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What is known as a day player is an actor who has one line in a TV show or film. These types of actors are not repeated characters. They are hired for one or two filming days hence the name compared to a TV show's whole season. An example of a day actor can be a barista on a TV show who calls out the main character's order. This type of actor is hired on a short-term contract whose SAG-AFTRA rate is $1,056 per day.
A day player can also be used as a term for a crew member. If an extra grip is needed in the lighting department they will hire a day player for one or two days. It will be through a short-term contract as well instead of a whole season or a whole production.
What is the difference between a background extra and a day player?
It is important to know the difference between the types of actors there are on any given set. A background extra is an actor that does not have any lines and is usually just placed in the background of a scene. Examples of this are the actors who walk past the main character in a busy street or the students in a classroom where the main character is sitting. A featured extra is a step above this. A featured extra still does not have any lines but is sitting right next to the main character. A featured extra can have a single shot of them and be highlighted on the show compared to a background extra. An example of this is when the main character enters a bar and glances at a featured extra sitting at the bar. Although there are no lines there is still special attention given to the featured extra actor. The final stage of an actor is being cast as the main character. The main characters are in multiple scenes and almost every episode or for the full length of a film. The typical path to becoming a day player starts by becoming a background extra then a featured extra then finally a day player.
Are you interested in becoming a day player?
A typical workday for a day player includes various parts. First, the actor has to arrive to set early to get into wardrobe and makeup. Once the actor arrives they will be told where to go by a production assistant, also known as a PA. In the wardrobe department, the actor will be given their character's clothing to change into. Then the actor will be taken to makeup, where they can recite their line. This process can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. Then the actor will either be taken into a green room which is a room where most actors hang out during set or directly to set if they are ready for them. Before the camera begins rolling most directors will do a practice round where they will give the actor notes. The notes can range from how the actor delivered the lines, to their tone of voice or body movement. Once the director is satisfied with their performance and the crew is ready to begin shooting, the camera will begin rolling. If the actor has another scene to shoot for the day they will be brought to the green room. If that is the actor's only scene for the day then they will return the wardrobe and then leave the set.
How to get the gig:
1. Audition Process
g. The start is at the audition process, because of the line the actor must audition. This can be either done by a self-recorded tape that is submitted directly to the casting director or by going to an in-person audition. In both forms, the actor must remember their line and embody the character. If the actor is selected they will get a call back from the casting director. This can require another audition with the director. Only a select few are called back for a callback. If selected the actor books the part and the pre-production process starts
h. Pre-production is everything that happens before getting to the set. Most productions will make you sign an NDA, a non disclosure agreement, and a model release, which allows them to use your face commercially. After these documents are signed the script will be sent to you, this will help contextualize your character. A wardrobe fitting will be next which will be on a day before the set to fit your costume. Finally, you will be sent a call sheet with your call time to arrive to set.
i. You will arrive to set and be taken to makeup and wardrobe. Then rehearsals will begin. Finally, you will shoot your scene then return your wardrobe and leave the set.
From a writer's perspective, this type of actor is something that has to be deliberate from a production standpoint. Although for a writer one line of dialogue by a character as a waiter does not seem like a big deal it can add to the bottom line of a production. The bottom line is the cost of a production handled by a line producer. This simple line can cost the production $1,056 when it can be not completely necessary for a scene. It is important to think about these choices when writing because they affect the budget which is the most important aspect to producers. The same cost for one line can be used for crew, craft services, or even post-production which can be more important for overall production. There are times of course when a day player line is essential and can make a scene, it is up to the writer to decide if it is fitting for their exact story. If you are looking for work as a day player there are multiple ways to begin. These can include directly contacting casting directors, submitting through casting websites, or being represented by an agent.