As you probably know, TV/film stand-ins during the coronavirus pandemic now wear face masks while they work.
This is in contrast to their corresponding actors, who don’t wear face masks while they work — at least when on camera.
Stand-ins are used largely for lighting the actor just right. Face masks, however, change that formula.
One problem with many face masks is color. Many sets require stand-ins to wear KN95 masks, which are usually hot white on camera and reflective, causing frustration for DPs trying to light a shot.
Thus, many stand-ins take to double masking. This is done not so much for safety, but instead to cover over the white mask with a less vibrant color.
Flesh tones are popular among stand-ins as a “color cover” mask over top a white KN95 mask. Black masks are also a rising trend, though they may also have problematic implications in absorbing light when lighting a shot.
When I heard about Maskalike in 2020, I signed up for its mailing list to find out when the product would be released. Almost as soon as the company went live, I ordered a Maskalike mask.
I was pleasantly surprised by the effects of wearing a Maskalike mask. I even wore it when working as a stand-in.
What is a Maskalike mask? How does it impact TV/film stand-in work? Here I’ll tell you more!
What Is Maskalike?
Maskalike is the brainchild of Danielle Baskin, a self-described “product designer, situation designer, visual artist” as well as an entrepreneur. Surveying examples of her art, Baskin’s work strongly features humor and visual puns. In fact, her promotion of Maskalike as a product involved making a truly hypnotic gif of her taking on and off her own Maskalike mask, only to reveal and hide her own face as if nothing ever changed:
Maskalike masks take your own photo and put it on a mask. Surely, there is some “magic” involved in getting your face to look “just right” on a mask. The product finally came out in November 2020. By early December 2020, I was in possession of my own Masklike mask for about $30, and I gave it a try on a couple different stand-in jobs.
Initial Reactions to My Wearing a Maskalike Mask
My reaction to putting on a Maskalike mask for the first time and looking in a mirror?
It astounded me how Maskalike took the photo I sent (taken specifically for the mask, to Maskalike’s specifications) and transformed it into a mask. As I looked into the mirror for the first time, I was impressed by how seamless the mask looked with my whole face. Nine months into the coronavirus pandemic, I hadn’t realized how much I missed seeing my face when I had a mask on. Now looking in the mirror wearing my Maskalike mask, I knew I was wearing a mask, but I also suddenly had some humanity that I’d lost since becoming an (obedient) slave to mask-wearing.
Also, almost simultaneously, my reaction was laughter. It was FUNNY how uncanny the correlation with my actual face the Maskalike mask was. The feeling is hard to describe, but I imagine most other people putting on their Maskalike mask for the first time would have a similar reaction.
As far as others’ reactions, my Maskalike mask definitely turned heads and caught people’s attention. At my stand-in job, immediately many crew members remarked about it and stared at it.
What was the most common sentiment others had? Well, my Maskalike mask was “creepy.” Yes, creepy! That said, it seemed to be generally appreciated and liked, almost in the same breath. It was novel and funny. Only a small handful of people seemed to keep getting tripped out by my Maskalike mask. One person even told me that when he saw me on set, for a second he thought, “Who’s the asshole not wearing a mask?!” From not very far away, wearing my Maskalike mask wasn’t very obvious.
In public, reception has been great! In a snowy walk in the park this week, not once, not twice, but three times people said “Cool mask!” to me. Twice I’ve had restaurant workers ask me for the URL for Maskalike (http://maskalike.com). I had an older woman on a subway platform come up to me express her appreciation for my mask. I was even crossing a busy pedestrian crossing when someone across the street was signaling to me for some reason, and as we came closer to each other, in passing she was looking at me in support for my mask! It wouldn’t surprise me if people in public or on the subway took secret photos of my Maskalike mask.
On the flipside, I had a dentist seem humorously uncomfortable with the uncanniness of my Maskalike mask, so much that when I went back for a followup appointment, I actually consciously decided not to wear it as not to upset her! Not that she was truly disturbed, but I wanted to honor that maybe something inside her did feel terrified by the somewhat realistic-looking mask. I didn’t want to upset her needlessly.
Issues with Maskalike Masks for Stand-Ins?
Eventually, my main stand-in job required all stand-ins to wear black face masks. While this was largely because bright-white KN95s were causing lighting frustration, I had to wonder if maybe my Maskalike mask was an issue, too, perhaps being more distracting than helpful when lighting a shot.
I can’t know whether my Maskalike mask played into the change to black masks. But even after my short run of a couple weeks wearing my Maskalike mask on set, as soon as it was gone, crew members noticed and asked me where it was! It seemed they’d really liked it, even if it was “kinda creepy.”
I also stood in on a photo shoot, bringing my Maskalike with me. Photo shoots aren’t unionized and there are no universally recognized mandates that stand-ins wear masks when working. Sure enough, only half to my surprise, the production, a few camera clicks into standing in, asked me to remove any mask while setting up the shot. So my Maskalike mask didn’t really pass the photo-shoot test.
(Photo shoots are much more particular about lighting than TV/film shoots, and the attention to detail is so resounding, wearing a mask messes with client understanding of a shot — at least from what I’ve found. I probably could have worn any mask and been asked to remove it, not simply the Maskalike mask.)
About the Maskalike Mask
The Maskalike mask is large enough to cover a KN95 mask almost completely, so it makes for a great “color cover” mask.
It features black straps that are loose enough as not to irritate ears, as well as an adjustable strap at the back for comfort and fit.
As for match to my skin tone, my Maskalike mask was much more orange than my skin tone. Plus, it featured some dark “whiskers” concentrated around the edges of my mask that weren’t in the photo I provided.
That said, they didn’t seem to impact the reception of my Maskalike mask. For some reason, it all still seemed to “work.”
Granted, if I were to get another Maskalike mask, I would like for a closer match to my skin tone. To the right is the photo I submitted. It passed the specification requirements and is the basis for this Maskalike mask. When I sent it, it didn’t strike me as “orangy,” but looking at it again with fresh eyes, it does seem the mask was close in color to the submitted photo.
(I guess my advice would be to make sure your lighting provides you with a photo that matches your skin tone as best you can get it, but it won’t make that much of a difference if it’s a bit off. It’ll still be a cool mask!)
I would recommend a TV/film stand-in to consider the $30 price as reasonable for a great tool when standing in during the pandemic.
As just mentioned, follow the specifications when creating a photo for your Maskalike mask.
Also, consider what expression you’d like on your mask! I decided I wanted a light smile — the exact expression I have in my submitted photo. That way, the mood communicated by my mask was positive but not over the top (as might be with a large smile). I didn’t want a neutral or sad expression, because wearing that expression a lot might have more negative environmental consequences. (Maybe if you stand in on a drama or or for a sad character often, that might be a better purchase for you.)
As a stand-in, you might consider getting a Maskalike of your actor’s face (the one for whom you regularly stand in). That’s your call. Myself, I think it a better use of your money to go with your own face. Plus, it might be hard to get a great photo of your actor to use as a base for your Maskalike mask. I have no idea how much “creepier” you wearing the mask of your actor would be, but Maskalike does already sell masks of certain actors in its curated collection!
When wearing your mask, you may want to check it out in a mirror or your phone to make sure it is aligned perfectly on your actual face. When the Maskalike mask overlaps your face “just right,” the effect is optimal. When your Maskalike mask is moved out of alignment, the experience of your mask is a bit stranger and the effect not as pronounced. You may want to affix some Velcro inside your Maskalike so that it can adhere a little better to any mask you might wear underneath it.
This is to say, I would also recommend double-masking when wearing your Maskalike, as these are not medical-grade surgical masks. In particular, I’d recommend a KN95 mask underneath your Maskalike — mainly because of the KN95’s effectiveness as a mask, and also because the Maskalike works really well at covering up the KN95 entirely, leaving almost no visible bright white.
Final Thoughts about Maskalike
I love I bought a Maskalike!
When I bought mine in November 2020, it arrived about two weeks after ordering, which wasn’t bad considering the customization of the Maskalike mask and the likely attention the company was getting then.
Even though I don’t use it on my regular stand-in job anymore, I may bring it out again as I pop in on other sets to stand in. Of course, I can also wear it out and about in public, for a little more humanity amid the public health guidance on mask-wearing.
You can order your Maskalike from its website: http://maskalike.com
Have you ordered a Maskalike for stand-in work? What do you think of its viability as a tool for TV/film stand-ins? Let us know what you think in the comments below!