Celebrity: The Life of a Hollywood Stand-In
Jessica* is a sweet, stunning gal who spent time in L.A. as an actress, and as a stand-in for a famous, A-List celebrity, Alison*. Read more to find out what the Hollywood life is really like, and whether the perks are worth the drama that goes along with the job...
*Names have been changed to protect privacy
Dani: Hello lovely! Thanks so much for taking time to do this interview. I think we all kind of love an inside glimpse into the inner workings of Hollywood.
Jessica: Hi Dani! It's certainly my pleasure! I appreciate you asking me to be here.
Dani: Being a stand-in for a famous actress is one of those jobs that sounds quite glamourous – true or false?
Jessica: Well, I wouldn't call it a "glamorous" job, however, it can be quite fun when working with a good cast and crew. Being a stand-in means just that. You are standing in as a similar body and build as the actor/actress who is doing the scene that is being set up. It takes a lot of time and work to set up the cameras and lighting for each scene, so they will use stand-ins in place of the principle actors. This way, it gives the actors a break, and time to prepare for their scene. What I did find most interesting about being a stand-in is that it gives you the opportunity to see what actually goes on behind the scenes, while learning about how movies are made. There is so much involved in making a movie that most people don't realize. The amount of time spent on setting up each scene, the numerous amount of crew members from various departments that it takes (not including the cast), and of course, the abundance of money that is needed to pay for it all!
Dani: How did you come to be Alison’s stand in?
Jessica: My agent at the time submitted my picture to the assistant director who was searching for a good match for her, and I was lucky enough to get the job!
Dani: Walk us through a typical day on set as a stand in…
Jessica: A typical day is waking up at the crack of dawn, usually before the birds, to get myself ready to head to the set. The call times are typically very early. A driver will usually pick us up at a designated location and bring us to where we need to be. Once we arrive on location there is a caterer there to serve us breakfast. It’s a rush to eat and then it’s time to get to work! To begin, we meet with the wardrobe department and the director to go over the scene and to pick out our outfits, which need to be as close to the looks and colors of what the principle actor will be wearing, as to get the lighting just right for the camera shots. Once dressed, we go onto the set where the crew is diligently working to get the lighting, the camera angles, the microphones, and the scenery just right. We work with the director and the Director of Photography, AKA the “D.P.”, to figure out where the actor’s marks will be. The “marks” are the pathway in which the actors will move and stop during the scene. This is almost always planned before each scene so that the cameras and crew know where to be. The D.P. will then work with us to adjust the lighting and the cameras to precisely where he/she decides they should be. Once this is all figured out, the principle actors are called out to watch us stand-ins walk through the planned scene, and then they do their thing! Most days are very long, and most always go into overtime, as several scenes may be filmed in the same day. When you’re a stand-in you must always stay close to the director, as you never know when you will be called on to step in, as different ideas often pop into their heads. Once the day of filming is over, we head back to wardrobe to return the clothes, and head home to get ready for the next long day.
Dani: I have family in the film industry, and have been around it myself. I’ve met some really down-to-earth stars, and some who were a bit less…kind. What is Alison like, and is it at all like her public persona?
Jessica: Ha! It’s funny that you asked this question. I’m not one to speak negatively about someone, but I was really blown away by Alison’s behavior! May I first say that she is very beautiful, and the first day that I met her she was very sweet….just as the public sees her…. like “the girl next door”. As I worked with her, I saw a completely different side of her. I saw an insecure girl, who in so many ways was such a brat. For example, I was called upon to double for her in a couple of scenes, in addition to being her stand-in. I drove the car that was hers in the movie because it was a stick-shift, which she didn’t know how to drive. I also did a far distance shot dressed in her clothes with a wig on. I was asked to do the far away shot when she left to go get fast food with her bodyguard without telling anyone on the set. Everyone on the set was ready to go, so they quickly got me dressed and we began to film the scene. As the filming was taking place, she appeared and saw me dressed like her. OH BOY! She had a fit and was making accusations suggesting that they wanted to use me because they thought my body looked better in the skimpy outfits that she had to wear. (What?!) The assistant director quickly ushered me off of the set and out of her sight so that she could cool down. There was also an incident where she made a snide remark to her bodyguard for holding my bag for a minute so that I could write something down. The icing on the cake was when the filming of the movie was about the wrap up on location and then head back to the studios in California. She came up to me with a gift, and very sweetly thanked me for everything that I did for her, and told me that I had done a great job! In the meantime, the movie still had a few more days of shooting in the studio, which I had been approved to complete with them, as Alison’s stand-in. It wasn’t even a half an hour after she had thanked me when the producer and the production supervisor pulled me aside to tell me that Alison wasn’t happy that she didn’t have say in me going to finish up the film with them, so they couldn’t let me work as her stand-in. They basically told me that they thought she was jealous of me, which I thought was absolutely crazy! I mean, trust me I was flattered, but here is this beautiful girl who has “made it” in the acting world, and already has all of the success that I was still striving for. I just didn’t get it! The producer said, “Welcome to Hollywood!” I was so disappointed in Alison, and just bewildered!
Dani: What are the best perks of the job?
Jessica: The best perk is all of the food you get eat, that is readily available at all times, known as craft service. No, I’m just kidding! Well...maybe not. ;) Ha, ha, ha!
I would have to say that learning about what goes on behind the scenes, and what it takes to put together a TV show or movie is quite interesting to me. There’s so much creativity and detail involved! I would also say, despite the negative experience that I just shared with you, getting to meet various celebrities and talking to them personally was always fun. I love hearing their stories about how they got to where they are now. Most of the A-list celebrities that I’ve met are actually very nice. I mean, after all, they’re regular people just like you and me!
Jessica: I’d have to say the worst part is the long hours. It’s a hard job to do if you have a family, as you’re working a lot of hours, you never know exactly how many hours you’ll be working or when you’ll be done, and the pay doesn’t really justify that kind of sacrifice.
Long hours, check! Here I am on set at about 1:00 a.m., standing by for hair and makeup touch ups.