Stand-ins in TV and film don’t just work in climate-controlled environments on sound stages. Frequently, stand-ins work outside in the elements — often for very long days and very lonely nights.
During the winter months, this means stand-ins may be faced with twelve hours or more of work outside in cold weather, snow, and other harsh winter conditions.
If one thing is for certain: An ill-prepared stand-ins is a miserable stand-in!
Because casting directors don’t typically tell stand-ins what to wear when it comes to preparing for outdoor winter work, it’s critical for stand-ins to know what winter work outdoors may be like and to arrive to work prepared for these challenging conditions.
Here are some tips from Stand-In Central when standing outside in the winter months.
Let’s start with footwear — because many stand-ins find that when their feet get cold, an inescapable misery sets in that is very hard to shake.
Assuming that your budget is tight, you want your winter stand-in footwear to accomplish multiple things for you. So, when looking for footwear for winter stand-in work, look for winter boots.
But not just any winter boots! Look for winter boots that have the following characteristics:
- insulation – Above all else, your stand-in boots need to keep your feet warm for hours and hours in cold weather. Assume you’ll be standing in in 15°F weather for six hours at a time. Will your footwear do a good job toward keeping your toes warm over that period of time? Read reviews of boots before you buy. (It may help to read reviews of boots written not by the general public, but by customers of outdoors companies because they tend to require more from their footwear.)
- waterproof – Standing in outside during the winter could mean snow — or rain. Whatever the precipitation, if your feet get wet when it’s cold, you’re going to have a tough time escaping the chill. So, make sure to purchase boots that will not only keep you warm, but also will keep you dry.
- tread – When you’re wearing boots, you might be a little clumsier, especially if it’s icy or snowy. Look for boots that have a durable tread so that when you encounter a slippery patch, you don’t fall down. However, stay away from metal spikes because they could damage a set.
Of course, when we’re talking warm footwear, we can’t forget the importance of socks! Warm socks are almost as critical as warm shoes when it comes to standing in.
When choosing socks for winter stand-in work, it may help to double up no matter the advertised warmth. Merino wool socks (such as SmartWool® socks) tend to provide excellent warmth, so it’s a good idea to at least stick to those as an option.
However, merino wool socks are not a cure-all for keeping your toes immune from freezing. It certainly doesn’t hurt (and tends to pay off) by wearing at least two pairs of socks when standing in outside in cold temperatures. For example, you can layer two pairs of merino wool socks (such as an ankle sock base and a full sock over it) or tights covered by a pair of wool socks (or two!).
Some TV and film productions offer toe warmers and sometimes foot warmers to the cast and crew. These are disposable pads that affix to your socks, providing hours of warmth soon after taken out of the package. The warmth they provide can be sometimes for the bulk of the day. However, toe warmers and foot warmers can sometimes provide spotty warmth. Strangely, they tend to heat up more noticeably once you are inside, providing only marginal help when you are working outside.
Some stand-ins affix toe warmers on their socks under their toes, while some affix them on their socks above their toes (with some stand-ins doing both!). Toe warmers and foot warmers may help your feet stay a bit warmer, but they tend not to be a failsafe when it comes to standing in for long hours in the cold.
Most sets these days have at least toe warmers on set when it’s cold out. However, if you can’t depend on a production to provide them, make sure you keep a supply on hand — perhaps stuffed in your trusty coldweather coat!
Now that we’ve covered your feet, let’s look to the next most important region to keep warm: your upper body!
It may be wise to invest some money in a very warm coat. By doing so, you spare yourself a lot of suffering when standing in in the cold, and your future self will thank you immensely for taking care of yourself when other stand-ins are in misery working outside.
By investing money, we mean considering spending $500-$1,000 on a warm coat. While that might be ridiculous for some stand-ins’ budgets, it could make a big difference in the warmth the coat provides and the warmth the stand-in feels over a long day. Obviously, though, don’t assume price means warmth. And keep in mind that stand-in work sometimes involves lying down on the ground or in less-than-ideal conditions, so if you buy an expensive coat, understand that you might suddenly be faced with getting a little dirty in it — even the first day you wear it on set.
Down coats tend to provide excellent warmth, so they may be a feature to seek out. Longer coats tend to provide greater warmth than waist-length coats, but they may also restrict your movement as you walk in a second-team rehearsal. If your coat has the ability to cinch around the waist, you may be able to keep in some body heat.
When it comes to coats, like socks and even overshoes, the layering strategy is very helpful — and it can even help out a coat that’s not great in terms of protecting you from the chill. When building layers, you might want to strategize by wearing a warming layer closest to your skin, and above that, a wind-breaking layer. Not all winter coats break gusts of wind, so a wind-breaking layer beneath your winter coat may give you some extra “armor” against the chill that comes on windy stand-in days.
You will also probably want to make sure your coat is waterproof, in case you’re stuck outside in snowy conditions all day. You certainly don’t want to end up soaked!
At that, you will probably want to make sure your coat has a hood. When you are standing in, you might not be allowed to wear your hood, but when you step away from your mark, you can put it back on.
As far as those base layers are concerned, if you are well protected by your winter gear, you may not have to worry as much about shirts or other kinds of tops.
But of course, a warm shirt plus a sweater or sweatshirt will definitely help keep you warm underneath your coat. If you have a turtleneck, you may give yourself a bit more warmth around your neck.
At that, Uniqlo’s wide range of HEATTECH products may surprise in providing added heat in the base layers. HEATTECH products are lightweight, and they actually warm up when worn! Uniqlo makes HEATTECH products for both men and women.
You also want to think about your pants when standing in in cold conditions.
A tried-and-true help for stand-ins is ski pants, which usually provide not only cold but also wet protection, along with some wind-breaking ability.
But don’t get caught with not wearing pants under your ski pants! You want to make sure you wear something underneath your ski pants, especially in case you have to stand in inside later. Otherwise, you might be stuck in bulky and overly warm bottoms!
Last but definitely not least, gloves. When standing in, your hands might be the first body parts to get really cold, especially if you have to have them out in order to write down notes on blocking or if you keep checking your phone for messages or texting.
Getting as warm of gloves as you can will be a big help to you as you also check your phone. With that said, gloves that have the ability to let you use your smartphone without taking off your gloves may be a productivity boon.
Fingerless gloves may mean you can keep your fingers together for the warmth they can give each other, but they may make you less dextrous. Some fingered gloves have pullovers to make them into mittens, which may provide a bit added warmth.
We reviewed an inexpensive but effective pair of warm gloves by OZERO here.
Other Items for Warmth
If your winter coat doesn’t have a hood (or even if it does!), you may want to have a trusty hat for warmth. In general, stick to something without a bill so your eyes can be clearly seen without shadowing. Keep in mind you might be asked to take it off from time to time.
Earmuffs are also incredibly important, because they can be quick to become painfully cold like fingers and toes.
A scarf can cover your neck, which some coats don’t protect very well. A low-profile scarf will probably serve you better as a stand-in working on camera than a bulky one.
USB-rechargeable batteries are not just for cell phones these days. Now, clothes such as gloves, socks, and even jackets can have electric power via USB-rechargeable batteries that really give legitimate and enduring warmth — at least for as long as your battery allows.
Amazon even showcases a number of USB items that are simply advertised as hand warmers, which you hold for the heat they give off.
When buying USB batteries, look for high mAh, but keep in mind that the higher the mAh, usually the heavier and larger the battery. A decent capacity might be 10,000 mAh. But if you want these to serve not only as your heating but also as a backup battery, you might want to go higher (yet heavier).
If you work 12-14 hours in the cold, keep in mind that a typical USB battery may shut off at the coldest part of your day. So, understand how long your battery will last at the power of heat you require, and consider having a relief or backup USB battery on hand.
When it comes to selecting colors for your outer layers, you generally cannot go wrong in choosing black. That muted color tends to work better for stand-in work than vibrant colors or pattered layers. With that said, if all you have is a bright coat with a patterned hood, wear it to work! You must ultimately think about your safety and protection in the elements.
Because you are working as a stand-in, you might be asked to wear color cover when you are working in the cold. In general, do your best with it. Don’t strip off your warm layers to accommodate a tight shirt that offers no warmth to you. Instead, find some way to roughly accommodate it. Being asked to wear color cover in cold weather may be a bit of an “overask,” but if you are asked to wear it, see how you can do it safely and warmly.
So what’s “cold”?
Truth be told, some stand-ins are more sensitive to the cold than others, meaning some will become grumpier faster than others when in the cold for prolonged periods of time.
In general, start considering some of the above strategies once the temperatures dip below 50°F. Around that temperature, things start to feel pretty cold when you’re outside for a long period of time and not moving around much — and especially if it’s windy. Definitely get more serious about the cold when it gets closer to 40°F. When you’re working in the 30s, all of the above apply. When you’re in the 20s and below, a misstep in terms of your cold-weather gear could yield a real problem for your comfort and safety.
When it comes to standing in in the cold, it usually serves you better to overdress than to underdress for warmth. You might be inclined to think you can “tough out” the cold, and thus wear not as many warm clothes or protection to get you through your day. Generally speaking, you will likely regret this approach. Stand-in work is often not very movement heavy, so you may become a “dead duck” for getting cold without your blood moving. That misery may set in even within the first hour of your work, and if you are in the cold for 12-14 hours (especially when it gets colder at night), you may end up a shivering, cursing wreck.
So, fight those inclinations to underdress for the cold, and instead try to overdress. You can strip off layers if you did truly overdo it. But chances are, you’ll hang on to as much warmth as you can. And when you can do this, you might even find yourself comfortable when you stand in outside in the winter months!
What is part of your gear for keeping warm when standing in? What anecdotes do you have from standing in in colder conditions? Share in the comments below!