Earlier this month, Assistant Director Michele Azenzer Bear stopped by Central Casting Los Angeles to speak to our Central Casting University Stand-In class. Michele's worked as a 1st Assistant Director on many shows, including, The Great Indoors, Mike & Molly, and Living Biblically. Here are her tips for being a Multi-Cam Stand-In.
Multi-Cam Stand-Ins will often run through an entire episode in place of the principal actors so the crew can establish camera shots and lighting.
"What Multi-Cam Stand-Ins need to know is that you're standing in for four cameras at one time as opposed to a single camera show that is one camera," Michele said. "The process is a lot different."
During camera blocking, the Director or Assistant Director will give you instructions on where to move throughout the scene. Here are some terms to know:
If you're facing the camera (or audience) this is the area behind you. If a Director asks you to move upstage, they want you to move towards the back of the set.
Downstage is in the direction of the camera or audience. To move downstage, you would move to the front of the set.
When you're facing the camera, this is the area to your left.
When you're facing the camera, this is the area to your right.
This refers to the point of view of the camera. If you're facing the camera and the Director instructs you to move camera left, you will move to your right.
This refers to the point of view of the camera. If you're facing the camera and the Director instructs you to move camera right, you will move to your left.
The number of Stand-Ins hired to work on a given day can change depending on the production's budget and schedule. On some days, a Multi-Cam Stand-In may stand in for multiple actors on the same project. It's important to take detailed notes for every role you're standing in for so you can relay them to the principal actors or other Stand-Ins.
"One of the extra things that Stand-Ins do, which is very nice for their fellow Stand-Ins, is to take notes for other people who will be joining them the following day," Michele said.
Productions are unpredictable. You may be booked as a Background Actor and get bumped up to a Stand-In. A Multi-Cam Stand-In may need to read for a guest actor. You never know what opportunities a job can bring or who you will meet on set.
"I always say, take that one day job because it could lead to something more," Michele said. "I have a Stand-In who took a one day job for me [years ago] and has been working for me ever since."
No matter your role, it's essential to show up on time. On time means checked in and ready for work.
"Never leave the set without checking with your 2nd AD," Michele said. "If you can't find the 2nd AD, check with the 1st AD. Make sure you never leave the set without your call time [for the next day] and always check with Central Casting."
When a Casting Director books you, they will tell you how to get your call time changes. Be sure to check for call time changes before you go to bed, when you wake up in the morning, and before you leave for set.
When you're on set, be present and alert so you don't miss your cue. It's imperative that you are available and ready to work when you're called. Production should not have to look for or wait on you.
On a production, there's no such thing as "set in stone." The script can change, characters can change, call times can change. To be a successful Multi-Cam Stand-In, you need to be flexible around changes.
Directors have different methods and processes for how they want to block scenes. Some directors will block with dialogue where the Stand-Ins will block every single move as they read through the script. Other Directors will block without dialogue going from mark to mark.
"This is where you have to be flexible," Michele said. "My suggestion is, at an opportune time, find the AD and say, 'I've never worked with this Director, does he block with dialogue or does he go from mark to mark?' That's a good thing to ask."
By knowing on set terms, being on time, and being prepared, you'll be a pro when you get booked as a Multi-Cam Stand-In.