I spend a lot of time on IMDB looking at actors’ credits. I was wondering whether background actors get credit for their roles, so I did a little research to find out.
Generally, the names of background actors will not appear in the credits of a movie or television show. In other words, background roles are “uncredited”. One possible exception is that some independent films may credit background actors.
What about featured background actors or core background actors who are carried with a series; do they receive credits? Let’s take a look at how actors receive screen credits.
How To Get Acting Credits As An Extra
Many extras are interested in building credits for their acting resumes. In general, to get credit for a role in a show or film, you need to have a speaking role. So, the real question is how can a background actor move from being a non-speaking actor to one with a speaking role?
One way is to take a role where the pay is listed as “copy, credit, meal”. At this “pay rate” you are paid with a copy of the film to include in your demo reel; a screen credit to include on your resume; and meals while filming.
Project Casting recently reported that the series, ‘Vice Principals’ (HBO) and ‘The Have and Have Nots’ (OWN) upgraded some background actors to speaking roles. So, it is definitely possible for these upgrades to happen. How can you put yourself in a position to achieve this same goal?
Tips for Standing Out (In A Good Way)
- Be a professional: arrive at the set on time (early is even better); dress appropriately for your role; follow instructions precisely. The more professional you are, the more obvious it will be to others that you take pride in the work you’re doing.
- Maintain a positive attitude: things will not always be perfect, but no one responds well to a complainer.
- Be reliable: When you book a job, show up and stay until you’re wrapped.
- Be friendly: smile and speak to people; network with the crew as much as you can without disturbing their work; get to know other background actors – you never know what you can learn from other people in the business.
- Be attentive: Pay attention to everything that is going on around you. Try to learn what other people (like stand-ins and photo doubles) do. If you’re ever asked to be a stand-in you’ll at least have an idea of what is expected from you.
- Always be prepared for opportunities: If you want to be an actor, take acting classes; hone your skills by acting whenever you can; create an acting resume that is available on your phone; and prepare and film a short monologue that is digitally available on set. If that moment comes for your big break as a background actor, be ready to seize it.
Acting Credit Examples
So, what if you don’t get noticed on set as a BG? What are some other ways you can get acting credits*?
- Co-star (day player): Actors in these roles play characters that have a small limited amount of lines and generally only seen in one or two scenes. Playing a co-star role is the first step up from background acting that will provide an acting credit. But keep in mind, these roles usually go to SAG-AFTRA members.
- Guest star: Guest stars are in multiple scenes of a television show episode. The roles played by guest stars are significant roles.
- Recurring: Actors who are fortunate enough to get a recurring role, are on multiple episodes of a show throughout a season or throughout the life of the series.
- Series Regular: These actors are considered the main cast members of the show. Generally, series regulars are contracted to a show for multiple years.
- In films, all the actors who are part of the cast receive credits.
*Stand-ins are also sometimes given credits although they are not seen on screen.
What Are Acting Credits On IMDB?
To receive an acting credit on IMDB, your voice or image must appear in a recognized title. IMDB follows the on-screen credits when listing credits on their site. Valid actor credits that can be added to IMDB titles do include background actors within certain guidelines.
IMDB will accept background or extra as a credit if that’s how the credit appears on screen. However, if the role does not receive an on-screen credit, they will not accept “background”, “extra”, or “bit part” as a character’s name. The character name must be the description of the role that was played followed by “(uncredited)”. For example, if you played the role of a man walking a dog, you would list your character’s name as “Man Walking A Dog (uncredited)”.
Additionally, as a background actor, you must be recognizable. In other words, you can’t be part of a crowd scene where it’s impossible to recognize you and claim a credit. IMDB states that it usually rejects submissions where the character name is waiter, bus driver, pedestrian, bar patron, party goer, or something similar.
Also, the background actor’s scene must make the final cut of the show or movie. It’s not enough that the scene was shot. After all it’s impossible to recognize an actor who is not actually in the movie/show.
The (uncredited) attribute is used to indicate that a person’s name does not appear in the opening or end credits of a show or movie even though they did appear.
Because uncredited appearances in a movie or show can be difficult to verify, IMDB requires that the actor have at least one credited entry in their database before adding their uncredited entry.
This table provides a shortcut for you to determine if you can be credited on IMDB and if so, how you should be listed:
|Do you appear in the movie or show?||Are you listed in the credits?||Attribute|
|Yes||Yes||Credit with no attribute|
|No||No||Do not credit at all|
Should background actors add themselves to the credits on IMDB?
The decision to add your name to IMDB should not be taken lightly. Be sure to follow all of IMDB’s submission rules. If you decide to add your name as a background actor, it must be attributed as uncredited. Also, be aware that before an uncredited role will be accepted, the actor must have at least one credited role.
How do I add one of my credits to IMDB?
There are four ways to add a credit to IMDB: through the title page, through the IMDB Consumer name page, through your IMDBPro name page, or through the IMDBPro app. Each of these processes is fully described on this page.
Do featured extras and specialty extras get screen credits?
A featured extra is like other background actors but is prominently seen on screen. A specialty extra has a specialized skill, like juggling, that is used on screen. Despite the extra screen time these actors enjoy, if these roles are not speaking roles, they will usually not be credited.