Explained: Extras Casting Process

Posted by William - 01 Apr 2016
Not sure how you get booked as a film & TV extra with Universal Extras? This EXTRAS Blog post explains the Extras Casting Process in detail.

Confused about how film and TV bookings work? Don’t be, we are about to walk you through the standard casting process step-by-step, right up to being booked on a production!

Extras Casting Process: An Overview

So the first thing to understand is the basic order in which a booking happens. We’re going to discuss each step in detail a little further on, so don’t panic at this point – we just need to give you an overview before we begin.

Everything starts with a Casting Brief, which means that a production has a requirement for extras. If you fit the basic requirements, you are sent an Availability Text. If you reply to the text and the role is still available, a member of our Casting Team will then call you (The Call) to go through the fine details. If everything is OK and you want to continue, your information will then be passed on to the production. They decide if they would like to book you or not, and you will be notified of the Production’s Decision by phone or text.


Another important thing to understand is the difference between being penciled and booked. When an extra has confirmed their availability, spoken to us and had their details sent to production for consideration, they are penciled. Penciled extras must keep the dates available that they were checked for until the Production’s Decision has been made. Once booked, the dates are confirmed.

Simple enough? OK, but it can get a little more confusing so please read on for the full lowdown.

Stage 1: Availability Texts

After we receive a Casting Brief, we start by sending an Availability Text Message to those extras on our books that fit the basic criteria for the role.

When you receive a text, you should reply with your ‘Full Name’ and the ‘Reference’ (provided in the text message) as soon as you know you are available. At this point, you are not booked or penciled; when you reply it simply means that you are available for the dates and that you want more information about the role.

Your reply goes into a queue for our Casting Team to call you back. If you do not hear from us, it is likely that the role has been filled by people who replied back sooner – some roles require hundreds of people so there is lots of space, whilst others may only involve a few places.


Click Here for answers to common questions about Stage1: Availability Texts

Stage 2: The Call with our Casting Team

Everyone cast though Universal Extras is spoken to over the phone prior to being penciled. It is at this point that you are given the full details such as the pay rate, details of the filming days and any additional information you may need to know about the role.

Now is the time to ask questions. If there is anything that you are unsure about, you will be allowed time to check. You should do so ASAP and call us back because the longer you leave it, the higher the chance that the role will be filled.

Please note that you will not be penciled unless you confirm 100% and are told by our Casting Team that your details are being passed on to the production. That said, it is essential to be certain before confirming with our Casting Team because we have a zero tolerance policy in relation to people ‘pulling out’ of jobs. If you are penciled or booked and then cancel without a fair reason, you will be removed from our books and not offered any more work (that’s the serious bit but play by the rules and you can’t go wrong!)

Once we are happy that you are suitable and available, you will be penciled for the role and your details will be passed on to the production. You should understand that at this point you are not yet booked because it is the production company that makes the final decision on whether they would like to book you or not. You will be given an estimate over the phone to let you know when we expect to get the results back from production.


Click Here for answers to common questions about Stage 2: The Call

Stage 3: Production’s Decision

If the production decides that they would like to book you for the role, we will contact you by text or phone to confirm this. It is at this point that you become booked, meaning that you are in for all your dates. If, as can be the case, the production does not want to book you, you will receive a text message notifying you of this instead.

Booked extras are sent a Call Details Text Message the afternoon before each day on the production (or on a Friday if you are due the following Monday). This message contains all the information that you will need for the following day such as the call time, location, etc. When you get a Call Details Text Message you must always reply with your name so that we know you have received it. If it does not arrive by 7pm the day before you are due to work (or by 6pm if this is a Friday), you should contact us via the 24 Hour Line.


Click Here for answers to common questions about Stage 3: Production’s Decision

Common Questions

Stage 1: Availability Texts

I replied to an availability text and never heard back from you?
After replying to an Availability Text, you are added to a queue to be called back by a member of our Casting Team. If you do not hear from us it means that we have already reached the quota for that role and you replied too late. Each part has a limited number of places, which is why it is so important to reply immediately when you get the text if you can.

I replied to an Availability Text, but never received a message to say I was not required?
At this point in the process you are not booked or penciled, which means that you are also not expected to hold the dates for us. As the full role details were never discussed with you, there is no reason at this stage for us to say you were unsuccessful because you were never submitted to production.

I replied to a text but have not spoken to anyone; do I need to keep the dates free?
It is up to you whether to keep the dates free at this point. As you are not booked or penciled, we do not expect you to keep dates free for us.

I got an Availability Text but I have a question before I can reply?
When you reply to an Availability Text, it is not a binding contract. A good rule of thumb: if the basic information outlined in the message works but you have a question, simply reply with your ‘Name’ and ‘Reference’ and you can ask one of our Casting Team your question at the next stage of the casting process. If you reply to an Availability Text but decide you no longer want to take part after hearing the full details, this will not be held against you because you were never penciled or booked.

I replied immediately but never heard back?
We use a text messaging system and although all messages are sent at the same time, we do not control when a message is actually received by your phone. Sometimes roles can require hundreds of extras but other times there may only be one part, which means that they can reach capacity very quickly. If we tell you a role is filled, please remain patient – another opportunity will arise soon.

Take me back to Stage 1: Availability Texts

Stage 2: The Call with our Casting Team

I was asked to check something for a role, but when I called back I was told it had since gone?
If we are not able to pencil you for the role when we first speak, you do risk missing out as we will only send extras on to production that are fully penciled. If you need to check something before confirming, we recommend you call us back as soon as you find out.

If already pencilled – is it worth applying for other roles on the Job Board if the dates are the same?
You must never be penciled for two jobs with conflicting dates at the same time. If you are currently penciled for a role, you may still apply via the Job Board for another role with the same dates (because you are not penciled or booked simply by applying via the Job Board). However, if you are still penciled and waiting for results from production and we call you about the second role, you must tell us over the phone if the dates clash prior to accepting it.

Take me back to Stage 2: The Call with our Casting Team

Stage 3: Production’s Decision

Why didn’t I get the job?
Productions don’t tell us why they book one person and not another. If we are putting you forward, it is because we believe that you are a good candidate for the role, but we cannot control their decision.

What is sent to production?
We send them the information about you that is required for the role, which will almost always be your photos and body measurements. This is the main reason why having good quality photos (that follow our criteria) is so important, as it can be the difference between you securing a role or not.

Take me back to Stage 3: Production’s Decision

It’s worth noting that the process can vary slightly from time-to-time, for example you may be called directly first rather than receive an Availability Text.

Do you have a question about the Casting Process that we did not cover? If so, please leave a Comment below (available only to fully activated members) and we will get back to you!