So you’ve landed a long-term stand-in gig. Maybe it’s for a pilot. Maybe it’s for a television series. Maybe it’s for a feature film. Whatever the project, you want to know more!
This means it’s time to research. Here are some ideas for researching your next stand-in gig, so that when you step on set the first day, you’re as acclimated as you can be.
Check the Internet Movie Database
For starters, when landing a big stand-in gig, you’ll want to head over to the Internet Movie Database, otherwise known as “the IMDb.” It has information about many projects that are prepping or in production — not just movies. From there you should be able to get some major information about your project.
Namely, look out of this information:
- Find out names of the director, actors, director of photography/cinematographer, assistant directors, producers, screenwriter, et al. This information will really help you start to conceptualize the production and whom you’re working around, especially if there are star names attached to the project.
- Read any news linked to the project’s IMDb page. News may give you a better sense of who is in the production since the IMDb page usually does not have the latest information on a project starting to shoot.
- Visit IMDb profiles of people in the production to have a sense of their experience and/or acclaim. Memorize faces if photos are provided for when you get to set. Knowing faces ahead of time will help you translate the many personages you come across on set that first day. You will also know whom to pay attention to!
- Find out shooting locations. Casting may not have informed you where the production is shooting. You might not be traveling with the production, but then again, you might!
Check Twitter, Instagram, Etc.
From time to time, production people will post information on social media about their production. Follow some of the important people in the production if they are on Twitter and/or Instagram so you can keep tabs on the production and know what’s going on. For example, you might want to follow:
- The director
- The actors
- The DP
- The producers
- The screenwriter
Since they are your immediate bosses, you might not want to follow ADs.
As a stand-in, you are usually relatively anonymous if you follow before your first day you work. If you follow after the first day, your following may become obvious to the crew member. It may not really matter, but then again, it might be a concern of yours.
Make sure to look back over crew members’ older tweets and images in case production and pre-production information is already out there. Photos of production or pre-production — scouting photos, studio sets, etc. — may give you a sense of where you’ll be or what you’ll be up against when you’re standing in on the production.
Facebook is another resource for finding information about your project. Simply enter the name of a television show or movie in the search box on your home page and you will find pages dedicated to the project.
But because pages are usually created by fans or by studios (in the form of “fanpages” and “groups”), most likely you will only find information about television shows and films that are already in production. Most pages list information such as release dates, plot outlines, actors, directors, writers, and links to the official IMDb pages and other sites for the project. Because these are fanpages, there are usually a lot of photos and posts on the main page about the show that encourage discussions.
As far as searching for and “friending” people involved in the production goes, you should be careful about doing so before you start working on a project. Generally, a person shares more personal information and photos about their life on their Facebook page compared to other social media sites. They may have a smaller social circle on Facebook reserved for people whom they know personally. Even just sending a message to a crew member whom you don’t know on Facebook before you begin working on a production may not be a good idea. Facebook can be a great way to keep in touch with people you work daily with on a set — but after you are established at your job or after the production wraps.
Search for Information
When searching for information about the production:
- Search the news (e.g., Google News) for stories about your project. By the time you join the production, very likely there very are some news items about the production, especially the deals and cast. The information you find may be great fodder for general searches (e.g., using Google).
- Read any casting calls you find when doing a general search for the title of the project. You may get a better sense of the cast, characters, mood of production, locations, etc., from casting calls.
- If you know the location, do searches for the production and the town it will shoot in. Local news articles or local websites might give even more insight into the production.
Read Magazines and Books
While the internet may have abundant information about a project, you might find more specialized information about a project in trade publications, especially if they are behind paywalls and thereby outside the reaches of search providers. The Hollywood Reporter may be an informative periodical to help you better understand your project.
Or maybe your project is based on a book? Read the book to have a sense of what might happen during your stand-in gig!
Consult Background Casting Websites
Casting Networks, Actors Access, NYCastings, and even local Craig’s List portals will spell out the needs for background talent for a project, and as a result they may provide further insight into the production. You might learn the conditions under which you’ll be working as well as location and other information from background casting websites’ casting calls. (You may need a paid registration for the sites to review their information.)
Consult the Union Website
The SAG-AFTRA website may also have information about the production, especially if there is not a lot of information on the IMDb. Review the production listings on the site for your region (Los Angeles or New York) if you’re a member of the union.
Here are some things to look for in the production listings:
- Read the production listings for contacts.
- Note where the production is shooting.
- Take note of the casting directors assigned to the project.
- Also take note of the payroll company in case that is important information for you for filing unemployment later on.
Words of Caution
As with most stand-in gigs, confidentiality is expected and sometimes enforced. It is possible to lose a stand-in gig if you talk about it online. Therefore, be careful about blogging, tweeting, posting, etc., about the production ahead of time. While information you mention may already be public, it may be more professional to avoid bringing attention to yourself publicly online about working on the project.
Use the information you find out about the production to fill in any holes you might have about your first day on set. However, keep in mind that film is usually fiction — a work of imagination — so anything can happen. Your work might not be as predictable as logic about what will be shot might imply.
Ahead of time, you may want to make some purchases of stand-in equipment (cold-weather gear, warm-weather gear, wet gear, etc.) to prepare yourself for the conditions. Keep in mind you might not keep the job or you might mispredict your equipment needs based on the above information, so be careful not to spend unwisely in preparing for your stand-in gig.
Also keep in mind the information you find online may be wrong or outdated.
How do you prepare for big stand-in gigs? If you have some guidance, post it below!