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‘You can’t go up to Mark Wahlberg’: The do’s and don’ts of being a movie extra

Actors on the set of "Boston Strangler," which filmed in the South End last winter.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Over a dozen films are set to be produced in Massachusetts in 2022. From “Challengers” starring Zendaya to “Madame Web” filming in Boston through September, Hollywood is setting up shop in the Bay State.

(We can thank the state’s generous film tax credits for that.)

While big auditions often happen in Los Angeles and New York, opportunities abound for local extras, and casting calls from companies like Boston Casting, CP Casting, and Kendall Cooper Casting look for people, cars, and even pets that hail from here.

Listings often remind folks to take their time with their application, such as one from CP Casting: “This is paid work on a movie. . . . Do not rush to fill out the form and submit it.”

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In fact, there are quite a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to being an extra on a film. Here are some things you should know about the job.

(And keep scrolling for a look at local casting calls you can apply to.)

Do’s

Be ready for a long day. Extras must be willing to commit to a 12- to 14-hour day, said Angela Peri of Boston Casting in an interview with the Globe. A typical day starts early, around 5 or 6 a.m., and extras cannot leave until they are released. Kendall Cooper of Kendall Cooper Casting also recommends people show up early. “Extras often have to be there before the crew,” she said. “Be prepared for a long day.”

Bring a book. Cooper advises extras to bring a book or magazine to help pass the time. “I think people are fascinated when doing this for the first time: What’s on screen for five minutes often takes 12 hours to shoot,” she said.

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Be prepared. Casting directors often get details about where to be, and when, the day before shooting, so extras “have to be flexible,” said Lisa Lobel, also of Boston Casting. She noted there can be last-minute changes when it comes to the weather as well as hair, makeup, and wardrobe.

Be natural on set. Cooper said she often hears extras asking for acting notes, but what she really wants is people to blend in ”doing what you’d normally do. If you’re walking down the street, just walk down the street.”

Don’ts

Don’t use your phone, take photos, talk to the press, or post anything on social media. Peri called this the biggest “no.” Productions have non-disclosure agreements that “everybody signs,” Peri said, and no one should be taking photos or talking about what happens on set. If someone sees an extra with a phone, that person is immediately dismissed, Cooper added: “It’s a black mark on the casting company. . . . When I hear extras are taking photos, I feel it reflects poorly on me and everyone involved.”

Don’t speak to the principal actors. “You can’t go up to Mark Wahlberg,” Peri said. Actors are there to work, and each has their own process. This rule also applies to talking to directors and assistant directors, according to Boston Casting.

Leave valuables at home. Production and casting companies are generally not responsible for lost or stolen items. Boston Casting advises not bringing valuables on set.

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Don’t overdo it. As an extra, you’re part of the background, and if anything is too distracting, “it doesn’t look authentic,” Cooper said. “The point of being an extra is looking like a normal, everyday person, walking or standing in the background.”

Open casting calls around Boston

Billed under the title “Claire,” the Sony production “Madame Web” is seeking “people of all ethnicities, ages, genders and sizes” as extras and in roles as law enforcement officers, EMTs, and firefighters. The casting notice also said the production needs cars from the year 2003 or earlier. Read the full listing from Kendall Cooper Casting.

Boston Casting is also currently filming the Whitney Houston biopic “I Want to Dance With Somebody,” and season two of HBO’s “Julia.” Visit Boston Casting’s website for more information on how to be an extra in one of their films.



Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker and on Instagram @brittbowker.