A stand-in is part of ‘the second team’.
Your role will be one step above being an extra (with the extra pay sometimes to prove it). You should know that if you are standing in you most likely will not get to talk to anyone most of the day, you will be listening and following directions most of the day, and you will usually be doing a lot of standing in one place with occasional movement and/or sitting.
What are you actually doing as a stand-in?
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 important to watch the director’s / scene during rehearsal… WATCH what the principle is doing; what hand they lead with, which way they walk around an object, etc, etc. You need to COPY that. If they drink with their left hand…YOU drink with your left hand. Etc, etc. Your primary role is get the lighting right and to make life easier for the actor you’re standing-in for.
Typically you will stand where the actors are to be within a scene. A lot of movement, measuring and talking will happen as you just stand there and stare straight ahead with a large piece of tape across your chest labeling you as a particular character. If there is to be movement in the scene, you may get to cross or banana to another position, where another piece of tape will be placed. more talking measuring and movement by crew will take place. Then in comes the first team, 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, lighting etc.
You will need to stay close by, because if they call for you again and you are nowhere to be found, you can usually be easily replaced by someone who will be more attentive and looks somewhat similar to you.
Top 5 Tips For being a Stand In
1. Be early
Plan your day so you arrive at least 30-60 mins before your calltime. This gives you plenty of time to eat breakfast and get to know the crew you’re working with. Connections you make today could lead to paying work and speaking roles tomorrow.
2. Be observant
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 be chided for it and you’ll be clueless during the crew read-thru rehearsal.)
3. Be alert
Don’t text or read a book/mag during takes. As an actor, you should WANT 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 “second team.”
5. Above all, be professional and be cool:
Don’t talk to cast or the director/producers/VIPs unless spoken to. Don’t get in the way of 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 definitely don’t make a spectacle of yourself or give someone important a reason to want to fire you. Stand-ins are easily replaced, and sometimes you’ll even see extras vying for your job. If you are cool and professional, you won’t get replaced.