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Background Actors, Extras or Atmosphere?

3-2-1- Acting class student Heather on the HAPPY set at Paramount Studios HollywoodThere are 3 terms which mean the exact same thing:  Background Actors, Extras and Atmosphere.  These terms can and will be used interchangeably.

Atmosphere, background or extras are the people hired on the set who are placed in the background around the lead actors. Even tho the Atmosphere do not speak, they play an extremely important role and are an integral part in making the scene believable. They are the ones sitting in the cafes, walking on the street, airports, schools, parks, etc. Background artists get paid for the day only and do not earn any residuals.

Many times Featured Extras get upgraded to a Principal role and are given a Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG/AFTRA) contract right on the set! And once you’re a contracted principal, you get residuals (money) each time the show airs. “Cha-Ching!”  If the production crew ever mentions a bump in pay, you’ll receive a pay raise!  You’ll also get a bump if you work overtime– and if you work more than sixteen hours straight, you get paid for golden time, which is the equivalent of your daily rate with every extra hour your work.

3-2-1- Acting Studio’s student, Heather Cowles appears in the picture above. She is the girl in the middle wearing the orange sleeves. Hollywood directors request her all the time, because she is over 18, looks like a teenager and is a good actress. The advantage for the production company is Heather does not need to attend school on the set, thus saving the production company time and money!

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