Dear Stand-In Central,

I had my first interview today to be a Stand-In for the lead female actress in a feature film. Three ladies showed up. One was eliminated right off the bat because of her body structure. The two of us who remained each had something the other did not. The other lady had more of the body shape of the lead actress, while I was closest to her complexion.

I must not have been too far off on the body shape though, as they did not mention this like they did for the third lady that they dismissed.  The lead actress is very fair skinned, very similar to me. The second lady whose body shape was closer to the actress has a pretty dark tan.

So I guess my question is, when you don’t have a Stand-In that meets all of the qualifications perfectly, which trait is on top? Body shape or complexion?

Thanks for your time!

– Cassandra

Hi Cassandra!

That’s a great question, and there’s definitely no solid answer for it.  Like many things in the film and television industry, winning jobs is usually up to human choice, which is not necessarily something you can deduce logically.  In fact, human choice is a bit irrational, if not wholy unpredictable!

However, there may be some general tendencies to help you predict who gets the job in terms of complexion vs. body shape.  I passed along your email to contributor Sara DeRosa, who stands in currently on the television series Gossip Girl.  I’ve also provided my thoughts; I’ve been doing stand-in work recently on The Big C.

– The Editor

Response from Sara DeRosa:

Sara DeRosa

I would definitely say complexion before body structure. I have been on one stand-in interview where body type was a consideration, but otherwise I have not really encountered this. I would say that complexion is more important for lighting purposes, and differing body structures are easier to work around (given that the stand-in is the same height as the actress).

However, I have been on stand-in interviews where the production is looking to hire a stand-in who can also photo-double for the actress. Therefore, the stand-in would have to closely meet the measurements and sizes of the actress in order to be able to fit into the same clothing the actress will be wearing. But complexion would still be very important when considering a person for photo-doubling.

Response from Ben Hauck:

Ben Hauck

In most cases, ultimately whose decision it is what person works (and continues working) as the stand-in for an actor is the director of photography, also known as the DP.  There are other crew people who decide whether a stand-in keeps a job (e.g., the assistant directors), but the DP is a person the crew wants to keep satisfied by providing “tools” like well-matched stand-ins for doing his or her work effectively.

Some DPs really care about a very close match between actor and stand-in because the closer the match, the easier it is to accurately light and set up a shot with the stand-in, without having to make adjustments when the first-team actor steps in.  Other DPs don’t really seem to care who stands in, as long as there is a body to light and around whom to set up a shot.

Given the importance of lighting, I would think DPs would end up being pickier about complexion over body shape.  However, body shape in terms of facial shape tends to have importance given that different faces cast different shadows.  Someone with a facial shape that matches the actor but not necessarily the complexion or body shape may end up getting the gig.

Another important quality is height, which probably ranks around the same as complexion if not more.  Body shape may be more important of a factor when it comes to extremes: If you’re slender to stand in for an obese actor, or vice versa, there is probably less chance of continuing the gig.

But on the whole, in agreement with Sara above, it seems to me that complexion > body shape would generally be the selection principle.