Stand-in – here is everything you need to know about working on-set as a stand-in.
Many TV shows and movies hire stand-ins. If you are hired as a stand-in, your role will be one step above being an extra (with the extra pay sometimes to prove it). You should know, if you are standing in, then you most likely will not get to talk to anyone most of the day. Instead, you will be listening and following directions, and you will usually be doing a lot of standing in one place with occasional movement or sitting.
What are stand-ins responsibilities?
You will be the point of reference for the crew. The director will use you to work out blocking and how things look on the camera. The camera guy will use you to get angles, measurements, and distances to ensure proper focusing. The lighting people will use you to make sure shadows and lights are properly placed or displaced. The grips will mark where you are (usually with tape on the floor) for the actors to have points of reference on where and when they need to be in specific spots (also known as ‘marks’ or ‘hitting their marks’)
It’s essential to watch the director’s / scene during rehearsal. It is crucial to watch what the principal actor is doing; what hand they lead with, which way they walk around an object, etc., etc. You need to COPY their movements. If they drink with their left hand, then you need to drink with your left hand. Your primary role is to get the lighting right and to make life easier for the actor and crew.
Typically, you will stand where the actors are to be within a scene. A lot of movement, measuring, and talking will happen as you stand there and stare straight ahead with a large piece of tape across your chest, labeling you like a particular character. If there an actor moves in the scene, you may get to cross or banana to another position, where a crew member will place another piece of tape. Then more measuring and movement by the crew will take place. Ultimately, time will come where the actors will walk on set, and your job is to leave set quietly and wait until they call you back.
Some sets will also give you a script to follow along and possibly act out the scenes as they work out the blocking and lighting, which is an excellent opportunity for aspiring actors.
You will need to stay close by the set. For example, if the assistant director is looking for the stand-ins and the crew cannot find you, you can usually be easily replaced by someone who will be more attentive and resembles your appearances.
Top 5 Tips For working as a Stand-In
1. Be early
Plan your day, so you arrive at least 30-60 mins before your call time. By arriving early, it gives you plenty of time to eat breakfast and get to know the crew. Keep in mind, the connections you make today could lead to paying work and speaking roles tomorrow.
2. Be observant
Stand-ins should watch closely during rehearsals. Take note of blocking, marks, and crosses, even the pace the actor walks during rehearsal and what they do with their hands and their stance when standing still. (When working as a stand-in for Tyler Perry Studios’ TV shows — if you don’t take notes on your sides/script, you will get in trouble for not taking notes. Moreover, you’ll be clueless during the crew read-thru rehearsal.)
3. Be alert
Don’t text or read a book or go on your phone during takes as a stand-in. As an actor, you need to watch what’s going on. Watching the actors perform, and the director direct is like getting paid to take an acting class. That experience is valuable. Take advantage of being hired to watch and work on set.
4. Be ready
Being a stand-in also means being on stand-by. I make it my aim to try to already be in place before a crew member calls for the “second team.”
5. Above all, be professional and be cool
Don’t talk to cast or the director/producers/VIPs. Don’t get in the way of the crew, no matter what or when. Don’t ever point out anything to crew or correct them on anything unless it’s a safety issue. Don’t make waves, and don’t make a spectacle of yourself or give someone important a reason to want to fire you. Stand-ins replaceable, and sometimes you’ll even see extras vying for your job. If you are calm and professional, you won’t get replaced.