When you work as a stand-in on a television show or film, you will usually be told that you are “crew.”
That is, while you may have come into the production via a casting office, and while you may be held where background actors are held, you aren’t considered “merely” a background actor. Instead, you are told you are considered “crew.”
While it is common to think of stand-ins as “crew,” in a number of ways they aren’t full-fledged crew members. In truth, stand-ins are more like “quasi-crew members” — they seem like crew members but are not really.
Here are some of the ways that most stand-ins meet better the qualification of “quasi-crew member” than full-fledged “crew member.”
Basic Shooting Information Does Not Trickle Down to All Stand-Ins
When you are working on a set as a crew member, you are more than likely privy to information that all other crew members get. Notably, you will be handed or emailed callsheets at wrap, you will be given preliminary callsheets to see what the plan is for the next shooting day, and you will have access to information about the shooting schedule.
Certainly, some stand-ins are privy to this information — especially many stand-ins who work every day on a particular project. But definitely not all stand-ins are privy to this information. Notably, stand-ins who are simply day-playing or stand-ins who work on and off on a project do not get prelims or callsheets, so they do not get basic shooting information. On some productions, stand-ins will even be barred from having prelim or callsheet information.
Many stand-ins don’t have access to shooting information outside of whatever information they can patch together from casting, from fellow stand-ins they may have networked with, and from information given to background actors working that day. Not all stand-ins are resourceful enough to patch together any information about a shoot, and many stand-ins simply show up ignorant of what is to be shot that day.
So, because many stand-ins do not get access to basic shooting information, stand-ins are not really crew members.
Shooting Conditions Do Not Trickle Down to All Stand-Ins
Most crew members, because they have advance information, are dressed appropriately for the conditions of their work. Because they are privy to basic shooting information, they will know whether they are shooting interiors, exteriors, or a combination of the two.
Crew members will also know that they should, say, wear tick spray for shooting in the woods or rain gear for shooting under a rain machine. If they are shooting outside in the winter months, they will know just how much winter weather gear to bring because they will know whether they are shooting partially or fully exterior, whether they’ll be shooting all day in the cold or only part of the day, whether they are shooting in snow, and whether they are shooting in or near open water.
While stand-ins working daily on a project may have this information, for stand-ins working as day-players they usually don’t have access to any of this information. Casting may not pass along information to wear long pants because of ticks, so a stand-in may report in shorts and have to deal with the risk. Likewise, casting may not pass along the extent of winter exterior work, so a stand-in may not have proper footwear to endure both the cold and the wetness of snow. Stand-ins without advance information about working under a rain machine may destroy both their footwear and their personal electronic devices (like a smartphone).
In truth, many stand-ins show up unprepared for extreme shooting conditions, and other crew members wonder why these stand-ins are unprepared. This is largely because stand-ins get their information from casting rather than directly from the production, and casting isn’t giving them specific information about their shooting conditions. To a large extent, the only information about shooting conditions many stand-ins get is whether they are shooting interiors or exteriors.
Because stand-ins regularly get so little information about shooting conditions — and frequently show up unprepared relative to the other crew members — stand-ins are not really crew members.
Safety Information Does Not Trickle Down to All Stand-Ins
Safety is a much talked-about issue on film and television sets these days, and rightly so. Many productions hold safety meetings at the crew calltime or at a new shooting location in order to protect crew members from dangers or unnecessary accidents. A number of productions will also announce what to do in case of an emergency in order to keep track of crew members should, say, a fire break out.
If stand-ins are in with the crew, they may be at any safety meeting held at crew call. However, if a stand-in is in far after the crew calltime, then more than likely that stand-in is not privy to safety information announced early in the day to the crew. Should a fire break out on set, that stand-in will likely not know that the crew is to, say, assemble across the street in the parking lot to be accounted for.
For crew members not in the proximity of the meeting, sometimes a walkie will simultaneously broadcast the meeting so that those crew members on walkie can hear. While most crew members have walkies, stand-ins are almost never given walkies on shoots. So there is little chance stand-ins could hear a safety meeting unless on set with the crew.
Because stand-ins aren’t always privy to safety information (and partially because stand-ins don’t get walkies), they are not really crew members.
Stand-Ins’ Names Are Not on the Callsheet
Nearly every crew member is named on a callsheet. The back of the callsheet lists every crew member working that day.
However, stand-ins are not listed on the back of the callsheet. Instead, they are listed on the front of the callsheet. And at that: Stand-ins are not listed by name. Instead, they are listed by number. That is, if you are standing in for Ben Hauck that day, and Ben Hauck is listed as 1 on the callsheet, you won’t be listed by your name. Instead, you’ll be listed with the stand-ins as SI1 or simply 1. Stand-ins’ names are rarely disclosed on the callsheet.
While there may be practical implications to not listing the stand-ins by name on a callsheet, leaving stand-ins’ names off the callsheet can mean their work on the project remains relatively anonymous. While some stand-ins may be fine with working anonymously, stand-ins can dedicate much of their lives for a period of time working on a project, working intimately with the DP, the camera crew, and even the director, and many would appreciate being recognized as an equal crew member.
Being recognized as a crew member on a callsheet allows other crew members to know what your full name is and that you are a full-fledged member of the crew. Being left off the callsheet can mean your name is more easily forgotten and that you’re a stranger to the crew.
So, because stand-ins are not named with other crew members on the callsheet, stand-ins are not really crew members.
Stand-Ins Are Left off Access Lists
Not being recognized by name on the callsheet can cause problems when shooting on location. Security personnel at sensitive locations may use callsheets (or lists composed from callsheets) to identify crew members as they try to access the location. If stand-ins are left off such lists, they may have difficulty accessing the sensitive location, delaying their arrival to set for, say, a marking rehearsal.
The recently approved 2014 SAG-AFTRA Network Television Code addresses this issue for stand-ins on some television projects, in a sideletter that reads:
Producers will use their best efforts to provide [access] credentials to stand-ins that are substantially similar to the credentials that are provided to other freelance employees on the same production. In addition, the parties agree that should SAG-AFTRA believe that stand-ins are not receiving appropriate credentials, it may request a meeting with the Producer to discuss its concerns, which the Producer agrees to consider in good faith.
It is to be seen how that sideletter is carried out or enforced. That said, its creation is a signal that there is a history of stand-ins not really being considered crew members.
Stand-Ins Are Rarely Credited for Their Work
Being left off the callsheet may play a role in stand-ins’ rarely getting credited for their work on a project. While occasionally you will see stand-ins showing up in the credits for projects, more likely they are left off — even if they were there every day of a shoot.
However, other crew members — even crew members who worked only one day on the production — will frequently still get their names in the credits. If stand-ins are crew members, and if they are crew members who worked every day on a project, then why are other crew members who worked merely a day on the project receiving credit but stand-ins no credit?
While awarding credit is at the discretion of producers, it seems unlikely that producers devalue stand-ins so profoundly as to refuse to offer them credit over a crew member who worked only one day. Instead, it seems more likely that stand-ins are not really crew, so they are not found on the lists of crew members when credits are compiled, so stand-ins are frequently forgotten when credits are awarded.
In truth, if you want to see the names of stand-ins for a project, you would need to look at the skins (a list of the stand-ins and background actors working on a project for the day). Background actors are rarely credited for their work, and since stand-ins are lumped with background actors on the skins, it is understandable that stand-ins may be overlooked for crediting. That is, stand-ins are considered more like background actors in terms of crediting and so are not really crew members.
Stand-Ins May Be Left out of Wrap Gifts
Similarly, because stand-ins are not really crew members, they may get left out of lists of crew members deserving of wrap gifts. Many productions award wrap gifts to their crew members — commonly a clothing item of some sort embroidered with the name of the production. While stand-ins may be remembered to receive gifts, sometimes they fall between the cracks and are forgotten, especially if they are not on set on the last day of shooting.
Stand-Ins May Not Be Invited to Wrap Parties
Many productions host a wrap party near the end of shooting or just after. A production may want stand-ins to attend but never overtly invite them as they would another crew member — perhaps because stand-ins are not privy to email communications from the production. Not for lack of desire for their attendance, stand-ins may get left out of the invite list for a wrap party.
Or perhaps production doesn’t want the stand-ins to attend. It happens. Whatever the case, when it comes to wrap parties, sometimes it seems that stand-ins are not really crew members, especially when they do not receive invitations.
Stand-Ins Are Not on Crew Lists
Many productions will compile an exhaustive “crew list” — a document that includes the contact information and titles for all of the staff and crew who worked on a production. Except stand-ins. Stand-ins don’t have a formal department, so they aren’t represented on crew lists.
What this means is that should a crew member want to reach out to a stand-in for future work, it will be difficult to reach that stand-in, especially if the stand-in is only known by first name. It also means that if the crew list is used as a means for reaching out to the crew for invitations, gifts, etc., stand-ins will be left out of that correspondence.
All in all, that stand-ins are not on crew lists is another reason why stand-ins are not really crew members.
What to Do about It
If you work as a stand-in, and if you assume as a stand-in you are a full-fledged member of crew, you will find some of the above scenarios playing out, leading you to believe that you are not really a crew member but more like a “quasi-crew member.”
That said, using this information you can protect your interests in order to assert your “crew” status when needed.
Given the above inequities between stand-ins and full-fledged crew members, when working as a stand-in you may need to be proactive in:
- making sure you get preliminary and callsheet information
- getting information from casting or production (or others who know) about your shooting conditions
- getting information about safety on set
- guarding against any access issues when shooting on location
- getting credited for your work as a stand-in
- getting a wrap gift
- getting a wrap party invite
- getting your contact information to crew members for future work
Keep in mind that some productions will definitely remember their stand-ins and treat them very well. Other productions will not, and it’s not necessarily because they have anything against stand-ins — it’s more that they presume stand-ins are as informed as other crew members when, in fact, they are not.
When you trust that stand-ins are not really crew members — they are “quasi-crew members” — you can better guard against being left out of privileges full-fledged crew members get.
Can you think of other ways stand-ins are not really crew members? Or do you disagree with the term “quasi-crew member” for a stand-in? Share your opinions below!