Hello Bonnie,

Thank you for your inspiring column every week. I look forward to it every Monday morning.

This past week, I had the opportunity to work on one of the top sitcoms shot here in New York. The role was considered, I guess you’d say, “very featured background.” But to get the part, I had to interview with the director several days before shooting, and I was chosen from many other actresses for the part. My role was specifically written in the action of the script, but not as a principal character. However, my role was required to keep some of the action moving in the scene.

It was an interesting experience, because it was a sort of “middle ground.” Though I was technically background (and paid as such) I did all of the work of a principal, except to speak lines. I was thrilled to be in this position, though, and took it as an opportunity to flex my acting muscles, to learn from the best in the business and, inspired by your previous column “Book the Room,” I think I indeed “booked the set.” I did my job professionally but with a fun attitude (it’s a sitcom after all!) and know I made a good impression with the director, producers, cast members, and crew, all of whom now know me by name. I am very grateful for the experience.

I am going back to shoot a few more scenes this week on the show (yay!) and have a question I am hoping you can answer. When in this position (no lines, but role written in the script action), is it acceptable to ask for an IMDb credit? A credit from this show on my IMDb page would be HUGE, but I don’t know if it is acceptable or even possible to get a credit for a role that is essentially “background” but still is a crucial part of the script.

To be honest, Bonnie, I am very, very grateful for this chance to work on this show, and am happy for the experience as it is. But I also know that in this business a little extra chutzpa is needed, and I would love to ask for an IMDb credit in the right way. I trust your experience and opinion on this issue and hope you can answer my question, as my chance to ask for the credit is this week on set.

Thank you again for all you do for us actors!

Kind Regards,
Tara Gadomski

Oh, Tara, I feel for you. I really, really do. I can tell from your email how much you want this gig to be a bigger deal than it is, but in the end, it is extra work (no matter how hearty), and if production decides to bump up your billing for the final cast list turned into SAG or submitted to IMDb, that’s a gift, plain and simple, because this is likely nothing you could use on your reel, no matter how “featured” the extra work is. It’s just not principal-level acting.

Yes, I get it. You feel that you are really acting. You feel that you are doing non-verbal work that is absolutely principal-level work and that you should be able to ask to be credited appropriately. But if you were not cast by the principals casting director, if you were not contracted as a principal, if you were not paid as a principal, if you were not credited by contract as a principal, you were a background artist and to upgrade that to principal work is to lie on your resume. To attempt to get extra work listed on IMDb is certainly something fine to attempt (and many do it — especially in the IMDb Resume section, which is why the industry values that page less than your vetted credits at IMDb), but it also shows a lack of understanding and appreciation for what the real value is, in what you’ve done.

That said, I get a real sense from your email that you absolutely understand how much a relationship-builder this gig is and how cool it is to have “booked the set” and to have won fans on this show. Please trust that this will pay off if you just keep a “marathon not a sprint” focus on your time in this industry. Even once this show has wrapped, there will be more that these folks will work on, and they’ll remember you as a reliable, awesome newcomer they worked with once, who may now be ready for that first network costar, or better!

I know it feels so important to get a credit, quickly, but I can promise you that unless a credit is offered organically, you’re going to get more out of this relationship by showing you’re a total pro who values the relationship over the IMDb entry, and you’ll be invited back on set before you know it!

Have a great rest-of-the-shoot and if you do get the coveted IMDb upgrade, that’s awesome! If you don’t, trust that you’ve created fans who cannot wait for the opportunity to thank you (via the next booking, at a higher level) for how wonderful you were as an extra. Patience, darlin’. Patience!

Wanna be sure your tools *and* your mindset are in peak form so your next booking leaves no doubt you’re ready for those credits? Let us get you in gear with some FREE training right now!

bon


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001236.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar Cris October 27, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Bonnie,
    My son was just recently cast in an indie movie and he has a page of dialog but they called him a “Featured extra”. When we agreed to do the film, it was for credit and an ultra low wage. Credit is much more important to us at this point. However, he is not listed on the IMDB website. When they listed all the other actors, they did not list him. I’ve sent emails with no response. Should he be listed or is featured meaningless even if he has dialog? The contract says Credit but is that only in the movie itself?

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie October 27, 2015 at 9:02 pm

      In general, a deal made for credit *does* include an IMDb credit, regardless of the billing for the role itself. But if the producers have decided to omit your son from the IMDb list because they classified his role as a “featured extra” (which seems like a mislabeling of the role, because if he had dialogue, he should’ve been billed as featured, period), that may have been their agenda in labeling the role like that. Because, in general, extra work doesn’t go on a resumé or on IMDb (or even in the credits of the film itself, actually). Sorry to hear they’re not being responsive to your request for information. I hope the next booking includes a contract with clearer terminology and more integrity for the credit part of the deal!

      Reply
  2. Avatar Youvonda Robinson September 13, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    I just want to know if there is a website or something else that lists names of the “extras” who had no speaking roles in movies? I was in a movie years ago and I didn’t have a speaking role as an individual but I did have a speaking role in a crowd with others, kind of like a mob. Is there a way to look up my name to see if I was listed in the movie credits?

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie September 14, 2019 at 10:51 pm

      Nope! Extras are not credited, so they’re not listed anywhere unless the individual producers put up some sort of page somewhere online to list off everyone as a thank-you. 🙂 That can happen on very low-budget indies where everyone is doing favors sometimes!

      Reply

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