When you’re standing in on a TV or film set, finding time to step away to the bathroom may prove difficult.  As a stand-in, you may be needed at any time, at a moment’s notice, so you don’t want to be away for long, if at all.  But nature does call, and it helps to know in advance generally the best time to get to the bathroom.

There is a generally accepted “best time” to get to the bathroom when you’re on set.  There are also a few procedures.  First, we’ll go over the procedures before revealing the best time to get to the bathroom when you’re on set.


Know Your Bathrooms

When you arrive to a set, among the first things you want to locate are the bathroom options.

If you are shooting in a studio, there are likely some bathrooms on or near set.  As you are checking in, look for bathroom signs, else ask the background P.A. where you can find the bathrooms.  Knowing where both men’s and women’s bathrooms are will help you to guide other stand-ins you’ll be with in the day to locate the bathrooms quickly.

If you are shooting on location, bathrooms may be harder to locate.  They may also be some distance from set.  Usually there are bathrooms located in the honeywagon–they are sometimes marked by the names of famous duos like “Desi” and “Lucy” rather than “Men” and “Women.”  However, the honeywagon could be blocks from set.  In such a case, bathroom options may be closer.  There may be bathrooms in holding or a nearby business taken over by the production, or there may be portable toilets.

But there may also be no convenient options.  Finding this out before your day officially begins will help you manage your bathroom needs and strategize an optimal time to get away.

“I’m 10-1.”

As you know, film and television sets have their own lingo.  One way of communicating if someone is headed to or at the bathroom is to say that that person is “10-1” (“ten-one”).

Presumably “10-1” is code used to conceal from those not involved in the production when someone is at the bathroom.  It possibly also serves a polite function to discreetly communicate when someone has stepped away.

When it comes to heading to the bathroom, first and foremost, you want to communicate to a P.A. that you are 10-1. The best option usually is to communicate this to the background P.A.  Other options include the 2nd 2nd A.D. or any P.A. on a walkie.

It is also not a bad idea to tell another stand-in you trust that you are 10-1.  When doing this, you have another person looking out for you should you suddenly get called to set when you’re away.  Even better is to tell a stand-in of the same gender just in case you need to be found when you’re away.

Generally speaking, it is unwise to communicate just to another stand-in that you are 10-1.  You should prioritize telling a P.A. that you are 10-1 over another stand-in. However, on rare occasions when a P.A. is not around, this may not be practical.  In which case, it is important that you at least tell someone that you’re 10-1 so that at least one other person knows you’re 10-1.  This does not mean telling a grip or other member of the crew; it usually means at least telling another stand-in.  You want to make sure that someone knows where you are should you suddenly be requested.

When You’re 10-1

When you’re 10-1, you need to do your business and get back to set as soon as possible.  This time period is not a true break.  It is not time to smoke a cigarette or linger at craft service.  It is a time dedicated to getting to the bathroom and back to set as soon as possible.

Should you be called when you’re 10-1, a P.A. will know this and typically make a comment over the walkie if this is the case.  Sometimes a P.A. or A.D. will step in in place of you should you be 10-1 when you’re requested.  This is obviously something that you want to avoid, but if you arrive back on set and find it is the case, quickly swap places with the P.A. or A.D.

Watch What You Drink & Eat

Given the early mornings and long hours on set, it is tempting to drink coffee or tea to awaken or stay awake.  However, drinking these beverages may have a diuretic effect on you and make you want to go to the bathroom more frequently.  Also, fruits and nuts may be healthy options but can have a laxative effect that may prove uncomfortable later in the day.

When you’re regularly on set, start to tune in to your biological processes and familiarize yourself with the frequency of your bathroom needs.  Knowing this information will help you to strategize stepping away to the bathroom, especially in the face of shooting a scene several pages long.  As basic as it may sound, bathroom needs can become urgent and interfere with both your experience on set and your ability to do your job, so it is important to know yourself and to watch what you eat and drink.

All this said, make sure to stay hydrated as you work, especially if you are working in warm, strenuous, or sunny environments.

The Best Time
to Step away to the Bathroom

Know the Shooting Routine

As a stand-in, you can be pulled into set at any time.  However, there is a routine to shooting on most productions.  That is, there are predictable times when you are likely going to be needed, and there are predictable times when you are less likely going to be needed.

However, since every production is different, the best time to step away to the bathroom in general may not be the best time to step away to the bathroom on this particular production.  When you’re new on a production, ask the background P.A. for advice on the best time to get to the bathroom.

And Now:
The Routinely Best Time to Step away to the Bathroom…

Routinely, the best time to step away to the bathroom is when the cameras are rolling on the first take.

At this point, there are a number of factors that create a favorable atmosphere for being away:

  • First team is on set at this point.
  • The cameras are rolling so you are obviously not being used.
  • Usually more than one take is shot, so leaving during the first take affords the most amount of time for getting to the bathroom.
  • Since later takes tend to be better than first takes, you are less likely to miss changes in blocking should you leave when the cameras are rolling on the first take.

If you are in a studio, transit in and out of the studio when the cameras are rolling may be blocked by a P.A.  In such a case, anticipate when the cameras are about to roll so you can slip out just before you hear “three bells” (the signal that the cameras are rolling).  Don’t re-enter the studio until you hear “one bell” (the signal that the cameras have stopped rolling) or until the red lights signaling rolling turn off.

When you are away at the bathroom, especially when bathrooms are on location, pay attention to the sound of flushing.  Avoid flushing during a take if there is any possibility that the sound could be picked up during the take.

When you come back from the bathroom, it is important to make your way back to the monitors in order to see if there have been changes to your actor’s blocking.  If it appears upon returning that they’re checking the gate, it is important to make your way close to set for when the crew calls for second team.

When You’re Also Doing Background Work

The most demanding position to be in in terms of getting to the bathroom is standing in when you’re also background in the same scene.

When it comes to managing your bathroom needs when you are both standing in and working as a background actor, it is best to be prepared. Make a point of heading to the bathroom before your scene is up, because when you’re on set you’ll be standing in, and when second team is excused you’ll be doing background.  If a scene is several pages long or involves a number of principal actors, you may find that it is hours before you have time to step off to get to the bathroom.

Do you have your own advice about getting to the bathroom on set when you’re a stand-in?  If so, please post a comment below!