How To Afford Full-Time #VanLife Part Two

I wasn’t planning on writing a follow up to my How to Afford #VanLife series so soon, but another weird opportunity fell into my lap recently that I thought was way too cool to keep to myself.

A few weeks ago, a friend of Dusty’s posted a link on his Facebook page searching for extras on a T.V. show he was doing. At first, we both dismissed the idea as something we would never get chosen for, but after a couple of beers, we gained the liquid courage to send some pictures in.

how to afford to live and work in van

We didn’t expect to hear anything back since we aren’t conventionally attractive “Hollywood” types, but right away he got a response.

Turns out getting background work is the real deal.


Now, before you automatically dismiss this because you don’t live in LA, and you look like Quasimodo, just think of the background people you see on T.V. Not the main cast, but the people behind the main cast.

They are regular people with a few extra pounds and acne, just like you and me!

If you’re living in a van and traveling the country, it’s totally worth checking out a few of these companies and getting on their list. However, if you’re still on the fence about whether or not this might be a good move for you, here’s some things to think about.

The Pros:

get paid to read all day

1. You are basically paid to hang out and read all day.

From what Dusty has experienced, and from what I’ve learned from talking to others in the biz, being an extra means waiting around all day. It would be a great job if you had other things to work on while you wait. Multi-tasking is rad!

2. They will feed you while you wait.

Sure, the main cast gets to eat first, but every day there is a big catered lunch with tons of options to choose from. If you’re the type of person with a tricky diet, odds are, they have something for you. Since we are always looking for free or cheap ways to eat, this is a big plus.

3. Pretty much every state has casting agencies.

Since we are usually located in Oregon, I never assumed work like this was an option. However, after doing some research, I discovered all 50 states have casting agencies. They are usually located in bigger cities, but they’re around.

If you’re traveling the U.S., sign up for all the states you’ll be driving through. If they have a project they think you’ll be a fit for, they’ll give you a call or text.

It never hurts to try!

4. It’s super flexible work.

Unlike those crazy Amazon warehouses that some other van lifers get into, casting calls are flexible and easy to do. You’ll get hired for a couple of days at a time and can turn down offers that don’t work for you.

5. You could meet some movie stars.

I used to work with this guy who was cast as an extra in the movie Outside Providence with Alec Baldwin. The first question out of my mouth when he told me was,


And the answer was, yes.

Not only did he get to meet the very handsome Mr. Baldwin, but ALEC MADE HIM A CUP OF COFFEE.

Now, not all stars will be cool in real life, but occasionally you’ll luck out and meet someone really great who will take 5 seconds out of their life to be nice to a fan.

The Cons:

1. You have to own more than one pair of pants.

If you are in a van life couple, or just live minimally, you probably don’t have room to keep a million different outfits for whatever whimsical scenario they’ve dreamed up for you.

We had to go to Goodwill and find a couple of different options for the hair and makeup crew to decide on. They kept stating in emails that “the more clothing options you bring, the better.”

It was a pain in the butt, but we were able to score a couple of nice outfits for less than $35 bucks.

2. It’s not steady work.

I wish I could say that once you get into it, that you’ll have as much work as you want, but that doesn’t seem to be the case so far. They’ll only call if they have a role you would be a good fit for.

how to get work as a tv extra
I don’t look THAT weird…right?!

Dusty fit the bill for an older looking gentleman in a professional environment. I, on the other hand, did not. Maybe it was my quasi pink hair or the fact that I have the face of a chubby 13-year-old, but I did not get a call back from the casting company for this project.

But you bet your buns, I’m submitting my picture in every state we drive through!

3. While we are on the subject of pink hair and baby faces, you probably aren’t going to get much work if you don’t blend in.

These people are looking for background faces that aren’t going to detract from the story, or the stars delivering their lines. If you have a 2′ tall mohawk and leopard print tattooed on your face, they’re probably going to pass you up for that project. Most production companies will skip over you if they think you will detract from the scene.

4. T.V. personalities can act like spoiled children.

Dusty was lucky that everyone was professional on his set, I did not have that same luck when I was on a popular Food Network reality show a few years back.

The host was a real piece of work. Whereas all the other T.V. personalities were nice, she was the type that didn’t want anyone to make eye contact with her. It made for some very awkward interactions with her on camera.

Who to Contact to Get Work as an Extra?

If you want to try this out, I’ve gone through state by state and gathered a list of casting agencies and job board listings that regularly hire background work for t.v. and movies. I have in no way vetted these companies, just did a quick Google search, but I think these are good starting points.

Know a company to add to the list? Shoot me an email at [email protected], I would love to hear from you!


how to afford fulltime van life part two

If you actually try this out, I would LOVE to hear your experiences. In two weeks, Dusty has gotten two jobs, and I haven’t had any. Either way, I think it actually could be a viable way to make some extra cash in your spare time.

If T.V. isn’t really your jam, check out my How to Afford #VanLife- Part 1 where I discuss the audiobook method I’ve been working on for the past 6 months.

How To Afford Full Time Van Life

8 thoughts on “How To Afford Full-Time #VanLife Part Two”

  1. We travel full-time, so this is a great idea (although we don’t live in a van – we have a backpack each, and that’s it). I will say I was on a reality TV show years ago, and I’m definitely not your typical anything. I was well over 100 lbs overweight, and yet, I was on five of the six episodes. While I wouldn’t get rich off a few episodes, it was a riot, and I got to meet some amazing folks. Kudos to you both for jumping in!

  2. This looks like an awesome idea to spend a couple of years just visiting and creating memories! I am not sure if you can do that in every country, but I imagine there are some nice locations. Brb, thinking about how awesome it would be to be an extra on Game of Thrones! 🙂

  3. Ha ha! This is absolutely brilliant! What an excellent idea for making a bit of money while travelling. I hope you get some fun gigs. (PS: I like your writing style too).

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