I have often wondered, while watching scenes from some film or TV show that takes place in a public setting, about the people who are seen in the background doing everyday things. How many are they paid professionals who do this as a living? When a superhero film was shot in Cleveland some years ago, they sent out an appeal for people to appear as extras for a few street scenes and I think many responded just for the chance to be in a film. It involved just hanging around a lot, apparently. I don’t know if they got paid at all.
But some people are professional extras who appear over and over again and I wondered how good a living it was. One of the people who does this has made a compilation of his appearances.
I think the thrill of seeing yourself must be at least part of the reward, at least at the beginning, though I think that would wear off eventually.
Ricky Gervais had a series some years ago called Extras about the lives of such actors where he played one of them, always trying to move up the ladder and get to speak at least one line which I think entitles you to a credit and likely more pay. To do so, he was always schmoozing the stars and the directors and anyone who might be able to give him the necessary boost. In addition, he would try to make himself more conspicuous in the scene so as to get noticed and thus get a break that might lead to bigger roles and perhaps stardom. Paradoxically, this would often result in him getting fired or his scene getting cut from the final product because the director did not want the extra to be noticeable. Although the show was a comedy, it felt somewhat sad to me that someone would strive so hard for what seems like such a small reward.