Over the summer, TMZ published photos of a boy on the film Good Boys, being shot in Vancouver, Canada, and produced in part by Seth Rogen. TMZ reported that the boy in the photo was a “stand-in,” angling that the boy was in “blackface.”

In a later article on TMZ, Rogen took responsibility as a producer for the event and apologized.

Here are some reactions from Stand-In Central to the event, as well as its reporting.

Was the Boy Truly a Stand-In? …

It is unclear from the article whether the boy was truly hired to work as a stand-in or instead to work in a different job, such as a photo double or a stunt double.

What’s important to know is that a stand-in does not appear on camera — the stand-in’s work is behind the scenes during the setup of a shot.

A photo double is someone who appears on camera in place another actor and is used instead of that actor in a shot.

Therefore, if the boy was only hired for the setup of shots, and was not going to be on camera, then he truly was a stand-in. But if he was to appear on camera, at very least he was a photo double.

… Or Was He Some Kind of Double?

Given that this production was in Canada, it is not clear whether this production was shooting under SAG-AFTRA’s Theatrical Agreement. But that contract is helpful for context because it differentiates the different typical kinds of doubles you will see on set. Notably, the contract distinguishes photo doubles, body doubles, and stunt doubles.

Under that contract, in zones like New York City and Los Angeles, a photo double is basically a background actor who is being asked to do photographic doubling. That background actor receives a slightly higher rate than a background actor in doing the photographic doubling.

A body double is basically a photo double, yet the pay is at a much higher rate than what a photo double makes. A body double makes hundreds of dollars more than a photo double under that contract. In fact, a body double is categorized as a “performer” (aka a principal actor) under that contract, while a background actor under that contract is not categorized as a “performer.”

In terms of job requirements, the distinctions are not contractually clear between what body doubles do differently from photo doubles, but usually a body double is used in nude scenes, so the rough implication is that a body double is more like a “high end” photo double.

A stunt double is also paid hundreds of dollars more than a photo double, and is also contractually classified as a “performer.” As the name implies, a stunt double performs stunts in place of another actor during a shot.

The Media Misclassify Stand-Ins and Doubles Frequently — So Did They in This Case?

Stand-In Central has long reported here and here that the media often confuse the professional difference between stand-ins and photo doubles — often at risk of wrongly directing ire toward the actors so represented by these workers.

Not knowing more from TMZ’s original article, but based on years of experience standing in on films in New York City, it would come as no surprise to find out that the boy was not working as a stand-in but instead was working as a photo double or possibly a stunt double on Good Boys.

Adults Usually Stand In for Kids

For one, based on experience, it is not likely that a child would be hired to work as a stand-in for a child actor.

Instead, it is more likely to find an adult of similar stature as the child actor hired as the child actor’s stand-in.

For example, if a child actor is 4’9″, standing in for that child actor would likely be an adult actor under five feet tall.

There are a number of stand-ins who regularly stand in for children. Very likely all of these stand-ins are adults.

Child Labor Laws Can Necessitate Hiring Photo Doubles

Because of child labor laws, child actors can only work on set for definite periods of time before they “pumpkin” — meaning, the time they absolutely must wrap per labor laws.

Therefore, if a scene involving a child actor takes longer to shoot than the time the child actor is available to work, some productions will hire a photo double for the child actor to work after the child actor is wrapped.

This photo double will likely be a child of similar age and appearance as the child actor.

Furthermore, this photo double will likely have a different, likely later call time than the child actor. That way, when the child actor wraps, the photo double can set up and represent the child actor on camera in the scene and not have to wrap at the same time as the child actor.

This arrangement is made possible often because productions will favor first shooting the shots wherein the child actor’s face is visible. After the child actor wraps, the photo double will work often in turnaround shots, wherein, for example, the photo double can be shot from behind so it’s not clear that the child actor is not working in the scene.

Stand-Ins Are Rarely So Made Up

It would be more likely that the boy depicted in TMZ’s photos is a photo double — given the “fat suit” the boy is reported to have been wearing, the reported wig he is wearing, and the reported makeup he is wearing.

Usually stand-ins do not go through so much wardrobe, hair, and makeup preparation in order to stand in, as it is usually unnecessary. Instead, stand-ins occasionally wear what is called “color cover,” which is usually a piece of wardrobe merely similar in color and style to the wardrobe the actor is wearing, rather than being completely decked out in the actor’s same outfit.

With respect to hair, some stand-ins with distinctively different hair colors from their actors may elect to wear wigs in order to land or secure a stand-in job, especially when hair color is important to the director of photography. Some stand-ins will actually build up a stock of wigs to expand their stand-in opportunities, especially when their real hair is distinctive.

However, stand-ins wearing wigs is a relatively uncommon practice. Stand-ins typically are hired with a hair color matching their actor, or dye their hair to match, or simply wear their hair differently to approach the style of their actor — if hair color even matters at all to the DP.

Some DPs may want their stand-ins to match the skin tone of their respective actors, in which case stand-ins with similar skin tone are hired. Some female stand-ins may choose to change their application of makeup in order to better match the skin tone of their respective actors, but this is done mostly only when it really matters to the DP and the change is more or less subtle, not dramatic.

“Painting Down”

With respect to stand-ins who are persons of color, within SAG-AFTRA’s Theatrical Agreement is a passage about “painting down.” It reads:

The practice known as “painting down” is presumptively improper; the Producers will continue their dialogue with SAG-AFTRA and the stunt community on this issue.

“Painting down” is an uncommon and controversial practice of hiring usually white stunt performers and applying makeup to their skin so that they may double for an actor who is a person of color.

The above contract language is aimed at stunt performers in particular (read: not necessarily other doubles). SAG-AFTRA explained in a post on its website on May 23, 2018, about stunt practices and standards, more about what is meant by the term “painting down”:

[T]here are continuing concerns about the troubling practices of “wigging” stuntmen to double for female actors and “painting down” white stunt performers to double for performers of color. The standards direct stunt coordinators to report to the union all violations of SAG-AFTRA agreements committed by the production.

While is it unlikely that a child would be hired as a stunt performer, it is possible. Given that the TMZ article reports that the boy’s father was “a longtime stunt performer himself,” it is imaginable that the father’s work as a stunt performer may have led to his son also booking stunt work and thereby working as a stunt double — but nothing in the article makes that sort of claim.

With respect to propriety, SAG-AFTRA’s contract language does not define what is meant by the term “painting down,” but its stunt standards lay out the impropriety of white stunt performers doubling for performers of color. That is, it’s unclear where SAG-AFTRA stands on the propriety of drastically changing the skin tone of stunt performers of color to match actors of color — only that the union has a standard about changing the skin tone of white stunt performers.

That said, the shock of even seeing a child of color wearing makeup to dramatically change his skin tone presumably to match his child actor is real. It would seem that the outrage, coupled with Rogen’s apology, that any kind of “painting” of doubles to better resemble another actor is improper, no matter if the double is white or a person of color.

What Should Have Been Done?

Insofar as propriety is a value, the first answer in the case of hiring a double for an child actor is to hire a double who best matches the child actor. In this case, hiring a double whose skin tone is similar to that of the child actor appears to have been important, as altering the double’s skin tone is not proper.

Obviously, wardrobe and hair departments can address differences between the double and the child actor, so the double’s body type (if considerably thinner) or the double’s hair (if not styleable to match the child actor) is easily addressed without causing outrage.

In the event of difficulty in finding a suitable double for the child actor, it would seem that in the interests of propriety, the child actor may need to be used as much as possible on camera as not to invoke a double. Or, scenes need to be shot in a way as not to invoke the involve the child actor at all, so that doubles are not needed.

In the case of needing a stunt double for the child actor, the issue becomes even trickier when a production wants to remain proper. But perhaps those are just one of the many creative challenges filmmakers face, and their facing them is worthy of honor and respect.

In Conclusion

While it is unknown whether TMZ accurately reported in its article the job title of the boy depicted on Good Boys, it would seem based on experience that more than likely he was working as a double rather than a stand-in.

If he was working as a photo double, it borders on offensive to apply such dramatic makeup to his skin to have him better match his child actor. A better match should have been hired.

If he was working as a stunt double, the offense is even more egregious, with the caveat that the painting of white stunt doubles is more explicitly the target of industry derision than the painting of stunt doubles of color.

In other words, it may not be clear in SAG-AFTRA contract language what kinds of “painting down” are improper, but the union’s subsequent standards for stunts suggest the impropriety is when white stunt doubles are used rather than stunt doubles of color.

That said, it is nearly as shocking to see a person of color subjected to a dramatic makeup change in order to resemble another actor of color. A better match should have been hired.

Stand-In Central finds the images disturbing. If the boy was working as a double, they are disturbing enough, but if the boy was working as a stand-in, there are so many more reasons why the images are disturbing — because these stand-in jobs are usually filled by adults, not children, and these jobs don’t usually require so much attention to detail such as makeup, hair, and wardrobe.

One Final Thought

This film has a storyline that may for some reason justify why the boy was dressed and made up as he was in TMZ’s photos. Given that Rogen did not offer that as an explanation in his apology, it is probably unlikely the film’s storyline justifies dressing the boy in such a way. But it is always helpful to keep in mind when seeing disturbing things on a set that tells a fictional story, there may be an explanation for those things in the storyline.

How did you react to TMZ’s articles? Share your opinions in the comments below!