Working Background

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Working Background

By Katie Doyle, CSA

Hawaii Casting Director

Katie Doyle 

When prepping for principal or background actor casting, we look for folks who have an understanding of the basic technical components of a television or film set, and who can follow production rules and instruction. Of course, everyone needs that first opportunity, and working as a background actor is a good way to get familiar with what actually goes on in the world of film production. 

The technological advances in our industry have impacted every aspect of film/television-making. The pace is faster and the stakes are higher than ever before, which translates into multitudes of schedule changes that affect everyone, including the background actors. This can be very frustrating — especially since the casting department is often the last to receive the information.

It used to be the exception to the rule when large-scale schedule/shooting changes occurred. Now, changes are the accepted norm. The casting department relies on advanced technology and good old-fashioned telephone-calling to keep up with the daily/hourly changes given to us by production. But, if you want to work in this industry and stay sane, it’s best to be adaptable. If you don’t want to do background work, say so. 

If you want to work, here is a quick reminder to use these very basic tools: 

VOICEMAIL: Make sure your voicemail is set up and able to take messages. So many times we get a recording that says, “This user’s voicemail is not set up.” We can’t hire you if we can’t reach you. Please check your voicemail regularly — especially if we are in production. (See above regarding "changes.") 

EMAIL: Have a simple email address that you use for business and check it regularly. You need to check your trash, junk mail/spam folders to see if our correspondence has been sent there — especially in the beginning of a project if your system doesn’t recognize a new email address.

EMAIL REPLY: Reply to emails that require replies with the proper information in the subject line so your email won’t get lost.

READ the email we send and print out your maps and wardrobe instructions so you have them handy — we give background actors a lot of information. It’s frustrating when you call with questions about something that has been clearly explained in the email. 

HOTLINES: Numbers and procedures vary from production to production — as a general rule, it’s good to check in the evening after posting time and then once more in the morning before you leave the house. Most often, these are not set up to receive messages, so please follow the instructions given to you at the time of booking.   

And that’s a wrap.