Who’s Who on a TV and Film Crew?
A lot of work goes into a production before you see anything on screen. There are teams that organize the shoot, film the script, and put all the pieces together. Here are some the TV and film crew members who coordinate and work with Background Actors on set.
A production assistant (PA) is an entry-level TV and film crew position that acts as support to various levels of production. PAs can be responsible for transporting equipment, copying scripts, making deliveries, and help Assistant Directors coordinate Background Actors.
There are different types of PAs, the most common being office PAs and set PAs. If you’re a Background Actor or Stand-In, you’re most likely working with set PAs. Being a set PA counts toward the experience required for joining the Director’s Guild of America. So the next time you’re on set, remember the PA you’re working with may soon be your Assistant Director.
Unit Production Manager
Unit production managers (UPMs) are responsible for how money is spent and the overall management of a production. During pre-production, a UPM will coordinate the budget, hire crew members, and work with the ADs to create a filming schedule. Once production starts, UPMs are tasked with ensuring the production runs smoothly, which can mean reworking the budget and schedule. UPMs work with Assistant Directors to figure out the budget and the coordination of the Background.
Hair, Make-Up, and Wardrobe
The hair and make-up departments are responsible for the hair and make-up of on-screen talent, including Background Actors. Depending on the production and the role you are cast for, you may be responsible for doing your own hair and make-up for a scene. If that’s the case, hair and make-up will likely need to approve your look and make any necessary touch ups before you head to set.
The wardrobe department is responsible for all the wardrobe and costumes worn on screen. Like with hair and make-up, Background Actors may be responsible for bringing their own clothing for a scene.
Showing up to set with the correct wardrobe, hair, and make-up are essential to being a successful Background Actor. Casting Directors will give you your wardrobe, hair, and make-up information when you get your details. This may involve calling an info tape and checking a wardrobe blog or similar resource.
On most productions, Background Actors are given direction by Assistant Directors (ADs). ADs perform a variety of functions related to 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) is responsible for overseeing and directing Background Actors. Some larger TV and film crews may also have a Second Second Assistant Director (2nd 2nd AD). The 2nd 2nd AD will take on some of the 2nd ADs responsibilities, like handling production reports and helping with the Background.
Directors bring a script to life while overseeing the artistic and technical aspects of a project. From pre-production to post-production, film directors define and carry out their own vision for a movie. While TV directors are also responsible for visualizing a script to screen, they are realizing the vision of the showrunner and writer while staying true to the look and tone of the show.
Depending on the type of production, directors will take part in the Background casting process. They may meet with Casting Directors to go over the ideas they have for the Background or picture pick specific scenes. During the casting of Lady Bird, director Greta Gerwig met with Casting Directors at Central Casting Los Angeles to discuss the look she wanted for the Background Actors in the film.