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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Background Work in NYC

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UPDATED JULY 2014

This blog is all about background work in NYC! I especially recommend it for SAG members who need some extra cash, plus it is a great way to earn income towards your SAG Pension and Health. For non-SAG actors, this is one of several ways to earn SAG vouchers towards getting your card (see my blog for more information on SAG vouchers.)

Below is a list of the background companies I recommend submitting to. To be considered, you simply need to mail a headshot & resume with a brief cover letter, stating that you would like to be considered for background work and want to be notified when they will be doing their next open call. (The open call is for you to fill out paperwork and they take a polaroid/digital image of you for their files.)

Once your information is on file, they will contact you when they have a job available for your type category. Just like for temp work, you can say yes or no based on your availability. Also like temp work, the more available you are, the more often they will call!

Background Companies I Recommend (in no particular order)

Grant Wilfley Casting- www.gwcnyc.com/
Central Casting- www.centralcasting.org
Amerifilm Casting- www.amerifilmcasting.com/
Barbara McNamara Casting- www.barbmcasting.com/
Sylvia Fay/Lee Genick Casting- www.sylviafaycasting.com; 212-479-8569 (hotline)
Comer Casting- www.comercasting.com

You can also submit yourself for background roles through the following websites (pay per submissions, or pay for a yearly membership and submit for free):

NY Casting/Casting Networks NY- Pay to submit, worth the $5 a month for unlimited submissions. http://talent.nycasting.com/Common/Home.aspx

Extras Access- A part of Actors Access, but only for extra work. Only nominal fee per year if you are a member of Actors Access. www.extrasaccess.com/extra/

Some of you have asked questions about background work on soaps. As most of you know, all network soaps moved to Los Angeles. The only remaining soaps in NYC are web based “One Life to Live” and "All My Children" which cast out of NYC and shoot in CT. You can send your headshot & resume directly to the casting folks for the NY soaps here:

Alison Goodman, Casting Director
260 W. 44th St., Third Fl.
New York, NY 10036.

Have any positive stories about background work? Please leave a comment so others can learn from your experiences! And use the link list to the right to find other articles about background work.


Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.


3 COMMENTS - Click to READ:

Joan said...

Dear Erin,
I have done some SAG Background work on films, TV and AFTRA work on soaps. My experience is that you have to be very diligent, patient, and willing to take whatever comes, whenever it comes with Background work, just as you would for a commercial audition. This business is so competitive, and so many people have their SAG cards and are desperate for work, that the casual approach that may have worked in the past is a done deal! Approach Background work like a profession. Get great, interesting, varied pictures of yourself. Use wigs, uniforms, scrubs, whatever you can do to feature yourself as a useful, special person who can
play many different types at the drop of a hat. And when you get the job, treat it with as much respect and discipline as you would a featured role in a film. Be nice, be easy to work with and courteous and you will be hired again.
That's my two cents.
Joan Barber

Anonymous said...

Hi Erin,
Thank you so much for all this fabulous and detailed information. I was wondering if you know how or if it is possible to do volunteer background work? I have been doing it for a long time back home but doing have a working permit in nyc, still would really love to get back into it paid or unpaid.

Thank you

Erin Cronican said...

Hello, "Anonymous"!

In order to do volunteer background work, you have to work on a non-professional production where salaries are not required and actors are not employees but volunteers (or independent contractors, usually reserved for larger principal roles and/or those with work permits.)

The best place to find these kinds of jobs is usually Mandy.com, though there are some on Actors Access/Extras Access, NYCastings, and Craigslist. You want to focus on short films, web series and/or unpaid non-union feature projects. You could also try student films. These would be the safest way to volunteer your time without affecting your visa status.

Hope this helps - good luck!

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