In this episode we talk with Jason Roberts about his experience working with Tom Cruise, implementing VFX sequences and demystifying the process of managing large amounts of background actors.
Jason Roberts is a member of the DGA and works as a UPM, 1st AD, 2nd AD and is known for some very well known Tv Shows and Movies….. The Orville, Downsizing, American Made, Transformers: The Last Knight, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Jurassic World, Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Collateral etc… Jason started out in the film industry working as a Production Assistant before landing a job as a DGA Trainee.
In this episode we dive into the specifics and philosophy behind finding and managing locations for film and tv shows. Our guest, Nick Thomas (@imnickthomas on instagram), currently works as a Location Manager in the New Orleans market as both a scout and manager. Nick has worked on TV shows such as Cloak & Dagger, Fear the Walking Dead, Preacher and a plethora of movies of all budget sizes.
Paul Garnes (@paulgarnes on instagram) has served as a producer, line producer and/or production manager on films and television series for Disney, Dreamworks, HBO, ABC, NBC, BET, Sony/Screen Gems, Magnolia Films, and Paramount Pictures.
A graduate of Chicago’s Columbia College, Garnes has worked as Vice President of Operations and Production for Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx’s Foxx/King Productions and Head of Production for Simmons-Lathan Media Group.
In 2006, Garnes was recruited by Tyler Perry and Reuben Cannon to join the Tyler Perry Company where he served as Vice President and Executive in Charge of Production until 2009, overseeing the creation of its multi-million dollar studio and backlot. In addition to daily operations, Garnes supervised over 250 episodes of broadcast television while at the studio.
Paul was the Executive Producer of the film Selma that was nominated for the 2015 Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Original Song, and won a 2015 Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
Recently Paul served as the Line Producer of ABC’s Cloak and Dagger and is currently working as the Line Producer and Executive Producer to the series Queen Sugar which is part of the OWN Network.
Whenever you have a day in your production that involves Background Actors or “BG” one of the things the AD staff may handle is giving a speech to this group of people. Typically this speech is given by a 2nd 2nd AD or Background PA and is helpful so that things run smoothly and the BG know what to expect and where to go.
Below I have listed 10 things to include in your speech to Background Actors:
Read or Summarize the scene(s) that the BG will be involved in. Background Actors are there to “ACT” and while they may not need the sides/script knowing the motivation of the main characters around them can be helpful on certain occasions. Let the BG know if and when they should react or respond to the main action.
Explain continuity and starting positions. If you have a long complicated scene that involves a lot of coverage this will be especially important. Stress the importance of going back to your one when the ADs say back to one when a scene has cut. There may be occasions that BG need to start or stop their action by the cue of an AD or by listening/watching the action in front of them.
Explain how to pantomime. Believe it or not most beginning BG will not get this right off the bat. Explain that whispering can be picked up by the sound mixer and it is not the same thing. Watermelon, Watermelon, Watermelon…. always does the trick for realistic pantomiming.
Discuss any safety concerns. Remind the BG that they are on a film set and there is lots of heavy equipment spread throughout. If someone says points they should pay attention and watch their head. If there is a stunt sequence or road work this is a good opportunity to stress where they can and can not stand and how important that is to their safety.
Discuss noise levels. If your BG are working close to set or the set is inside its good to remind them to keep their talking to a minimal and silent when rolling.
Explain where things are. Show the BG where crafty, bathrooms, holding and set are. Be careful to use film terms such as the technical names of the trailers as that may confuse some. Stress the importance of remaining in holding and not wondering off.
Talk about crafty. Once you have shown the BG where crafty is its a good idea to lay some ground rules….especially if they are sharing crafty with the cast/crew. They should not be filling their pockets to take stuff home and be respectful of the area.
Give instructions regarding paperwork. Remind the BG that they may need to give their payroll sheet sometimes called a skin to another dept if they are borrowing wardrobe or props. This is a way to make sure these items are returned to the proper dept. Explain to the BG that they need to sign out with a designated AD or PA with that paperwork. This is especially helpful for new BG who may not understand the drill just yet.
Discuss meals. Depending on when the BG arrived and how long they are planning to be shot will be part of the determining factors if and when your production plans to feed them. It is a good idea to let the BG know the approx time they will eat, that they will eat after the crew and where they can sit. While the breakfast or first meal may be available to the crew are you going to allow BG to participate?
Talk about set etiquette. There may be occasions where the actors on set are famous. This will be a good time to talk about the importance of BG to not talk to the Actors or ask for a picture or autograph.