May 11, 2009 -- On any given weekday, the office of Central Casting in New York looks a bit like an unemployment office. Dozens of people, many recently laid off, come in to fill out forms and look for work.
As the recession hits Americans everywhere, many are thinking creatively and using their bodies, whether as extras in movies and TV shows or as nude models in art classes to pull in some serious, much-needed cash.
Need Extra Cash? Be an Extra
"There's definitely been a spike in registration," Todd Feldman, casting director at Central Casting, told "Good Morning America." "You see more guys in suits, maybe Wall Street guys that are out of work at the moment."
Extras make anywhere from $80 to $130 a day and no previous acting experience is required. Everyone, all ages, genders and races, is encouraged to apply by registering with a casting agency.
"We have a large database, and we basically, we put in your height, weight," Feldman said. "And if we're looking for a stand-in for, you know, George Clooney for a film, we want to have him look exactly like George Clooney."
And it's not just New York and Los Angeles that are looking for extras. Right now the hottest areas for filming outside those two hubs are South Carolina and Louisiana, according to senior casting agents at Central Casting.
Beyond the financial benefit, Feldman said being an extra gives workers an unequalled look at the industry.
"If you want to learn about filmmaking, you want to be on set and you just want to learn the whole process, it's just an amazing experience," he said. "You get to watch everything."
Amy Yu, a banker at Morgan Stanley who lost her job last fall, was one of the would-be extras.
Yu was paired with Christopher Johnstone, an aspiring opera singer currently between jobs, and the pair helped round out a scene at a yacht club on the television show "All My Children."
They may have appeared on screen for a short time and pretty far from the camera, but it was relatively easy cash. And it could mean a big break later. Hollywood stars Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Eva Longoria got their showbiz starts as extras.
In addition to earning money, many extras are treated to full meals on the set.
But being away from the camera isn't the only way to make cash -- some do it by being the center of attention and wearing just their birthday suits.
Show Some Skin for Money, in Art Class
At schools like the New York Academy of Art there's money to be made as nude models for the students to sketch, paint or sculpt.
Models for art classes can make anywhere from $15 to $20 an hour working at a school and can make even more working for private artists. And they don't always have to be nude -- clothed models churn a profit, too.
Model Derrick Young, a former banker, said the work is fulfilling, but a lot harder than you might think.
"You're sometimes working eight or nine hours a day," Young said. "That's a long time to be silent and hold completely still."
Often, models are required to hold the same pose for several hours at a time for up to fifteen weeks to accomodate the demands of the art classes.
But the discipline could pay off, some very famous people worked as nude models. Madonna was a nude model at the New York Academy of Art before her first album was released.