If you stand in on a number of different productions, you’ll gain enough experience to realize that not all stand-in experiences are alike. One job may not be very demanding of your abilities, while the next job may require you to be hypervigilant and on your toes.
The collective of stand-ins on a set is referred to as “second team.” If you stand in on a number of different productions, similarly, you’ll gain enough experience to realize that not all second teams are alike. Most of the time the second team will only be a “team” in the loosest sense, but some of the time second teams will function like a true “team”: working together toward a common goal.
Here are a few tips for when you find yourself on a set with a second team that needs to function as a true “team.”
Teamwork during Marking Rehearsals
On some sets, you might be more or less a utility stand-in, meaning you stand in for multiple actors. If an entire second team is more or less utility, then any of the stand-ins might end up standing in for any of the actors in a scene.
In such a case, an AD may tell you before marking rehearsal which actor you’re standing in for in the upcoming scene. But this is not always the case. In such cases when you don’t have AD instruction, it helps production if the stand-ins are proactive and decide among themselves who will stand in for whom in the upcoming scene. Ideally, these decisions among second team are made before marking rehearsal so that there is a pair of stand-in eyes on one and only one actor during marking rehearsal and so that all of the actors’ blocking is watched in the rehearsal.
In divvying up the actors the stand-ins cover, skin tone and gender are usually the first characteristics for determining which stand-in is covering which actor. If there are several black actors and one white actor in a scene — and if that is the racial profile of second team — then naturally the white stand-in would watch the blocking of the white actor. If there are two male stand-ins and one female stand-in, and if a scene has only one female actor, then the female stand-in would naturally cover the female actor.
The next characteristics for determining which stand-in is covering which actor would likely be height and/or general body type, meaning the tallest stand-in would cover the tallest actor and the shortest stand-in would cover the shortest stand-in. If body type is a more striking characteristic, then perhaps the largest stand-in would cover the largest actor, but probably only if their heights are somewhat comparable.
If there are more actors than stand-ins in a scene — a rare event but one that can happen — then it becomes important for second team to determine which actors they are going to watch. Looking at the sides for the scene, it may make the most sense for one stand-in to watch the blocking of actors who do not interact in a scene because then that stand-in would not be forced to stand in for two actors talking to each other. Second team may not have this luxury in a scene, though, so in such a case it may be that second team needs to divvy up actors and do their best at notating the blocking of more than one actor.
It may even help when second team is highly outnumbered for each stand-in to settle on a main actor to watch and also watch several of the lesser actors in a scene, even if there is some overlap in the actors the stand-ins watch. Such “double coverage” of actors during a marking rehearsal may help in informing the stand-in who ultimately stands in for the lesser actor what that actor did during the marking rehearsal.
Triangulating Blocking Notes
A second team may also function in the true sense of the term “team” when it shares blocking notes among the others of second team.
For example, sometimes one stand-in may miss some or even all of what her actor did during a marking rehearsal. If other second-teamers notice that this stand-in isn’t at marking rehearsal or can’t see, then watching out for that stand-in, taking in her actor’s blocking, and sharing that blocking with her after marking rehearsal is an example of true teamwork.
Other times — especially in scenes with complex blocking — stand-ins may be uncertain what their actors actually did during marking rehearsal. The second team who prides teamwork will help those stand-ins needing some assurance and get those stand-ins up to speed. Rest assured if you’re on a second team who prides teamwork that you can ask another stand-in what she saw in hopes of fleshing out exactly what happened during marking rehearsal.
The above presumes that all of the stand-ins on second team are working to the best of their abilities. A stand-in who isn’t carrying her weight or watching marking rehearsals can detract energy from a second team needing to work as a true “team.”
Stepping in When a Stand-In Has Stepped Out
Occasionally second team will be excused from set and legitimately step off, only to be called back to set moments later. A needed member of second team may be missing. A stand-in who is still on set and who appreciates teamwork may address the sudden need for a missing stand-in by stepping in in place of the missing stand-in while the ADs locate the missing stand-in. Doing so tends to let the crew continue to set up and light the shot rather than be delayed by the search for the stand-in.
This is to say that this is done when appreciated. In some situations it may not be appropriate for some reason to step in for a missing stand-in. It usually doesn’t hurt to help, though — simply making yourself present and asking if you can be used may be all the teamwork you need to exhibit.
If some second-teamers are caught standing in while craft service brings out hot food for the crew, they may not get to have any of the hot food. Stand-ins not involved in the shot do their fellow second-teamers a huge favor by checking on the food options, checking with the stand-ins being used to see what they’d like, and getting these stand-ins food while they’re working.
A second team that can’t seem to get away to eat when other crew members can may make for an irritable, hungry, or even desperate set of stand-ins. Looking out for the interests of other stand-ins especially when they’re working is another way a second team can function as a true “team.”
Sharing Calltime Information
Not all stand-ins are privy to preliminary calltime information or advanced schedule information. When a second team functions as a true “team,” they help the other stand-ins know about the possible calltime for the next day or advanced schedule information that may impact their workweeks.
In general, this information is better asked-for than freely given. That is, second team may function better if it does not give out this information unless asked for it by another stand-in. This allows for the stand-ins on set to concentrate on their jobs than on informing stand-ins not on set about unconfirmed information.
Also, second team may function better if off-set stand-ins don’t demand tons of information from on-set stand-ins. Usually upcoming information is expressed via text, and texting while on set may burden the concentration of the on-set stand-ins.
In some cases, using a smartphone to take and text a high-definition photograph of the prelim, the advanced schedule, or even the callsheet for the next day may be the most efficient way to pass along scheduling information to other stand-ins on second team.
Take caution in forwarding such information, though, because doing so may be against the interests of production and such photographs can be passed along out of your control to parties who best not have this information. Get assurance from a stand-in you’re sending information to that it won’t be shared, and avoid sharing information with stand-ins whom you don’t know or trust.
Second teams that work as true “teams” save productions money in allowing shots to be set up and lit efficiently and quickly. Where second teams don’t function as teams, time is spent getting all of the stand-ins in place and up to speed, sometimes burdening the camera department or other members of the crew.
Have some more insights into how second teams can improve their teamwork? Have you worked on a high-functioning second team? If so, share below!