21 Production Terms Every Background Actor Should Know

FEBRUARY 19, 2024
Holding sign for Background Actors.

Being on set can feel like a whole different world, especially if it's your first time as a Background Actor. Get to know these production terms and you'll be on your way to being a pro on set.

1. Back to One

When the director (or Assistant Director) says "back to one," you need to move back to your original position. Always pay attention to your movement in a scene so you can recreate it every take.

2. Second Team

Stand-Ins are often referred to as the second team and take the place of the principal actors during rehearsals, camera blocking, and lighting setups. If you're booked as a Stand-In, pay attention to when "second team" is called and be ready for your direction.

3. Allowances and Adjustments

Allowances and adjustments are additional compensation paid to Background Actors for doing something beyond basic background in a scene. Allowances can be given for things like bringing a prop, working with your vehicle, or wearing your own specialty wardrobe.

4. Call Time

Your call time is the time you are expected to arrive for work. It's extremely important to show up on time and camera ready. Ask any Casting Director and they'll tell you showing up and being on time are two of the best things Background Actors can do to be successful.

5. Holding

When you're not filming, you'll be taken to a holding area. You can bring items to Holding, like a book, to keep you busy when you're not on set.

6. AD (Assistant Director)

The AD is often the crew member Background Actors get direction from on set. They are responsible for arranging and maintaining the logistics of a film shoot. The First Assistant Director (1st AD) is responsible for keeping the production on schedule and supervising the crew. The Second Assistant Director (2nd AD) or Second Second Assistant Director (2nd 2nd AD) are responsible for overseeing and directing Background Actors.

7. Recall

A Background Actor may be recalled to set to continue filming for an additional day of work. If you are recalled, make sure you write down your recall information, make note of the wardrobe you're wearing, and inform the Casting Director of any conflicts.

8. Change

A change is the complete wardrobe or costume you wear on camera. Be sure to pay close attention to the wardrobe notes given to you by the Casting Director. They will tell you if you're required to bring wardrobe changes.

9. 18tly (eighteen to look younger)

If a Casting Director is looking for someone 18tly they are looking for a person who is eighteen years old or older who can convincingly portray someone younger.

If you think you can portray 18tly make sure you have a photo in your online profile with that look. You can learn more about uploading photos in our article The Ultimate Photo Guide for Your Online Profile.

10. Cross

A cross is the movement of a Background Actor as they pass through the view of the camera. If an Assistant Director instructs you to do a cross, your path may take you directly in front of the camera.

11. Online Profile

As part of our casting platform, Central Casting Background Actors have the ability to log in to their online profile to update their information and add current photos.

12. Walla

Walla is a sound effect that mimics the murmur of a crowd in the background of a scene. Early radio producers found that if they recorded multiple people repeating "walla, walla, walla," it mimicked the indistinct chatter of a large crowd. Other phrases used for walla are "rhubarb" and "peas and carrots."

Most modern productions add crowd noise during post production. Background Actors will film the scene while silently mouthing words, then a walla group will be brought in to record real (mostly improvised) conversations that will be added during the editing process.

Central Casting casts walla groups for a variety of productions, even for animated shows like The Simpsons, to make crowd scenes more authentic.

13. Avail

Avail is short for availability and will often be used by Casting Directors "checking your availability" and putting you on "first avail."

When a Casting Director is prepping a scene for a future date they will check your availability, and if you confirm your availability, may put you on first avail for that show. Often in these situations, you will not be booked until production looks at your picture submission and approves the look.

If you are offered another booking on the same day, you must call the Casting Director you are on first avail for to confirm if you are needed on their production.

14. Inserts

Inserts are parts of scenes that are shot from different angles or different focal lengths, often using doubles instead of principal actors. Inserts can be used to show a character performing a special skill like playing an instrument or performing everyday tasks like using a phone.

15. Background Coordinator

On particularly large calls, background coordinators may be hired to help Assistant Directors check-in and manage Background Actors.

16. Matching

Matching is one of the production terms that refers to recreating the exact same movements take after take. This ensures that the different takes can be seamlessly edited together in post-production.

17. Pick-Ups

Pick-ups are (often minor) shots filmed after production on a project has wrapped. While in post-production, the director and editors will determine if there are clarity or continuity issues and will then film pick-ups to supplement the original footage.

18. Second Unit

A second production crew who films shots or sequences of a production separate from the main (first) unit. Second units are primarily used to help the production save time by filming simultaneously. Common uses for the second unit are to film inserts and stunt sequences.

19. Pantomime

When filming, Background Actors will silently mouth conversations so they don't interfere with the sound being recorded by the principal actors.

20. Basecamp

Basecamp is the area designated by production as the main check-in and crew communication hub.

21. Wrap

Wrap refers to when talent or the entire production has finished filming. Never leave set without an Assistant Director specifically telling you you're wrapped. You'd hate to make it home only to find that you were still needed on set!

Which term do you hear most often on set?

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By Meghan Dubitsky

Article Category:

Industry Essentials