Last week I had the experience of standing in in an indoor pool. This week I wanted to share some tips should you find yourself standing in in an indoor pool or other body of water.
More than likely, if you’re to be standing in in a pool, you will be cleared to do this kind of work via the background casting office. Casting will likely make sure that you’re comfortable working in water. For my recent gig, casting cleared me at the very beginning before the camera test, then they confirmed with me closer to the date.
Should you be asked if you’re comfortable working in water, my first bit of advice is to be 100% honest about your comfort level working in water. Standing in in water is a completely different experience than standing in on dry land, and it puts dramatically different demands on your body. What likely is implied when you are comfortable working in water is that you can swim, float, and perform basic actions when in the water. What may also be implied is that you are in good enough shape to handle a day’s worth of work in water, and that you’re comfortable working in a bathing suit or wet suit.
If you could not handle working theoretically 8-12 hours in water, cannot swim or tread water, or cannot handle cool water temperatures for extended periods of time, I would strongly recommend not saying that you are comfortable working in water. The potential risk of misrepresenting your comfort in water is that you find yourself in a situation much more demanding than you can realistically handle. You probably don’t need to perform a butterfly stroke or tread water for 30 minutes without rest, but you will probably need to be able to swim without fear and handle cool water temperatures maturely. When you’re standing in in water, often you will need to be in one place in the water, which means your body is not as active as when you’re moving or swimming, meaning that you will likely start to get cold even if the water is a comfortable temperature when you get in.
Preparations in Advance
If possible, seek the date(s) you’ll be standing in in water from casting or from production. Knowing this will help you prepare in advance for the physical and mental demands such work may have on you.
If you have a relationship with the wardrobe department, in advance of the pool work, ask what color cover would be appropriate for that day. Confirm that the swimwear that you own will be appropriate color cover for standing in, or if the wardrobe department will be providing you with swimwear. For my recent job, color cover was my own buttondown shirt and my own swimtrunks.
If you provide your own color cover that is not truly swimwear (like a shirt or pants), make sure you are comfortable working with it in water that may have chemicals in it. In my recent gig, the chemicals in the pool dyed the principal actor’s wardrobe on contact, while my own clothing used as color cover was fine.
The wardrobe department may offer you a wetsuit to wear for standing in. If they do, I would strongly recommend wearing a wetsuit. Given that you will likely get cold in the water, the wetsuit will likely give you additional warmth which will extend your ability to work comfortably.
Also, check with wardrobe to see whether they will be providing you with a towel and a robe. When you are standing in in water, you will probably be getting in and out of the water, which may eventually saturate your towel and/or robe. You might want to check with wardrobe to see if you should bring additional towels or your own robe, or if they will be providing dry towels or dry clothes for when you’re not standing in in water.
Finally, ask what the most appropriate footwear would be. Should you wear aqua socks when in the pool, or can you be barefoot? Keep in mind that even if you may be barefoot in the pool, you will probably want to have shoes to wear when you’re out of the pool considering the injury risks heavy machinery around the pool may pose for you.
Preparations the Day Of
With the above information, you will know in advance if you need to, say, purchase a swimsuit, buy a towel, get appropriate footwear for the pool, etc. The day of your pool stand-in work, make sure you set aside what you need. Some of what you need might include:
- Your swimsuit
- Your wetsuit (if you own one to use)
- Your color cover
- Your own towel
- Your own robe
- Footwear (flip-flops, aqua socks, etc.)
- Dry clothes for lunch or long breaks
- Dry clothes for when you’re wrapped
- Sunscreen (for exterior pool work)
- Goggles (if you need them)
- A bag for your items
- Bags for holding your wet clothes (I used plastic grocery bags)
- A lock (if you suspect there will be lockers to use for storing your belongings)
- Conditioner or moisturizer (if your hair or skin is prone to drying out from the chemicals in pools)
- An umbrella (if you suspect there will be little relief from the sun when you’re out of the pool)
What to Expect
For my recent gig, the blocking was not too challenging to match and it only involved one actor. But a scene in a pool may require you to watch for a whole different set of factors when you’re watching your actor and the scene in rehearsal. Some things to watch for in rehearsals are:
- The absolute position of your actor in the pool
- The relative position of your actor in the pool (that is, relative to the other actors)
- The amount of your actor’s head or body that is out of the water at a given time
- The swimming strokes your actor uses in the scene
- The amount of splash and direction of splash your actor gives in a scene
- The kind of entry your actor has to the pool (a dive, a cannonball, a jump, etc.)
- The amount of time your actor is underwater (in seconds or beats)
- What your actor is doing underwater (if there are underwater shots)
As added insurance, you may find on the day that there is a person listed as “Water Safety” on the callsheet. This person’s job is to stay in the water and monitor the in-water activities. The day I worked, a full-time fireman and SAG member was hired for Water Safety. He had with him a flotation device (a bullet-shaped buoy) and was there to aid in case of an emergency.
When you’re standing in in water under a union contract, you will likely be eligible for wet work, so you will experience a bump in your base stand-in rate for the day.
If you are asked to swim and not simply stay in place when you are in the water, you may be eligible for special ability pay, which is an additional bump on your base rate for the day.
If the work is particularly demanding, you might request additional compensation for the work, or you might consult with your union representative to negotiate an additional bump for you. (I would only advise doing this if the demands on you are serious or are comparable to a stunt.)
Standing in in an indoor pool was an exciting and physically taxing day for me. While the water felt comfortable when I got in, and while I handle cold temperatures fairly well, I quickly got chilly when I had to stand in in the water in one place for a while. When I got out of the water, I would immediately shiver even though the air temperature wasn’t cold. I learned that since the temperature of the pool is considerably lower than 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, eventually you’re going to get cold and for that reason a wetsuit is advisable when standing in in the water. (I had worn swimtrunks and a buttondown shirt with no wetsuit.)
My day didn’t demand much swimming–mostly standing still in a few different places (which also induced shivering). However, my day demanded of me a lot of listening. In the middle of an indoor pool, there is a lot of sound bouncing around and it can be hard to hear if someone is talking to you and where from. I’d advise keeping your eye on the DP (director of photography) or possibly the 1st AD when you are in the water because they are the most likely to communicate with you when you’re in the water. Also, the camera operator will talk to you, so if you can keep tuned in to the camera operator, you probably will have little problem losing focus when in the water.
Even if the cold is distracting you, you need to keep aware of your position in the pool when you’re standing in. On my day we had a crane mounted with a camera looking at me much of the time, which at times was sensitive to my movements. Then we added manual waves that would crash around me, which added bodily stress especially given the cold. The stress of standing in in the water may weaken your discipline, so realize you may need to buckle down and toughen up when you’re standing in in water.
All in all, though, I’d love to do it again. I found myself wanting to do more activities than just standing in place in the water. As the day wore on, I found myself dreading the water a bit given the cold, but I didn’t share that feeling and I got in the water whenever commanded. Overall, it was a great experience–surprising, physically stressful, but offbeat and interesting–and I’d hope that if you’re a serious and committed stand-in with an interest in this kind of experience, that you get the opportunity to do it sometime.
Have you stood in in water before? What kind of water work have you done as a stand-in? Share some of your experiences below!