Jana Lynch - The Penny Hoarder

When I was a kid, I was an extra on one episode of the TV show Romper Room. It was a pretty cool experience, being on a TV set with all the cameras and crew and getting to see the host up close. It was even cooler watching the video of me playing Simon Says on TV (along with a bunch of other kids). It’s a moment of my childhood I definitely cherish.

However, I didn’t get paid. I suppose that’s sad. But I’ve come to terms with it. Mainly because I have no interest in being in front of any sort of camera. At all. Ever. That’s just me, though.

I do think I’m in the minority of people who don’t want to be on TV or in the movies. I think most people would consider it a pretty amazing experience to be on a movie or TV set, hang around with a bunch of celebrities and wannabe celebrities (and who knows, maybe there’s even a star in the making amongst those extras!). Then there’s the whole experience of getting into wardrobe and makeup and the rest of the treatment that people in movies get. Including the paycheck.

Okay, now that I write about it, it does seem pretty cool. And being an extra in a movie would be a good way to earn a little side income every now and then (also, how important would I feel if I was able to have my very own IMBD page?). Maybe it’s something I should consider.

But if I’m going to consider it, I’d need to have a game plan. Not only that, I’d need to decide if it’s something that’s even feasible. I’d have to ask myself a few questions like:

Are there opportunities for it near my house? If I’m going to be an extra in a movie, I’d need to know where that movie would be filming. Is it an hour from my house? Two? What kind of transportation would I need to get there? For someone like me, who lives in between 2 major cities, being a movie extra could present a realistic opportunity.  And for people who live near NYC or Los Angeles, this could be a pretty good way to earn consistent income (not to mention boost that portfolio).

To find out if there are any movies casting for extras near your house, you can visit your state’s tourism site, newspaper ads, local/regional casting agencies or sites like backstage.com

What’s the pay? If I’m going to spend a day or two on a movie set or TV show set, I’d like to know if I’m going to be compensated for it. I’m not talking compensated in the intangible ways like experience, new friends or a catered lunch. I want to know what kind of cash I’m going to receive.

When I was looking around, I saw that extras can get paid anywhere from $64-$100 per day (maybe more, maybe less), depending on whether it’s a union or nonunion job, the budget of the movie, how many extras, etc. It’s probably not enough to make a living but it’s a good way to supplement your income.

How do I get a job? Sometimes there are open casting calls (I’ve heard these advertised multiple times on the morning show I listen to). This means that anyone can show up for basically a cattle call, and from my understanding, most everyone will get on set. Other times, the movies and shows are looking for specific types of people. For these, you would need to be registered with a casting agency.

Make sure you read the requirements for registering and find out exactly what you must do. Some agencies like Central Casting are pretty specific about how they want potential actors to proceed. You can also register online with other agencies like Casting Networks, Inc . Just be sure to do your research to find out what’s a legitimate agency.

I think once I’d have the answers to those questions, I’d be able to make an informed decision about being a movie extra.

All in all, it’s a pretty fun way to spend a day and earn some money. Better than jury duty, any day.

Good luck Penny Hoarders!

Are you an amateur or professional photographer wanting to put your talent to use while earning some money in the process? Do you have friends, family or neighbors who desperately want to be celebrities but no discernible talent? Fortunately, there’s a way to fulfill everyone’s needs.

How?

Become a paparazzi photographer.

I’m not talking the crazy, hide in the bushes, chase singers on highway paparazzi. I’m talking the follow your friends or clients around for the day at various venues, snapping pictures, shouting random questions like “How was dinner with Brangelina?” or “When’s the baby due?” paparazzi.  It’s fun, it’s entertaining and it’s a great way to make some extra cash.

So how do you get started?

It’s pretty easy, although some of the start-up costs can get pricey depending on what you need. For instance, you’re going to need a good quality camera which can run in the hundreds of dollars. You’re going to need good photo editing software, which can also run a few hundred dollars.  You’re going to need reliable transportation (or at least access to reliable transportation).

You’re also going to need to set up a website and find a way to advertise your service. You can contact companies like Celeb 4 A Day and freelance for them if you’re in their market areas, but if not, you’ll need to figure out a way to gain clients.

A few ways to do that:

  • Ask your friends to be your test subjects and then use word of mouth
  • Advertise on other websites or on community bulletin boards
  • Offer a Groupon or coupons for first time customers
  • Work with other websites and blogs for a giveaway and then ask for reviews

But once you’ve gotten the clients, what can you offer (besides the opportunity to feel like a Kardashian for a day)? Like most photographers will offer, I suggest you, too, offer different package deals. You can even be creative with the naming: D-list, B-list, A-list. Then set the prices accordingly. You can also have add-ons like magazine covers or movie posters (provided your skills can produce quality products) or have someone act as “reality TV cameras” for that extra MTV effect.

There are endless ways to make money from this kind of endeavor. Just make sure that you’ve done your research and that your prices are comparable; otherwise, it will be almost impossible to gain clients.

A few words of caution. This is not an easy freelancing gig. You are going to run into some passersby who are probably not very nice. There are legal issues to contend with, from privacy rules to trespassing. Make sure that you have signed, written permission from all parties involved that you have their consent to film them, photograph them, and enter their property. It might even be helpful to consult with an attorney to make sure that the waivers are comprehensive, and to determine if you need any insurance.  You need to make sure you, and your clients, are protected in every way possible.

If done right, this can be a fun, enjoyable and fairly lucrative job.

What do you think? Does this sound like something you’d try?