Calling for Second Team by Micaela Lozano & Jan Skene

Experienced ACTRA members working Stand-In provide a hugely valuable service to productions, and also reap the advantage of intense time on set. With their long hours and front and centre positions, they are exposed to incredible learning opportunities from high level actors, crew and creative – not to mention the benefit of a regular pay cheque!

Micaela Lozano, ACTRA Manitoba Councillor and YEAA Chair, has had the opportunity to do Stand-In work recently and views it as a great supplement for when you’re not acting in front of the camera. Micaela interviewed some of our ACTRA members who regularly work Stand-In and put together a list of their #1 Tips as well as a Stand-In Primer for anyone interested in pursuing this type of work.

Quick tips from the experts

Always watch and listen! Hit your marks, keep the pace of the actors’ walks and actions, and keep your eyelines with your partner. Pay attention to details, such as which hand the actor used to pick something up.

– Micaela Lozano

Read the sides. When I read the sides before I watch the blocking, it gives me a better sense of the actions in the scene. Essentially it makes the blocking easier to remember. And watch all the takes, as things can sometimes change.

– Pam Iveta

My number 1 tip is to pay attention! No daydreaming or talking on your mark.

– Trevor Russell

Learn the terminology. Become a team with your other stand-ins and have each other’s backs. Be professional.

– Jenn Mauro

Watching crew blocking is essential. Always be within earshot when they need you.

– Alexis Erickson-Sliboda

Your job is to make the filming day more efficient. It’s an important position; a stand-in often has the most direct influence on how well a camera operator’s day goes. Anyone can be told what to do and then do it but a reliable stand-in must pay attention to the point where they KNOW what to do without being told. The better attention you pay, the better you will be able to point out actions, actors’ positions, or even dangers that the camera department may have missed or overlooked. If a stand-in isn’t actively involved in setting up the shot, they are easy to be replaced.

– Chris Thompson


In the IPA a Stand-In is defined as a “Performer engaged to physically replace another Performer and whose duties may include reading lines of dialogue for blocking purposes during a setup period.” Daily rates for Stand-In work are shown in C101 of the IPA.   

Stand-In Tips by Micaela Lozano 

• You usually get information pretty last-minute in film, as things are always evolving.  

• Read the call-sheet and necessary information before sleeping the night prior. Arrive early enough to park, get settled on set, and have time to spare before your call-time.   

• Have a water bottle and proper shoes to stand all day. If there are cold exterior scenes, dress for the weather and stay safe!  Check the sides and know if your day involves serious outdoor scenes and extreme temperature.

• Pack a range of shirt colours as options to change and match with the actor you’re standing in for. Don’t wear dark colours like black, unless the actors are for that scene.  

• You can use wigs. Try to match the actor’s height (appleboxes or different size heels). 

• Be respectful of everyone and do not be distracting or distracted. Chatting, specifically during set ups or shooting is absolutely not allowed.

• Phone must be on silent or off. Do not bring valuables to set, although be prepared with anything you might need for your day’s work and downtime.

• It’s important to always be watching every specific action the actors do and their marks in the crew blocking. You can take notes. 

• Hit your marks, keep the pace of the actors’ walk and actions, and keep your eyelines with your partner (don’t look down or away too much while they’re setting up). Pay attention to details, such as which hand the actor used to pick something up. They set up the lights, camera angles, focus, and shadows with you in place of the actor, so it’s crucial to do it exactly like you saw it and as you are directed.

• Learn technical set lingo, such as “Move camera left”. 

• Always pay attention and anticipate when you will be needed. Learn to listen for the cues of when you are about to be called on set: “checking the gate”, “moving on”.   By the time they call “Second team” and before “Turn Around” you should be standing by. Time your personal needs accordingly, though there can be a lot of down time.  

• Watch the actors as free acting classes, and/or watch the director and crew setting up as free filmmaking classes. 

• You’re a valuable member of a cohesive team. Never hesitate to call your ACTRA representative if conditions on-set are not safe or if you feel you or your fellow ACTRA members’ rights are being violated. Your union is there to protect you.

BONUS tips from Pam Iveta

 • An important tip to remember: when you’re standing in, someone is always watching you. Just because you can’t actually see someone looking at you or looking through the camera, doesn’t mean they aren’t somewhere else looking through a monitor at the shot. This one can sometimes be easy to forget!

• Here’s a good one: “water off a duck’s back”. People are focused on their own jobs and responsibilities; remember that, and try not to take anything personally. Keeping a positive attitude – that is key.

• No matter how many shows you work on there is always room to learn and grow. Every show has its own unique vibe, and being able to listen and adjust is an asset.