Working as an extra

Pauline Le Pichon
3 min readMar 8, 2024


Have you ever wanted to pretend to be someone you’re not?
Have you ever wanted to see how a film is made?
Well, that’s what you can do when working as an extra.

I discovered this job in 2012 when I was looking for a summer job.
As an art student, I wanted to work in a gallery. One of the galleries was looking for people to work as extras in a film. Even though I didn’t really know what it involved, I applied and was selected.
The filming took place a few days later. I arrived and saw extras waiting for instructions. Waiting is something you have to be prepared for if you want to work as an extra. It’s completely understandable, as filming takes time. What’s more, the director obviously wants the scenes to correspond perfectly to what they have in mind, which can also take time.
Waiting is boring, but certainly not in this situation.
You can talk to the other extras and, above all, see how a film or series is made.

It’s one of the most interesting experiences you can have. It’s like watching a painter direct their model, choose the colours they want to use, pick the right setting and then create their work of art. You don’t know what the end result will be. But it’s still incredible. It’s like finally discovering some kind of truth.
Everyone has a role to play during a film shoot and it’s pretty cool to witness that. A director works with a whole team, it’s like seeing an anthill.

Pauline Le Pichon, selfie taken during the filming of “De Gaulle, l’éclat et le secret”.

Being an extra means being part of the scenery. You can’t be too visible, but at the same time you have to be present to make the viewer believe that what they’re watching is real.
I played different characters: in the film “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” (Abdellatif Kechiche), I was someone visiting an exhibition. In “De Gaulle, l’éclat et le secret” (by François Velle), I played a French refugee then an English citizen. In “La Petite Femelle” (by Philippe Faucon), I was a mathematics student, and in “Le Code” (by Lionel Olenga, Cécile Even and Nicolas Robert), I had to play someone walking the streets.
So, the experience was different every time. It’s really amazing when you arrive at a location and someone tells you “You’re going to have to pretend to be this person today”.

What I also really like is the fact that, in certain situations, you have to be dressed in a particular way. So a make-up artist does your make-up, a hairdresser does your hair and, above all, you’re lent a special outfit. That’s what happened when I played in “De Gaulle, l’éclat et le secret” and “La Petite Femelle”. It’s really cool as you end up being a totally different person to the one you actually are.

Being an extra is certainly not the hardest job there is. I mean, all you have to do is pretend you’re doing/saying something while remaining “discreet”… everyone does that, right? ;)
But it’s not always THAT easy. You have to let go and switch from yourself to another character. I always put some pressure on myself. I don’t want to disappoint the people who hired me (even if I’m just this blurry person in the background) and above all I want to appear natural. The strange thing is that it is something I often do for my work (when I take self-portraits), and yet I don’t have the same impression. In fact, nobody looks at me when I’m posing, whereas I have the impression that it’s a bit the opposite when it comes to being an extra.
Besides, as an artist who works on the notion of identity and appearance, I can tell you that this job inspires me a lot!

Even though I’m talking about pressure (that I put on myself, I insist..), it’s still an amazing job. As for what it requires… well, that depends on the job in question. All the jobs I’ve done as an extra haven’t required experience, but I know some do. So, if you want to get started, the only things you need are good photos of yourself, and a willingness to be directed and act.



Pauline Le Pichon

I’m a French visuel artist, freelance photographer, and instructor