ned Vaughn is an American film and television actor who served as vice president of the Screen Actors Guild prior to becoming the founding executive vice president of SAG-AFTRA. He resigned that position on 21 August 2013, when he announced he would run as a Republican candidate for California's 66th State Assembly district, representing Los Angeles County's South Bay region. However, he later withdrew from the race.
The Associated Actors and Artistes of America (4As), established in 1919, is the federation of trade unions for performing artists in the United States.
Residuals are financial compensations that are paid to the actors, film or television directors, and others involved in making TV shows and movies in cases of reruns, syndication, DVD release, or online streaming release. Residuals are calculated and administered by industry trade unions like SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild of America, and the Writers Guild of America. The word is typically used in the plural form.
Financial Core refers to a legal carve out that permits workers opposed to participating in a labor union to be employed under the benefits of a union's contracts without compelling them to be a member of that union.
Screen Actors Guild Awards are accolades given by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). The award was founded in 1995 to recognize outstanding performances in movie and prime time television. SAG Awards have been one of the major awards events in the Hollywood film industry since then, along with the Golden Globe Awards and the Oscars. SAG awards focus both on individual performances and on the work of the entire ensemble of a drama series and comedy series, and the cast of a motion picture.
Film budgeting refers to the process by which a line producer, unit production manager, or production accountant prepares a budget for a film production. This document, which could be over 130 pages long, is used to secure financing for and lead to pre-production and production of the film. Multiple drafts of the budget may be required to whittle down costs. A budget is typically divided into four sections: above the line, below the line, post-production, and other. The budget excludes film promotion and marketing, which is the responsibility of the film distributor. Film financing can be acquired from a private investor, sponsor, product placement, film studio, entertainment company, and/or out-of-pocket funds.
Amy Aquino McCoy is an American television, film, and stage actress. The graduate of Harvard and Yale universities has appeared in television series such as Brooklyn Bridge, ER, and Being Human, and was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role in Picket Fences. She was co-secretary/treasurer of the SAG-AFTRA until August 2015 and starred in the television series Bosch as Lt. Grace Billets.
An under-five, also known as an under-5 or a U/5, is a television or film actor whose character has fewer than five lines of dialogue. The term is used in SAG-AFTRA contracts and has been used when referring to performers in a daytime soap opera.
Leslie Hoffman is a former American stunt performer, stunt coordinator, and actress.
The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is an American labor union representing approximately 160,000 film and television actors, journalists, radio personalities, recording artists, singers, voice actors, internet influencers, fashion models, and other media professionals worldwide. The organization was formed on March 30, 2012, following the merger of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. SAG-AFTRA is a member of the AFL–CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States.
Barbara Allyne Bennet was an American film, television and theater actress and union executive. Her acting career spanned more than fifty years. In addition to her on-screen credits, Bennet served on the national board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) from 2005 to 2007. Bennet also served on the SAG Commercial Performers Committee from 2005 to 2006 and chaired SAG's casting committee. Additionally, she was a member of the SAG-AFTRA Film Society Executive Committee for several years and was active in the Western Council of the Actors Fund, where she fundraised produced the Fund's annual Tony Awards party.
The 2016–2017 video game voice actor strike was a strike started in October 2016 by the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union against 11 American video game developers and publishers over failed contract renegotiation terms that had been in discussion since February 2015. Principally, the union sought to have actors and voice and motion capture artists that contribute to video games be better compensated with residuals based on video game sales atop their existing recording payments, while the industry companies asserted that the industry as a whole eschews the use of residuals, and by giving the actors these, they would trivialize the efforts of the programmers and artists that are most responsible for the development of the games. In exchange, the companies had offered a fixed increase in rates and a sliding-scale upfront bonus for multiple recording sessions, which the union had rejected. Other issues highlighted by the strike action include better transparency in what roles and conditions actors would perform, more safety precautions and oversight to avoid vocal stress for certain roles, and better safety assurances for actors while on set.
Digital casting is a process that enables both talent and people who solicit and employ talent to fulfill production requirements in the entertainment, corporate, non-profit, art, amateur and marketing industries through the use of on-line, mobile and digital technology.
Michael Hodge was an American actor and labor union executive known for his recurring roles on Law & Order and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where he often portrayed judges and detectives. Hodge was a longtime union activist and board member for the former Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and its successor, SAG-AFTRA, for more than sixteen years.
A nationwide strike by the members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists against the American Association of Advertising Agencies began on May 1, 2000 and ended on October 30, 2000.
The 1980 actors strike was a labor strike held in 1980 by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, two labor unions representing actors in the American film industry. The strike was caused by a breakdown in labor contract negotiations between the two unions and representatives of film studios, television networks, and other independent producers. The primary point of contention regarded residuals from home media, such as videocassettes and pay television. Specifically, the union was seeking a form of profit sharing wherein they would receive a percentage of the revenue made from home media releases. Additionally, the unions wanted a 35 percent salary increase across the board for their members. By mid-July, the union and industry representatives were at an impasse, and the strike started on July 21. Several days later, the American Federation of Musicians also went on strike for similar reasons.