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Jun 2, 2018

I Worked As An Extra On "13 Reasons Why" And Here's What It's Really Like

Lights, camera, action!

Hi, I'm Michele! Back in June 2017, I found out Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why would be filming near my hometown in Northern California, and I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try and be part of the show.

Michele Bird / BuzzFeed

I've always been a huge fan of movies and TV, but never thought I'd have the chance to be part of a huge production.

Michele Bird / BuzzFeed

This is me in front of the Buckner Mansion in New Orleans, which was featured on American Horror Story: Coven as Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies.

So when I heard about an open casting call for 13RW, I decided to take a chance and see what would happen. I brought my head shot and résumé with me and spent the day in a long line along with thousands of other hopefuls.

we went to the 13 reasons why casting call today and it was v interesting

One month later I got chosen to be an extra, and I was head-over-heels excited to be part of the action.

Netflix

You can catch a glimpse of me in this shot from Season 2, Episode 3. I was featured in the scene where Tony and Clay search for Justin at the squatter camp.

I've got super-vibrant hair, so that's an easy way to spot me.

I was also part of the punk rock concert crowd where Tyler and Cyrus meet up in Season 2, Episode 10.

Netflix

The environment on-set was high-energy and felt like I was at an actual concert IRL.

But because it was my first time working on a major set, I had no idea what to expect, and I had a LOT to learn.

Ponsulak / Getty Images

So, if you're considering working as an extra or curious about life behind the scenes, here's everything I learned from my experience as a background actor:

1. Being on time actually means you're late.

Walt Disney Productions

You should arrive at least 15-30 minutes prior to your call time — the time you're supposed to be on set — so that you can find parking and check in.

2. Get used to waking up early because production usually begins between 5-7 a.m. to get the most out of the day.

Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios

Early bird gets the worm!

3. Don't expect a typical 9-5 schedule — in fact, most shoots run for at least 12 hours a day.

Flil / Getty Images

You need to account for set changes, multiple takes, and any possible glitches that could happen along the way.

4. You likely won't have access to your phone, so you'll need to find other ways to keep yourself busy between takes.

TriStar Pictures

As an extra, you'll spend a majority of your day in holding as you wait for your scene to be called. Having something to do like reading a book or playing card games helps the day pass by quickly and ensures you don't get bored while you're waiting to film.

5. Absolutely avoid taking any photos at all costs.

Viewapart / Getty Images

You'll likely be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement to ensure you won't be spilling the beans.

6. And you're definitely not allowed to spill any secret details to your friends or family.

Paramount Pictures

Production doesn't want you to leak any spoilers about an upcoming season or film.

7. A three-minute scene can literally take hours to film.

Guruxoox / Getty Images

Be prepared to film multiple takes of something as simple as walking a short distance so every possible angle can be captured.

8. Actors are there to work, and so are you.

Screen Gems

Don't be unprofessional by asking actors for an autograph or selfie when you work with them on a scene. Typically, you usually won't have conversations with the main cast unless they happen to speak to you first so you don't cause any unnecessary distractions.

9. The delicious food from craft services is one of the best perks of working as an extra.

_jure / Getty Images

It's a long day when you're on set, so be sure to stay fueled with the catered meals and snacks available to you between takes. Plus, who doesn't love free food?!

10. Doing your own hair and makeup before arriving to set is more common than not.

Wavebreakmedia / Getty Images

Although there is a hair and makeup team on set, extras are typically expected to arrive camera-ready with clean hair and a finished basic makeup look. If production wants you to have a certain style or look, they'll note those guidelines ahead of time. Any last-minute touch-ups will be done upon arrival.

11. Having a variety of outfits on hand that suit whatever character you will be playing makes going through wardrobe a lot easier.

Anikasalsera / Getty Images

Extras are expected to bring their own clothing to set based on requirements set by the wardrobe department. Sometimes you'll be provided a costume, but more often than not you will be using your own clothes and shoes.

Pro tip: Bring your clothes on hangers in garment bags to help stay organized and get approved by wardrobe in a timely fashion.

12. You'll hear a lot of film lingo used on set, so it pays to familiarize yourself with it beforehand to avoid any hiccups or confusion.

Ponsulak / Getty Images

"Holding" is where extras hang out between takes and "back to one" is the spot background extras are originally located at the beginning of a scene.

13. As an extra, you may appear like you're talking in the background, but you're actually pantomiming the whole time.

Disney Channel Original

Pantomiming is when you talk or perform any action without making a sound. That way you don't distract from any dialogue from the main cast.

14. Having a special talent or skill is a plus to production.

Yanik88 / Getty Images

Whether you know how to skateboard or know how to drive a car like a badass, these skills make you standout and can possibly get you featured.

15. Make conversation with other extras you're working with because chances are you'll be working with them again in the near future.

Bravo

Plus, you may even make a few friends along the way.

16. Most of all, just have fun!

Netflix

Being an extra is an opportunity that doesn't always come along, so make the most of it and enjoy your time on set. The experience is memorable and nothing like any other job you may have. You can apply for extras roles on sites like Backstage or MyCastingFile. See you on the big screen!

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