What to Do If You’re Not Given Sides or a Script on Set

By | 2015-11-23T14:29:04+00:00 November 25th, 2015|Challenges, Lessons, Tips|0 Comments

When you’re standing in on most jobs, you will be given sides. Sides are portions of the script that are being shot on the day. The callsheet, which is the top page of most sides, lists the actual scenes being shot that day, as well as the order in which they are being shot.

Using the callsheet, you can figure out the scene numbers (and episode numbers, if you’re shooting an episodic series like a television series), so you know where in your sides to look for particular scenes.

But on some sets, especially where confidentiality is of utmost concern, sides may not be handed to you. They may be held very close, with only a few production members having access to them.

This radical confidentiality sometimes presents a bind for the stand-in, especially if the stand-in is required to do the lines in second-team rehearsal. Here are some tips for getting access to sides (or the script) when you are standing in but aren’t given them.

Ask

Sometimes, it’s just as simple as asking for a set of sides. You might not have sides simply because you were overlooked or they weren’t available at the right time for you to receive them. If you are standing in and you realize you don’t have sides, simply ask someone for a copy of the sides.

In particular, you can ask the background PA, a set PA, the key PA, as well as the 2nd 2nd AD or the 1st AD. All of these people should be able to hook you up with a copy of the sides.

Take

If you find you don’t have sides but you happen to see a box with the sides in them, it is generally okay for you to grab a copy for yourself because usually it is expected for stand-ins to have copies of the sides.

If you ask for permission to grab a set of sides, you run the risk of wasting time without access to them. You also run the small risk of not being granted permission to have sides.

Assume you are of enough importance to unquestionably have sides, and let production remove them from you in the small chance the production does not want you to have them.

Implore

If you are asked to do the lines in a second-team rehearsal but you don’t have sides, it becomes more desperate for you to have your own set of sides. If that’s the case, stick with asking a 2nd 2nd AD or the 1st AD for a set of sides.

If sides are not coming and a second-team rehearsal is imminent, implore firmly (without being rude) about your getting a set of sides.

Consult with the Script Supervisor

If all attempts to get sides promptly fail and your second-team rehearsal is imminent — and you’re expected to say the lines in the rehearsal — see if the script supervisor will let you look at the scene. Simply say that you’re standing in today and you haven’t seen sides, and you are being asked to do the lines. The script supervisor may be occupied (in which case it might not be good timing) but if not occupied, the script supervisor may let you glance at the script.

In such a case, soak up enough about the scene as you can. You’ve probably seen a marking rehearsal by this point, and if so, focus on what your character says as well as the cue lines for your character’s dialogue.

If you haven’t seen a marking rehearsal — such as when production is using its stand-ins to figure out the shot without rehearsing with the actors first — soak up the lines as well as the stage directions.

Scour Set

While it probably would be inappropriate to photograph the script supervisor’s copy of the scene (especially on a confidential set), having a digital image of the sides can be nearly as helpful as having a hard copy.

If you’re barred from having a copy of the sides, keep a look out for sides that might be discarded or unattended lying around the set. Trash cans around set may also be places to find sides, and if you’re willing to go there to find sides, you may find yourself with the information you seek on the scene.

And if you do find a copy of the sides but fear you can’t have them or they aren’t yours, if possible, take photographs of the sides with your smartphone and avoid drawing attention to yourself in so doing. Many sets bar photography on set, so taking a photograph of your sides may appear suspicious, even if you’re just trying to do your job as a stand-in required to say your lines during second-team rehearsal.

Ask Other Stand-Ins

In the off chance only you seem to have lucked out and don’t have sides, but the other stand-ins have sides, you can always ask to look at their sides. Even better if you ask them whether it’s okay for you to photograph them so you don’t have to bother them. If they are okay with that, then, again, photograph them without drawing attention to yourself.

When All Else Fails …

If all of your attempts to implore production to get you a copy of the sides or the script so that you can do the lines fail and you don’t get a copy of them, just do the second-team rehearsal proudly, and do it the best that you can. If that means saying “Blah blah blah” where your character speaks or summarizing the dialogue as you remember it, so be it.

And if production objects to your not knowing the lines, simply state that you need a copy of the sides or the script. This should get the ADs in motion to get you sides promptly.

And If THAT Doesn’t Work …

… you may just be dealing with a dysfuntional set. Good luck with that! Just do your best — because that’s about all you can do. You can try to repeat the above until you finally find or get a copy of the sides or script.

Has you stood in without a script? How did you manage? What tips do you have for getting a copy of the sides on a confidential set? Share your advice below!

About the Author:

Ben Hauck (Editor, Stand-In Central) has stood in on a number of projects shot in the NYC area. In addition to day-playing, he has stood in on major projects for John Oliver (Last Week Tonight), Jason Bateman (The Longest Week, Disconnect, and The Switch), Jason Sudeikis (Sleeping with Other People), Seth Rogen (The Night Before), and Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie and American Odyssey). Ben is an actor and improviser, author of the 2012 book Long-Form Improv (Allworth Press), and host of The Acting Income Podcast. http://benhauck.com

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