When you are standing in on a set, oftentimes there are lots of moving parts swirling around you.
Grips are carrying equipment and assembling track, camera crews are setting up cameras, sound departments are laying sound mats, DPs and ADs and camera operators are telling you to move a bit here and there, …
Standing in takes both concentration and awareness.
Developing both your skills of concentration and awareness can help you stand in like a zen master.
Concentration, in this context, refers to your ability to focus on one task. If you are standing in and asked to look at another stand-in, or look at an X on a matte box, or simply keep your angle while lights are adjusted on you, and if you are able to maintain that for a duration without getting distracted, then you are concentrating.
Distraction is something that many stand-ins are prone to, especially if the stand-ins are new or new to a particular set or crew, but also if the stand-ins get too comfortable in their jobs and lose some of their discipline. When you concentrate on your standing in, the production crew can concentrate better, because you are a fixed center of their attention.
But if you are needlessly moving, or playing with your smartphone, or otherwise distracted, the production crew needs to concentrate harder on you, which is a drain on their already taxed energy.
It’s understandable to get distracted with all of the activity swirling around you when you’re standing in. However, a stand-in with a great deal of concentration won’t let all of the activity be a distraction.
That said, you can’t concentrate so much on standing in that you are unaware of your surroundings! With all of the moving parts, stand-ins need to be aware when they should move to make way for another crew member or avoid a safety hazard.
Awareness improves with experience the more you work on set. You become accustomed to the rhythms and patterns that occur on set, so you can be generally aware or even anticipate what will happen on set, even when you are concentrating on standing in.
With a high level of awareness, you will be better able to, say, discern the specific voices you need to listen to on a loud set. You’ll also move quickly and effortlessly out of a crew members’ ways as they move in your direction.
If you’re unaware, more than likely you will be slower to respond to crew needs or safety hazards. If you’re an aware stand-in working with unaware stand-ins, be sure to look out for the unaware stand-ins should a safety hazard threaten them.
If you’ve achieved a “zenlike” stand-in state, you are likely in a distracting environment, completely aware of all that is going on around you, but also fully concentrated on your stand-in task.
You respond to commands whether they come from a few feet away from you from a camera operator, or several yards away from you from a director or DP.
Should a loud noise happen or argument erupt on set, you still stay focused on the activity at hand and don’t get distracted.
You are a master!
When Concentration and Awareness Are Important
Sometimes on set, there will be a very small window of time to shoot, and stand-ins need to be on the ball. Stand-ins who are aware and able to concentrate are an asset to productions that have limited timeframes in which to work.
If the sun is setting, and if production needs to get a dusk shot, because light is changing rapidly stand-ins need to make sure they are aware of that challenge and concentrate on setting up the shot.
Other times when time can be an issue — and when an aware stand-in who can concentrate is an asset — are location shoots with a hard out time, production days that are going long, and shots with dangerous components to them.
Fortunately, if you feel you have an attention deficit and are deficient at concentrating or being aware, there may be some help for you.
If you feel you can’t concentrate, keep drilling yourself to concentrate where you need to. Practice may not make you perfect, but it may help you improve.
If you are having trouble concentrating, try promising yourself not to talk for camera setups. Or, try focusing exactly where you should be focusing.
If you’re having trouble being aware, drill yourself on what you think will come next in the setup of a shot or in the production day. “After marking rehearsal, what will happen next?” “After the camera crew is satisfied with the setup, what will happen next?” “After the fourth take, what will happen next?”
The more often you can accurately predict what will happen next on set, you will also find that you are pretty aware and that you are able to ride the near-future without distraction.
Do you have any tips for improving your skills of concentration when you are standing in? What about your awareness? Share your tips below!