How to Be Prepared When Production Resumes
We are all feeling the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it’s changed our normal routines and activities. With many productions shut down, you may be wondering how to remain engaged with the industry and how to stay prepared for when shows resume production. If you’ve never been on set before, or even if you consider yourself a pro, here’s how you can prepare for working on set.
Understand the production process
Before filming can begin on a project, a script needs to be completed. This is called development and the process can be different based on the type of production, like if the script is for a pilot, an episode of an established TV show, or for a feature film.
Once the script is ready, the three phases of production start.
- Pre-Production: This is the planning and preparation stage when schedules are made, locations are secured, and principal actors are cast. The unit production manager will work with the Assistant Directors to coordinate and budget for Background Actors.
- Production: Also called principal photography, this is where the bulk of filming happens. Background Actors, Stand-Ins, and doubles do most of their work during production.
- Post-Production: Editing, sound mixing, and special effects are some of the responsibilities of the post-production crew. If reshoots or pick-ups are needed, Background Actors may be recalled or hired for these scenes. Central Casting may also book walla groups during post-production.
Crew members background work with on set
As a Background Actor you’ll interact with a lot of people, but will mostly work with Assistant Directors (ADs) and production assistants (PAs). Depending on the type of production and your role, you may also work with the wardrobe, hair, and make-up departments.
Stand-Ins typically work more closely with the production crew as they help with blocking, camera setups, and lighting. In addition to ADs, Stand-Ins interact with the director of photography (DP), camera operator, and assistant cameras.
Production terms to know
From the casting process to working on set, the entertainment industry has its own language. If you’re not sure what something means, don’t be afraid to ask your fellow Background Actors. We also have guides on casting terms, production terms, and Stand-In terms you can study to ensure you’re always prepared. Here are some common ones you should know:
18tly (eighteen to look younger)
Someone who is at least 18 years old, but can portray younger. You will see this a lot when looking for work on our Jobs page.
Stand-Ins are referred to as the second team, while principal actors make up the first team. When you’re needed on set the AD may call out “second team.”
First Avail is an extremely important term used by Central Casting. It means you have confirmed your availability for a certain date, but the Casting Director cannot book you until they hear back from production. The Casting Director will let you know if you’re on first avail and we ask that you call them before accepting another job. Be sure to read through our article First Avail: Everything You Need to Know so you understand what to do the next time a Casting Director places you on first avail.
Back to One
This is often called by the 1st AD and means you need to move back to your original position for the next take. Always pay attention to where you move in a scene so you can recreate your actions.
Prepare your wardrobe
Being able to show up to set with the correct wardrobe is a big part of being a Background Actor. Now is a great time to go through your closets to see what looks you can put together. You never know, one day you can be cast as a high school teacher and the next a 1980s detective. If you need ideas on the type of looks you may be cast in, check out our Credits. If you’re unfamiliar with any of the shows, watch a few of the episodes and look at the wardrobe the principal and Background Actors are wearing. This can help give you ideas on common looks booked on those projects.
Remember, sometimes you’ll be asked to come to set camera ready and others you’ll need to bring your wardrobe to set with you. Unless otherwise indicated for the role, your wardrobe should arrive clean an unwrinkled.
Learn from Casting Directors and Assistant Directors
We know you’re eager to get cast and on set. We’ve talked to Casting Directors in all four of our offices to get tips on being booked and to Assistant Directors on the qualities they look for in a professional Background Actor:
- 7 Casting Tips From Our Night Casting Directors
- Casting Director Do’s and Don’ts for Submitting
- How to Stand Out to Casting Directors
- 9 Pieces of Background Acting Advice from AD Luke Maxcy
- 5 Multi-Cam Stand-In Tips from Michele Azenzer Bear
- AD/CD: Advice for Background Actors
- AD/CD: How to Become a Stand-In
With these guides you’ll be prepared for working on set when production resumes. You can stay engaged with your fellow Background Actors and Central Casting community through our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages and we will continue to post updates to our Notices section. Thank you for being the best Background Actors in the business!