Background Actors, Here is What You Should Know Before Going on Set

Project Casting

Here are 28 words you should know before going to set!

There is a certain type of vocabulary that is only identifiable to those that have worked or continue to work in set. May it be “lingo” or slang, you do not want to be caught dead not knowing these terms. It could be the one word that transitions you from a background acting role to a recurring role on your favorite television series.

So in an effort to eliminate any confusion here our vocabulary list of production lingo.

Holding – If you are a background actor, this is where you will spend most of the day waiting.  This will be where you check-in, get your voucher, see wardrobe, see hair & make-up, and most likely eat lunch/dinner etc.

Voucher – This is probably one of the most important documents. This is how you will get paid.  It’s like a receipt and time-card all in one.  You must hold on to this to get paid, unless you are given wardrobe – then wardrobe will hold on to your voucher until you give your borrowed garbs back.

Crafty – Also known as craft services.  This is where the snack food is.  Common staples in crafty include pretzels, cheese balls, fruit, granola bars and PB&J sandwiches. If you are a background actor do not have high expectations, and many times you will have a separate crafty service.

Rolling – This means the camera is recording and everyone should be ready to go. The only people that should be allowed to talk are the main actors themselves, and the director.

Sound Speed – This means they are recording audio.  EVERYTHING you say (even a whisper) will be caught on tape once ‘sound speeds’.

Background! – This is the extras version of “action!”  This is your cue to start moving. If it is your first time as a background actor, you may get lost like a deer in headlights. Just remember your acting cues.

Action! – This is the cue for the actors to start performing

Banana – you sometimes will be asked to ‘do a banana’ across the floor.  Instead of walking a straight line, you will walk a line in the shape of a banana.

Cut – This is the cue for everyone to stop.  This includes actors, cameras, sound and you.

Check the Gate – For you, this is the cue that everyone may be moving onto the next scene.  In reality, what is happening is that the director is ready to move on, but the cameraman needs to check his lens for film residue before giving the ok to go forward.

Martini – This is the last shot of the night.  It’s derived because after this shot, everyone is ready to get a martini (or drink of choice).

Pantomime – This is what you will typically do on set.  It is all of the action of acting, but without the sound.

Mark -A mark is where a person needs to stand, or arrive at a certain time.  When an actor (or extra) stands in one spot, walks across the room, and then stops in another place – he walked from one mark to another mark.  They are usually identified by pieces of tape on the floor.

First Team – This team consists of the stars/actors of the film.

Second Team – This team consists of Stand-in for the actors.

Stand-in – The work out the camera angles for the director of photography. A good position, and it is not uncommon for stand-ins to be promoted to principal roles.

AD – Assistant Director.  The AD will call out actions for the Director, they will also give instruction to the cameramen, and extras.

Gaffer – This is the head electrician.

grip – They are the muscle on set.  Grips will set up and break down various items including but not limited to tracks, cameras, lights…

best boy – This is the gaffers right hand man.  It’s a fancy name for the assistant gaffer.

dolly – The tracks and set-up that a camera may sometimes roll on.


jib – This is the ‘long arm of the camera’.  Also referred to as ‘the crane’.

wardrobe – This consists of the clothes you wear.

back story – ever get bored on set?  Create your back story.  The back story is the history of your character and why you are doing what you are doing.  It’s your characters history.

Points! – this is called when large items are being transported through where you may be standing.  It’s an easy way of saying, “Watch out or you may lose your eye!”

Director – He is in charge on set.  he is responsible for getting the actors to where they need to be, making sure the camera has everyone properly framed, and the overall outcome of the project.

PA – Production Assistant.  There are several positions of PA’s.  The one you will most be in contact with is the ‘extras wrangler’.

Apple Box – These are small boxes used to make things higher.  Typically used like a seat ‘cushion’ so when one sits, they are raised up a few inches, making them appear taller.

Casting Director – The person in charge of casting.  You will most likely only come in contact with the extras casting director.  His only duty is to hire enough people for the scene.  The ECD and the PA will be your main points of contact if an issue arises on set or in holding.

Casting Assistant – The assistant to the Casting Director.  Sometimes they will be there instead of or with the actual Casting Director.

Set – This is where the film is being recorded, and your chance to work side by side with the stars.

Blacklisted – the blacklist is a list of people that will not be able to work for certain companies for whatever reasons.  Beware – sometimes these lists are shared between companies.

‘It’s a Wrap’ – This means everyone is done filming for that day.  Get ready to either get checked out and go home, or go back to wardrobe and get your voucher so then you can go to the back of the checkout line to go home.

Facetime – The amount of time your face shows up on screen.  You never really know how much facetime you will get until the editing is complete.

 Leave Us a Comment of any other Production Terms or Lingo that you know of!