The Hudson Valley is becoming quite the hot spot for filming lately. Back in 2019, HBO’s This Much I Know Is True starring Mark Ruffalo filmed in Poughkeepsie, Wappingers Falls, and Kingston, just to name a few places. Since then, HBO has been flooding the Hudson Valley with productions such as White House Plumbers, Sex Lives of College Girls, and Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin. Even Hallmark’s One December Night was filmed in Newburgh earlier this year, as well. This is not the first time the Hudson Valley has been used for movies and television; however, there seems to be an abundance of opportunities as of late. 

Back in early August, a friend of mine sent me a link in regards to a need for extras for Pretty Little Liars, and said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we signed up?” I responded, “No, we should!” So I did, and ever since late August, I have been used as a background actor and stand-in sporadically for the television series being shot primarily out of Saugerties, New York.

Now, I can’t get into specifics about the show itself, but I can say that I have had a blast on set working with everyone, and it is quite a unique experience. I have done stage acting prior, along with some small independent projects like music videos or student films, but this is the first television series I have ever been on. It is cool getting to see the inner workings of the set.

 

How To Get Involved

If you are interested in doing background acting work, I recommend signing up for sites such as CastifiCasting Networks, and Backstage to get updates and casting calls for shoots near you. In regards to Pretty Little Liars, I also recommend reaching out to Hudson Valley Casting, LCC, and HudsonValleyExtrasCasting@gmail.com. Need some encouragement as to why you should consider background acting? Here are a few reasons based on my time shooting for Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin.

Covid Compliance

First of all, if you are worried about the spread of Covid-19, I can assure you from my time on PLL at least that they take precautions seriously. It has been mandatory to get a Covid test completed a day before working to ensure everyone’s safety. The Covid tests have been administered by the studio, and they even pay you to come in to do it. Based on talking to other people on set, it sounds like that is a very similar procedure for other sets. Everyone associated with production must wear N95 masks at all times, except when prompted to take them off to shoot. Things are kept clean, and extras are spaced out appropriately when in holding.

Socializing and Networking

Being a background actor is not an overwhelming position. No prior acting experience is required, and direction is given as to what you need to do. If anything, you often spend more time waiting to be called upon than you spend shooting. Take the opportunity to socialize and network. If you bring board games or decks of cards, I assure you that you will become a popular person! People will flock to you and your game to help pass the time between scenes. It has been incredible to meet people from all over the place- geographically and talent-wise. Some people travel for hours to come to these shoots, and it’s amazing to learn everyone’s backstories. Some people are there just because they thought it would be fun, while others are trying to make a career out of acting and entertainment. You can meet people from all walks of life, and get to connect over being in this production. I’ve made several friends on set, along with talking about doing collaborations and finding various other work through others. Networking is key in moving forward in any industry, especially in entertainment. 

Resume Builder and Opportunities

If you are someone who wants to take acting seriously, then something like this could be a big resume booster for you. Being able to show you have worked on different projects shows that you have a certain level of experience and professionalism. That, and simply being present opens up opportunities. Sometimes you may be asked to speak a few lines for a scene. Other times, if the directors and crew like you and see something in you, they may reach out about an audition. I know a few people now who have been approached. It is all about being present and available for opportunities to find you.

Food is Included

Now, days on set can be very long. I have spent anywhere between 6 to 18 hours on a set per day. On average, I have spent about 14 hours per day, so I recommend planning ahead. Take into account that this will be a full-day event, and it would probably be wise not to plan anything very early the next day. One incentive to being there for so long is that they feed you. Yes, free food! They supply breakfast and lunch for the cast and crew, which is often a wide buffet. That, and I have also seen other vendors be hired to offer even more food to everyone, all included. I have seen the likes of ice cream carts, hot dog stands, and waffle trucks. And when it is not an official mealtime, but you could still use something, head over to the craft service table for some snacks. 

Still not convinced? At the very least, it could be a few extra bucks in your wallet this holiday season. That, and you get to travel around to areas in the Hudson Valley that you may not have gone out of your way to see. Though you will primarily be stuck on the set majority of the time, it can open your eyes to new places to return to and adventure. Even the locations themselves for shooting can be breathtaking, like last week shooting on the Kingston waterfront in sunny 65-degree weather. So, whether you are an inspiring actor, looking for some extra cash, or need an excuse to get out of the house, I’d recommend background acting. 

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