Movie Stand-In Technique – Paying Attention During Rehearsals

by on December 5th, 2014
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Throughout my young adult life, I have blessed to hold many different jobs within the entertainment industry. Since the age of 14, I have worked as an actor, casting director, screen writer, production assistant, extra, featured extra and a stand-in. While each of these positions holds different types of excitement, I can honestly say that some of the most enjoyable moments was working as a stand-in.

Because the film industry is starting to pump out massive amounts of films, especially in the Atlanta region, there is a sudden influx of stand-ins. Many of these people were just like me, working on a film set as an extra and then suddenly being pushed into the world of standing-in.

As a stand-in, there are numerous tips you should be aware of; however, one of the most important tips is paying attention during rehearsals. The job of a stand-in is to literally stand-in for an actor so the lighting and camera crew can accurately illuminate the scene based on the color of the actors clothing, as well as establish the shots for the scene based on the actors movements.

Because of the importance of matching the movements of an actor, I have compiled several tips to help make this process a little more easy for new, and established, stand-ins.

Get a Good View

I vividly remember one day while working on “Get Low,” a Bill Murray and Robert DuVall film, we were filming in a national park and the little cabin where the Robert DuVall character lived was so small it was like a closet. Because there were about 20 people who needed to watch the rehearsal of the actors, I was pushed back to the edge of the cabin. Unfortunately, this meant I was unable to watch the actors rehearse. In retrospect, I was far too timid and should of excused myself to the front of the crowd as it’s my job to mimic the movements of the actors. When I was called onto the set, the director turned to me and asked what my actor did next. Looking like a deer in the headlights, I turned to him and said in a low voice, “I didn’t see.” Let’s just say that didn’t go over so well.

The point of that story is to make sure you always end up with a good view. It can be intimidating pushing through a crowd of seasoned, and award-winning, professionals; however, you are paid to watch rehearsals. Remember that.

Mark Your Script

I was surprised my first couple of days working as a stand-in that very few of my co-workers were actually marking their script. There I was, one of the only ones with a pencil in hand and frantically making notes of my actors movements. The primary reason I did so was to ensure I captured each of the primary and secondary movements of the actor. To do so, circle the words or phrases that the actor makes a movement and write a short description of the movement. Check out my other articles, as I have written an excellent piece regarding marking your script.

Watching The Actor’s Feet

This little tip I learned as I was in my third film as a stand-in. While I was overall very successful at mimicking the movements of my actor, there were some moments where I felt I was standing in the wrong place. Because of this, I began watching the actors feet and making mental notes of where he stood during certain moments of the scene. While you can make notes of this, it can be difficult to accurately write where the actor stood. Thus, just try to make a visual stamp of where he or she stood in correlation to other items within the room. Over time, this process will become extremely easy…especially when working in a small space.

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