If you are new to being a background in movies and television, then there is a few things you should know. Some of them may seem obvious, but they are nevertheless true most of the time. No job is alike, and you will be experiencing all sorts of workdays, so it’s best to be prepared.
Here’s some quick lingo to make you seem more profesh:
BG: Background – you.
Wardrobe: Yeah. Costumes. But also, the whole department. They may yell wardrobe around quite often, and most of the time it won’t pertain to you. But listen up just in case. When you arrive, after check in they will tell you to “GO TO WARDROBE”, look for some people with clothing racks and hangers. 😉
BASECAMP: That’s where you meet at the beginning and end of the day. Look for Star waggons, trailers, tents and people with Walkie talkies. If you are confused, ask for BG checkin. Its usually by an impromptu setup with a wonky table under a tent with someone handing out papers.
Camera ready: DRY hair, combed, not looking like shit. It doesn’t have to be “styled” but some shows are particular, so it can never hurt to straighten or curl if your a lady, or just put some products in and tidy up if you’re a man. Also, powder your face. Makeup isn’t always required, but both ladies and gents can do with powdering your face so you’re not shiny on camera. Ladies, bring your makeup tho.
HOLDING: This is the place where all the BG will sit, and WAIT for hours throughout the day. It can be a hallway, it can be a set of a police office, it can be a room, it can be anything. Get there early, look for plugs on the wall so you can set up a charging station and settle in. LOOK FOR CHAIRS! – Secure yourself a chair ASAP, before they run out and you’ll have to sit on the floor.
Crafty: This is a place you want to know where is! It’s got Coffee, water, snacks and sometimes food. Have low expectations ALWAYS, and find yourself surprised when they have an elaborate spread with kale-chips and shit. Normal – standard Crafty – Your basic coffee + Tea + Water needsAmazing Crafty, with Shitloads of snacks of all variety, healthy and unhealthy + all sorts of beverages.
Walkaway Lunch: You ain’t getting fed lunch, most likely anyway. It means that you can walk away to a local restaurant or cafeteria and buy your own. You have an hour usually, so you can do whatever during that hour, and you don’t HAVE to walk away.
Meal penalties: If you have worked 6 hours, and NOT been given food, And I don’t mean the “food” at crafty, but a MEAL, then you get a meal penalty, and if you are non-union, that means an hours pay. So, $12 basically. Put it on your voucher, because some AD’s forget.
PA: Production Assistant, a person with a walkie who’s usually a person that you can ask all your questions to. They usually assist AD’s, but there are PA’s for all departments, so make sure your questions are relevant.
AD: Assistant Director, a person with a walkie, who most likely is in charge of you. This is the person to ask questions to AFTER, you ask a PA. Do NOT however, ask the 1st AD a question (The person yelling, Quiet! Rolling! Background! Etc.) They are WAYY too busy.
Here are some of my MUST have’s for background work:
- Phone, with Portable Phone chargers, preferably two! Often you won’t be able to plug anything into the wall.
- Headphones, oh so important! And try to get ones that isolates the sound, so you don’t bother the other BG behind you.
- LAYERS! Sweaters, socks, blankets, whatever you are willing to bring with you. 98% of the time, holding is FREEZING, and sometimes set is cold too – and you will want to keep warm. Bring some layers to put over your wardrobe when you are in Holding. This is also good in case you end up having to sit on the floor, so that you don’t dirty your costume.
- Garment bag – Wardrobe will HATE you if you come with crinkly clothes smushed together in a bag. Keep them as nice as possible, and a garment bag helps that a lot, and it looks professional.
- Backpack – For the love of god, it’s better to overpack! In this backpack you can bring everything that you need +++
- Journal/notepad – I often find myself coming up with ideas around set and in holding, and I like jotting them down as they come, and maybe do some doodling when I get bored.
- PHOTO ID – always bring it. Just in case.
- Water bottle – Sometimes you don’t get into holding for a while, and have to hang around random places. And sometimes they don’t have water at Crafty for a long time either, and you don’t want to die of thirst.
Here are some of my highly RECOMMENDED items for background work:
- Ipad – preferably with keyboard. If you like to get some work done while getting paid, there is no better way, unless you wanna go the whole way and bring your laptop. Also, an Ipad is great for watching Netflix on 😉
- Book – Yes, anything you can bring to entertain yourself, is a GOOD thing. And why not get through the classics while you’re getting paid?
- First Aid Kit – Staff usually have First aid on set, but I like to bring one for smaller things that I don’t want to bother them with, I like stuffing it with things like some ibuprofen for a headache, allergy tablets -just in case, bandaids for a paper-cut etc.
- Sewing kit – In case you rip something of your own. (If you are given wardrobe, they will take care of everything) You will usually be wearing your own clothes, over and over, and it has happened several times in holding where someone comes in and has ripped part of their costume, and I’ve lent them my sewing kit.
- Camping chair – if you have a car (I get to location via public transportation – so I cant carry that much) And you are seriously going to do a LOT of BG work, it’s not a bad idea to get a cheap camping chair, as there are plenty of times that there aren’t enough chairs and you’ll end up sitting on the floor.
Just remember to come to work with a mindset of – anything can happen. You can sit in holding for 8 hours and NOT be used. You can be picked up from Holding as soon as you sit down and end up in a hospital bed in an operation room, and lie there still for five hours while they work on someone next to you. Be prepared for anything. It’s ALWAYS best to be OVER prepared. Bring lots of layers, socks and all the stuff in the world you can drag with you to entertain yourself. Be patient, entertain yourself, and try not to get fat on crafty. Have fun, and feel free to comment below with any questions, or things I forgot to list! 😀