As previously mentioned, I’ve been hired as the stand-in for a TV movie shooting in town. The production is called The Step Son and features Adam Beach and Christina Cox. I am Christina’s stand-in for the duration of the shoot.
So, what’s a stand-in? As always, I refer you to the bible of all random information, Wikipedia! For those of you who don’t want to click the link, here’s the gist of it:
A stand-in in film and television is a person who substitutes for the actor before filming, for technical purposes such as lighting.
Stand-ins are helpful in the initial processes of production. Lighting setup can be a slow and tedious process; during this time the actor will often be somewhere else. Stand-ins allow the director of photography (DOP) to light the set, the camera department to light and focus scenes. The director will often ask stand-ins to deliver the scene dialogue (“lines”) and walk through (“blocking”) the scenes to be filmed. In this way, a good stand-in can help speed up the day’s production and is a necessary and valuable cast member on a film.
Stand-ins do not necessarily look like the actor, but they must have the same skin tone, hair color, height and build as the actor so that the lighting in a scene will be set up correctly. For example, if the lighting is set up with a stand-in shorter than an actor, the actor might end up having his or her head in relative darkness.
I’ve done stand-in work in the past (and since I’ve had a blog for many years now, I realize that I haven’t done it in almost four years…), but I’ve never been the official one for the entire shoot.
Some people think I must have a pretty easy job, and it can be (yesterday we shot a scene where the main actress was laying down on a couch, which means I had to lay down on the couch while the crew set up around me), but it also requires an incredible amount of focus and concentration; like a runner always waiting for the gun to go off. I have to somehow stay out of the way and yet still be present whenever shots are being set up, rehearsed or blocked and pay careful attention to every movement the actors make. I have to be ready to jump in at any moment because the whole point of having a stand-in is to move the production ahead, not make it wait. I also have to have frequent discussions with the hair and wardrobe people so that I know what I should look like (hair up or down/blue shirt or purple cardigan in this scene?) The call sheet lets me know what “day” it is in the movie’s chronology and I’ve started making notes on the actor’s appearance at that point just in case we come back to it later on. I’ve also got a backpack filled with hoodies and sweaters in different colours so that I can quickly slip one on. It can be stressful, but I think it’s an awful lot of fun!
The pros of being a stand-in are many. For one thing, I get to be on set everyday working with the director and the DOP. If I do a good enough job, chances are they will use me again for future projects, perhaps even in an actor capacity. In fact, I’ve seen that happen first hand. A friend of mine was a stand-in on two productions for the same company. By the second film, they gave him a cop role, which gave him one of his first ACTRA credits. Thanks to the union, I get a good paycheck and, if they keep me on set for more than 9 hours (8 hours plus 1 hour for lunch), I get overtime. Not to mention that spending three weeks on set with craft services means that I don’t have to buy groceries…
It bears repeating myself from three years ago: being a stand-in truly is the next best thing to being an actor on set. I can’t wait to go back for more!