I get questioned all the time about acting and filmmaking, so I thought I would finally put my thoughts and experiences out there for everyone to read about. I’m not bragging or anything, so please don’t take it that way, but I get random emails and people asking my family all the time about how I got into it or how I find out about things or what it’s like and how to get their children in acting or modeling… so I’m going to try to answer some of those questions here and maybe give a little extra insight into the world of film. This will more than likely end up being a continuing series, so follow the blog and stay tuned for more!
So the #1 question… how did you get into acting?
Well, like every actor typically says, I’ve wanted to act my whole life. I used to do skits with my sister in our living room when we were little. I carried my moms giant handheld VHS Camcorder to film my sisters ballgames. I even helped film a morning talk show for my elementary school. As I got older I naively thought I needed to pursue a “more responsible career,” so I attended college. Wom Wom. I quickly realized I couldn’t avoid it and ended up attaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature with a minor in Film & Video studies from Georgia State University. My film & acting courses in college were the best I could’ve asked for. I sometimes wish I would’ve went ahead and double majored just to take advantage of some more film courses, but I was too eager to graduate. After graduating and going through the typical “what now?” phase I started applying for extra roles in film. Yes, the fleas of the film world. I sent off for a couple and then sort of forgot about it. I started working for some family friends and trying to get my feet on the ground. Then, randomly one night I got a call asking if I could make it for a “featured role” and had no clue what I was getting into, but of course I said yes! (This was back before Atlanta’s film scene exploded/in other words, there were no walkers yet). Come to find out I was actually selected by the director, Jason Ensler (fantastic guy and wonderful director!) to work close to the actors on the pilot episode of TNT’s, Franklin and Bash. He asked me to come back and film a few more scenes, so for the next few days I stumbled upon what I would say was the absolute best first experience on a “real set” ever! From my other experiences I can definitely say that if I had been on other sets I may not have really fell as hard in love with the filmlife as I did on that set. From there I started doing other extra work and then started applying to be a stand-in. I took everything very seriously and treated it as work, fun work nonetheless, but work. I realized if I could make this work for a while I could be a sponge and absorb tons of information. So, this is what I did.
What is a Stand-in?
If you aren’t familiar with what a stand-in does, it is basically someone who is close in looks, hair color/eye color/skin tone/height to the actor and they stand in place of the actor while they get their hair or makeup done. There are lots of things that go on during this time. The camera crew is setting up lighting, props, positioning, trying to get their timing down for the shots, ect., so they need someone there to basically pretend to be the actor. This was me for quite some time! It is tough and no, it’s not very glamorous. Typically your day is 12+ hours. Sometimes this starts at 7am sometimes at 7pm-yes that means you are working from 7pm-7am… all night baby! You always have to be close to set, but not too close to be a nuisance and every time you hear “second team” belted out you have to jump up and get in there, because that means YOU and everyone is waiting for you to jump in and you don’t make a film crew wait. You have to listen! You aren’t supposed to talk anyway on a set, because people are working hard and besides you should be there to learn, so you have to listen and observe and be ready when called upon. Lastly, you have to tune out the other extras or stand-ins that don’t realize these things. I’m guilty of chatting some, but some extras and stand-ins want to be heard, naively thinking they will get some sort of pat on the back or big break, instead they will get the boot. I’ve seen it happen. You aren’t seen as an actor, so be an observer, be a sponge and soak it all in, so you can learn and get paid a little at the same time.
There are some other perks too! You get fed a catered meal every day at 6 hours in on the dot! If you get there early you will usually be fed breakfast and in between you can fall into the black hole at the crafty table. -Just stay away from it! I feel like I should coin the phrase film newb 15 just like the freshman 15 in college, because people can pack on the pounds while chowing down on a film set. You also get to work closely with the actors and crew. I’m not one of those people that goes gaga over people that are famous, but I’ve been very fortunate to meet some very awesome and genuinely talented individuals. Out of everyone I’ve met I would say Paul Rudd has a very nice presence. He lights up a room!
I should also mention if you are lucky as a stand-in you will be asked to photo double as well. I can sum up the difference pretty quickly. A stand-in is there when the camera isn’t rolling. While a photo double is there, in the scene in place of the actress when the cameras are rolling. Typically a photo double will be riding in a car or doing a shot where the actors face isn’t shown or isn’t shown clear enough to tell it isn’t him/her, or doing a simple action -laying a pen down, typing…I’ve been Jennifer Aniston’s feet underneath the covers in a shot with a horse walking in the bedroom. Talk about weird. Being directed to jerk your feet a certain way is pretty strange. Oh and the horse too…
So, this is how I got my start! Baby steps! Still waiting for that big break… and that big paycheck! Where is that thing anyhow?
I’ll post a few of my full-time stand-in / photo double gigs below, because that may be interesting to somebody. 🙂
Ashley Benson-Christmas Cupid
Faith Ford-Field of Vision
…and that W Walker on the tree in Season 5 of The Walking Dead… that was me! A photo-double job for a dead body turned into a walker awakening promptly being stabbed in the head by Daryl Dixon. So, don’t always rule out some small roles turning into some pretty neat gigs.