A Background Actor’s Guide to Film Studios

JULY 6, 2020
Warner Bros. film studios backlot.
Warner Bros. backlot

When you’re booked as a Background Actor, Stand-In, double, or in another role by Central Casting, you have the opportunity to work on a variety of sets, including in historic studios and on exciting locations. One of the ways you can prepare for production to resume is by becoming familiar with film studios and the different areas you may work when you book a role with Central Casting.

What are film studios?

In production terms, a studio is a facility with sound stages and workspaces that are used to create movies and TV shows. Within the larger context of the entertainment industry, a studio can refer to a production and distribution company.

In the United States, there are five major film studios: Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, and Sony Pictures. These five studios date back to the Golden Age of Hollywood and are part of larger conglomerates with associated secondary, indie, animation, and other types of studio divisions. While these companies have filming facilities around the globe, most are headquartered at their Golden Age studio lots around Los Angeles.

There are also a group of mini-major studios, including Amazon Studios, Netflix, Lionsgate, Amblin, STX, MGM, etc. that are large competitive production companies, but don’t match the size of the major studios. These companies and independent productions may rent out sound stages or backlots to meet their filming needs.

Depending on the size of the studio, there can be a number of production facilities, workspaces, and offices on the premises. Here are some components to a studio lot and production set that Background Actors should know.


An adjoining area of a studio that contains permanent exterior sets (like facades of different city streets) and other exteriors for filming.

Sound stage

Sound stages are soundproof structures used to film TV shows, movies, and a variety of other productions. TV sets may be housed on the same sound stage for years during their productions runs, while film sets may be built and repurposed for short periods of time.

Movie ranch

These are ranches and other large areas of land that are used for film and TV production. Originally, movie ranches were created around Hollywood in the 1920s to film Westerns, but today are used for all types of settings. Most of these ranches are located in Southern California, though there are a few throughout the United States.


Many studios are very large and have multiple gates to enter the lot. When you’re booked for a role working at a studio, your details will often include which gate to report to. Please pay close attention to this information and only report to the gate instructed.


Holding is where Background Actors are stationed when they’re not filming a scene.

Video village

This is an area with monitors and chairs where directors, crew, and other production personnel can watch what’s being filmed in real time. Depending on the production and the type of camera shots, video village can be right next to set or somewhere near the location.


A place designated by production as the main crew communications hub and check-in area.

For more information on specific lot layouts, many film studios provide maps and guides on their websites. Your Details Blog may include this information as it pertains to your booking, but these maps can be good resources if you’ve never been to a specific studio before.

To learn more about how you can prepare for production to resume, read our articles Wardrobe Essentials Background Actors Should Know and New Background Acting Skills You Can Learn Now.

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By Meghan Dubitsky

Article Category:

Industry Essentials