What’s the Difference Between TV and Film Production?

SEPTEMBER 28, 2020
Cameras filming two actors at a table.
Stumptown (ABC)

When you become a Background Actor with Central Casting, you get the chance to work on a variety of productions, from TV comedies to blockbuster movies. A Background Actor’s role doesn’t change too much from set to set, but the type of production does affect a Stand-In’s job. To help you be successful, here’s what you should know about the difference between TV and film production.

Production phases

Most projects start with development, which is the process of coming up with an idea then writing and perfecting a script. Once the script is ready to go, the three phases of production start:

  • Pre-production: planning and preparation
  • Production: filming
  • Post-production: editing, sound, and special effects

Some films may start pre-production before the script is finished or the script may go through rewrites during production, but they tend to follow a linear process. TV shows are often in each phase at once. While the post-production team is editing episode one, the crew could be filming episode two, and the episode three director may be planning for the next week. This is most common for broadcast TV shows that have to adhere to a strict schedule to meet network cycles.


There are a lot of factors that determine a filming schedule, like budget, location, and actor availability. Generally, the average feature film production length is about three months, but low budget indies often have shorter schedules and franchise films, especially those with varying locales or heavy stunts, can take longer.

When talking about TV production, a key point to remember is there are two types: single camera and multi-camera. Films, dramas, and some comedies are shot with one camera, using multiple takes to capture different angles. Most half-hour sitcoms are filmed with multiple cameras at once, capturing various angles during one take.

Most TV dramas take about eight days to film, though premium cable and streaming shows with extended runtimes may have additional filming days. Sitcoms can shoot a single episode in front of a live audience in a day, but may film additional scenes at a later date. These shows also have more blocking, lighting, and rehearsal time beyond their shoot days.

Director or showrunner

In film, the director oversees all aspects of production to realize their own vision for the script. Depending on their experience or the type of film, the director may have oversight from a producer or other creative entity. For example, some franchises have producers who oversee the story arc across multiple films that work with the film director to ensure the installment fits within the larger context of the story.

In TV, the showrunner is the highest authority and supervises all three phases of production. Showrunners often also serve as the lead writer and may choose to direct an episode or two a season. Each episode of a show has its own director who works with the director of photography and other crew members to maintain the established look of the show and realize the showrunner’s vision.

Working as a Background Actor or Stand-In

Whether you’re booked on a film or TV show, your job as a Background Actor doesn’t really change. You still take direction from an Assistant Director who instructs you when and where to move throughout a scene. What influences a Background Actor more is the type of role you’re cast in. The wardrobe and makeup needs for an alien in a sci-fi show are different than those of a biker in a gritty drama. Those details determine the requirements for your role more than the type of production you are working on.

On the other hand, a Stand-In’s job does change based on the type of production. Single camera Stand-Ins cast by Central Casting in movies like Greyhound and TV shows like The Mandalorian and black-ish, usually match the height, weight, and complexion of a principal actor and are used for lighting and camera setups. In multi-cam shows, like The Conners and The Neighborhood, Stand-Ins run through the episode in place of the principal actor so the crew can block out all the movements before filming. These Stand-Ins are often cast for professionalism and experience with multi-cam work.

To learn more about working in the entertainment industry as a Background Actor or Stand-In with Central Casting, check out our articles A Background Actor’s Guide to Film Studios and 21 Production Terms Every Background Actor Should Know.

Which type of production do you most like working on?

View Results

Link Copied

By Meghan Dubitsky

Article Category:

Industry Essentials