This post updates an earlier post with some new information on the world of the professional stand-in.
— The Editor
Dear Stand-In Central,
Where can I find out where to get a Stand In job? And can you make good [money] doing this?
We’ve been getting a lot of questions regarding finding stand-in work. I thought I’d take your question and make an official answer from Stand-In Central so that those looking to stand in can figure out how to find stand-in work. Thanks for your email!
– The Editor
Response from Ben Hauck
Where to find stand-in jobs depends on where you live. It’s hard to tell anyone where to find stand-in jobs without knowing where they are asking from! 🙂
If you’re completely new to film and television, and you live in a city without a thriving film and television community, your opportunities to stand in may be slim to none. Most stand-ins have experience on a TV or film set, and many stand-ins are union members of SAG-AFTRA, which is a union that merged in 2012 the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).
Many stand-in jobs are concentrated in cities like Los Angeles and New York City, which are film and television meccas in the United States. If you want to work regularly as a stand-in, I would encourage you first to make sure you live in the vicinity of a city with an active film and/or television community, get involved in doing background work in film and television to develop on-set experience, and join SAG-AFTRA. (Click here for information on how to join SAG-AFTRA. In most cases, you may join SAG-AFTRA after working a principal role on a SAG-AFTRA project, or if you get three vouchers doing background work on a SAG-AFTRA project. You then pay a substantial initiation fee to join.)
How stand-ins are cast in, say, New York City is usually through background casting offices. Most of these casting offices today use a website called Casting Networks to post casting calls looking for stand-ins; this website can send out emails relatively immediately to stand-ins signed up with the website, who in turn can submit themselves when they see the casting calls.
These stand-in jobs typically require the stand-ins to be particular heights and hair colors. Casting calls for stand-ins are actually relatively rare; there are many more casting calls for background actors than stand-ins sent over Casting Networks. Sometimes stand-ins are cast without a casting call ever sent out, with background casting directors simply calling or texting reliable stand-ins they know to fill positions they have open. This is to say that you might not be privy to a lot of stand-in opportunities until you get your foot in the door with background casting.
How stand-ins are cast in other cities really depends. Some cities may have background casting offices, background agencies, call-in services, management companies, etc., that actors use to book background work in television and film, and presumably to book stand-in work as well. Some cities may actually solicit talent agents for stand-ins. Knowing crew members in the local industry (like assistant directors or directors of photography) may lead to jobs as a stand-in. Of course, any number of other methods may lead a person to becoming a stand-in. Ask working actors in your city how they have booked background work or even stand-in work, and their answers may lead you to paths for finding local stand-in work. Local actors would probably be a better resource than Stand-In Central for finding local stand-in work.
If a stand-in is union, that stand-in can make a decent living if the work is consistent. Gross payment for a day’s work (as of February 2016) can range from $180 to $300 and up, depending on work hours and the contract. I would estimate that many regular stand-ins work on average 12 hours a day, though that really depends on the project. While this happens infrequently and irregularly, some stand-ins can rake in over $1,000 a day if their work exceeds 16 hours in one day, which is when “Golden Time” kicks in. Golden Time is a special union wage equal to an 8-hour-day’s wage per hour for every hour over 16 hours.
I should emphasize that Stand-In Central is not a resource for stand-in jobs. Rather, it is a resource for finding out how to do the job and to do it well. Stand-In Central can’t hook you up with stand-in jobs, but if you do land stand-in work and you want to learn fast how to do it, Stand-In Central should really help you out. First visit What Is A Stand-In? for an overview of the job, plus the daily routine and some key terminology. Then, read over the numerous entries in the Tips & Tricks Blog, which answers a ton of questions you might have when you stand in, also providing fantastic tips from professional stand-ins for doing the job well. Searching Stand-In Central may also turn up answers you can’t find. If you don’t have a lot of time, I’d encourage you to download The Stand-In Handbook, our excellent ebook all about the job of the stand-in, plus great advice for doing the job well.
Lastly, I should note that standing in may sound like a “romantic” job. While it may be exciting at times, it really isn’t that “romantic.” For great stand-ins, the work requires a lot of attention to detail as well as intimate knowledge of the rhythms of shooting. For most stand-ins, it is much, much more than looking like an actor and “just standing there.” Surely, some jobs may be like that, but most jobs are not that easy. You might be surprised how difficult it can be to just stand there with all the conversations and lights moving around you!
So pursue stand-in work wisely. If you woke up this morning and decided it would be fun to stand in for an actor, keep in mind that the hours are long, the weather conditions can be grueling, the personalities can be difficult to appease, and your actor counterpart may never acknowledge your work. But if you’ve been thinking about the job for a while, I’d say go for it. And come back to Stand-In Central the day before your first stand-in gig to learn all you can about the job!
How are stand-in jobs filled in your area? Do you have any pointers for landing stand-in gigs outside L.A. or NYC? If so, post your pointers below!