How to Make the Most of Your Time on Set

AUGUST 22, 2022
On set of NCIS.
NCIS (CBS)

There’s so much you can learn about film and TV production while working as a Background Actor, from how a scene is set up to how the crew works together to bring the director’s vision to life. Whether you onboarded with Central Casting as a way to break into the industry or are just interested in how your favorite shows are made, keep these tips in mind to make the most of your time on set.

Be on time

One of the most important things you can do to have a successful day as a Background Actor is to show up on time and ready to work. Not only does this help production stay on schedule and ensure you’re ready when needed on set, but starts your day on a positive note and shows crew members you’re professional.

TV and film productions have evolving schedules, which means the initial call time you receive in your details can, and likely will, change. Your details will include how to get your call time changes, which may be sent to you as a message from our casting platform or updated in your Details Blog. We recommend checking for call time changes before you go to bed, when you wake up in the morning and before you leave for work.

Remember, on time means checked in and ready to work. When leaving for set, remember to factor in traffic, parking, or other delays that could make you late.

Pay attention on set

When working as a Background Actor, you will likely be directed by the Second Assistant Director, Second Second Assistant Director, or a Production Assistant. There are a lot of moving parts to a scene; it’s important to pay attention not only to the directions given to you, but to the action of other background and principal actors. Keep in mind that unless you are given new direction by a crew member, you will need to recreate your movements take after take.

Between resets, scene changes, and breaks, there can be pockets of downtime during your workday. This is a great time for you to learn how a set runs by watching how the crew, actors, and other members of the set operate. Just remember, while you may not be busy, the crew is always working to get the next shot ready. Be courteous by staying quiet and sticking to your designated area.

You should also take the time to get to know your fellow Background Actors. If you’re new, they are one of your greatest resources to learn more about working with Central Casting, what to expect on set, and other questions about working in the entertainment industry.

Take advantage of opportunities

It doesn’t happen every day, but there are times when Background Actors are given a line or upgraded to Stand-Ins on set. Being engaged and present not only lets the Assistant Directors know you’re professional, but shows them they can count on you can follow directions.

For Background Actors who want Stand-In opportunities, Assistant Director Molly Rodriguez gave this advice in our AD/CD interview with Casting Director Sara V.

“The ADs want to know that they’re hiring someone who’s going to be a team player and work hard,” Molly said. “Whether you’re green or not doesn’t really matter. As long as you have a good attitude and pay attention, that’s like half the battle right there.”

Just remember, getting bumped on set is up to the needs of the production and at the discretion of the Assistant Director. They will let you know if they’re looking to fill another role.

For more tips on how to show you’re a professional Background Actor, check out our guides 5 Key Background Acting Tips and How to Be Camera Ready for Set.

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By Meghan Dubitsky

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