But, increasingly, some members are concerned about the competition for the number of spots allocated for union background in SAG-AFTRA contracts as well as the lack of contract coverage in emerging production areas such as New Mexico, Louisiana and Georgia.
Recently, they have been on the receiving end of an outpouring of support from high-profile members, including Jeff Bridges, Amy Adams, Mandy Moore, Mark Duplass and Rachel Brosnahan and personally from Clarence Gilyard.
But many of these performers have only spoken out after witnessing or experiencing firsthand some of the poor treatment their colleagues who work background have received on set. For instance, Adam recalled how she was mistaken for her stand-in while shooting HBO’s Sharp Objects;
“I’ve never experienced this before but, because we looked so much alike, at one point somebody grabbed me really hard and pulled me,” she recently told THR. “I went,’What’s going on?’ and they’re like,'(Gasp) you’re not Reb!’ I went into producer mode and I was like, ‘You will not handle her like that.’ “
In April, the multi-hyphenate Duplass tweeted about how appalled he was to see background performers treated badly. “If you see this happening, please gently bring it to the attention of the offender(s) and ask them to reconsider their approach. It’s an odd blind spot in our industry,”he wrote.
New York Local Board member and Background Advisory Committee Chair Avis Boone agrees.
“In New York, while shooting exterior scenes in January in out-of-season wardrobe without proper breaks and a place to keep warm between shots, sometimes background actors will as for hand warmers and be told that they only have enough for the crew or the talent. Even though background actors are a key ingredient to make a scene look real, they are often an afterthought when it come to the things like being given proper breaks, water and safety rides.” she said.
“Background actors want it known that they look at this as a profession. This is not something that they just go and hand out and do. They know their obligations, they know how to make a scene work! These are people who are doing this full time who are raising their families and making their benefits, They know how to bring their game-not just their wardrobe, props and cars.” Bob Ostrow, Chair of the National and Los Angeles Background Actor Committee.
See more at SAG.org Magizene page 42-44