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Stepping up to stand-in work

For many aspiring actors, background work can be a helpful way to gain on-set experience and start building a career in the entertainment industry. However, for more experienced actors who are looking to advance their careers and land speaking roles, background work may not be the best strategy. While background work is a great start, it has its limitations. Working as a stand-in is an alternative option that can help actors take the next step in their careers. In todays blog, I'll discuss what stand-in work entails, the potential benefits it offers, and provide tips for actors who are interested in pursuing this type of work.


While background work is a common way for new actors to get their foot in the door and gain experience on set, you’ll eventually have to leave it behind in order to progress in your career. It’s a great way to learn about set etiquette, network with other extras, and make some money to pay for acting classes. But once you start getting auditions for speaking roles in those same projects, working as an extra will prevent you from being considered for those larger roles.


That is where working as a stand-in becomes a great level up in the industry as it doesn’t jeopardize your chances of booking a speaking role in that tv show later. The role of a stand-in is to perform the motions of the scene exactly like the actor is supposed to so that the camera crew can get the right angle and lighting for each shot. In order to become a stand-in, you have to submit for casting calls the same way you do for background and if you match the height and description of one of the actors, you’ll probably get asked to work. This is a great opportunity for actors and offers many chances to practice their acting skills and maybe even get noticed by the directors. Not to mention it also pays higher than background work.


So how can you turn stand-in work into an acting exercise? Every time I’m standing in for an actor, I get a copy of the sides and memorize their lines for that day as fast as I can. It helps if you get the other stand-ins you’re working with to also memorize their lines so that you can act out the scene when the director calls for a rehearsal. It shows professionalism to the camera team and helps the boom operator test the audio as well. While it is usually helpful for the crew, make sure to read the room and don’t go acting out the scene if it doesn’t feel appropriate. The perfect stand-in is never in the way but always nearby to jump in when they yell “Second team!” Stand-ins need to be able to quickly pick up on blocking and movements, have good communication skills, and be able to maintain focus and energy throughout long shooting days.


Another benefit of stand-in work is that it allows you to network a lot more than you’d be able to as background. I wouldn’t recommend talking to actors on set unless they approach you, but if you get to talk to the actors, it could become a great learning opportunity to hear what they have to say. I always watch the actors performing when I can and apply the techniques I notice to my practice. You can also make connections with the crew working throughout the set and see if you’d be interested in working in that department in the future. (It’s good to know people in the union if you ever want to join the union).


If you're interested in stand-in work, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of finding opportunities. First, start by networking with industry professionals, such as casting directors, agents, and fellow actors. From there you can find out who the big background and stand-in casting agencies are in your city and add yourself to their database. I would definitely recommend Alessi Hartigan Casting for New Mexico locals. You can also create a profile on industry websites like Backstage or Casting Networks, where stand-in opportunities are often listed.


Remember to make the most of your time on set by practicing your acting skills, networking with industry professionals, and maintaining a professional and positive attitude. With dedication and hard work, stand-in work can be a stepping stone toward achieving your goals as an actor. So, if you're ready to take your career to the next level, consider exploring the world of stand-in work and see where it takes you.


Daniel Ward is an actor, writer, and contestant finalist of Broadway Bound Live Season 2 and can be contacted on Twitter @wordsofward34 or Instagram @wardledorp


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