There are a lot of benefits doing background work on a feature film. Below are a couple DO’s and DON’Ts:
1. Make sure you’re available all day.
The casting notice for background work will always stress the importance of all day availability. A typical shoot day can be between 10-14 hours, and if it’s an overnight shoot, they will say so in the notice.
I recently did some background work and there was another actor there who said she had just started acting. While in holding, she talked with the other actors and they gave her advice on which casting websites worked best for them, what photographer they used for headshots, etc. But near the end of the day, literally with about an hour and a half left, she was fed up with “sitting around” and wanted to go home. Her attitude stank and she returned her wardrobe and left in a huff because she was bored. Not only did she piss off the crew, but she also won’t get paid since she quit and left her voucher (unsigned) behind. It was all for nothing, not to mention that the casting agency will likely not hire her again.
2. Come prepared.
If the casting notice says to arrive with hair and makeup done, or to bring outfit choices: do it. There might be a hair and makeup artist on set to do touch-ups if needed, but don’t rely on them to do it all for you.
Also, bring something to do when you’re not on set. The majority of your time spent will be in holding, so bring a book, a magazine, a crossword puzzle…hell, I brought my knitting last time I worked and not only was it something to pass the time, but it was also a great conversation starter.
3. Be social when you’re in holding.
This is a great opportunity to meet other actors and make connections. You’re already here working, so it’s easier to navigate “shop talk” than if you’re at a party or event. Networking can feel sleazy and unnatural at first, so doing background work is a great place to perfect the art of shop talk without coming off as desperate or egomaniacal.
4. Have a story when you’re on set.
Sure, the focus isn’t on you as you’re not the ‘A talent’. But you are an actor, so give yourself a reason to be where you are for the scene.
1. Don’t be rude.
This is pretty good life advice in general, but you’ll be around these people for a while so come in with a good attitude. It’s pretty silly to complain about anything when you’re getting paid to hang out all day, you get a free meal and snacks from the crafty, and you get to work on a professional set. Check the ‘tude at the door, please.
2. Don’t talk on set.
If you’re told to be quiet while on set, then be quiet. Especially if there’s a lot of actors, what seems like harmless small chatter can easily grow loud. Trust me, you will have plenty of time to chit chat in holding. Additionally, if you’re near a celebrity, don’t ask for a photo or an autograph. This should be common sense, but this is work not a publicity event.
3. Don’t flex your ego.
I’ve said it before: have a good attitude because you’re stuck with these people all day. Don’t be the person who brags about how many instagram followers you have, what celebrity you’ve worked with, what designer you’ve modeled for. No one cares.
4. Don’t take photos on set.
Aside from professionalism, whatever you’re working on could involve spoilers. The last job I did, we were instructed not to take photos or videos on set because they wanted to keep the details of the plot and cast underwraps. A few years ago, I auditioned for a web commercial for Google and I had to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) just for auditioning.
In summation: be nice, act like a professional, and have fun!