The idea of ​​using AI for background actors is infuriating!

All this talk about using AI instead of real background actors really hits home for me.

My youngest son, who is now 17 years old, was a child actor from the age of 7 until the outbreak of the epidemic. He worked regularly as a general background actor and featured background actor, between performances and auditions. While he is no longer acting, the proposed idea of ​​using AI instead of actors is very infuriating to me and my children.

Three kids were working background acting gigs at one point

Stock Photo – Canva

At some point, all three of my sons took on background work. My oldest son, JD, worked quite a few jobs just because the money was easy and he loved his money. My middle son, Ryder, only did one job, the pilot for “Billions,” because when my youngest came on, casting asked if I had any other kids who would be willing to work. He hated it, so it was his only job.

But my youngest Jesse, he was an up-and-coming actor. He came to me at the age of 7 and told me that he wanted to be an actor. So, I told him it’s a tough business and he might not get a job right away, but if that’s okay, I’ll put him on a background job so he can get his foot in the door.

Jesse VanDerveer and Ellie Kemper
Contributing photo

As a 7 year old, I wasn’t sure if she would like the ‘hurry up and wait’ atmosphere on set. I wasn’t sure if the two-hour commute to and from the city every hour would be okay. The background seemed like the perfect place to start, to see what it was all about before spending time and money on all the things needed to have a working actor.

The day after I applied for a background job, casting contacted me and hired me. Exactly! He was so excited and so was I. His first job was as a prep kid in “Laura Mysteries” with Debra Messing. There was a lot of hurry up and wait that day, but Jesse didn’t seem to mind at all. At the end of a long day, he said he wanted to do more. So I started giving him anything and everything I could find that fit his description. Before long, he was regularly working a few days a week in background gigs. He worked so much that he had to be pulled out of school and homeschooled. Then he started getting auditions and indies, but we continued to do background work whenever possible.

Jesse VanDerveer
Contributing photo

His resume is pretty impressive, especially for a young kid. He produced prequels to “The Greatest Showman,” “The Girl on the Train,” “Blue Bloods,” “The Knick,” “Gothem,” “The OA” and many others. She has appeared on “Law & Order SVU”, “Royal Pains” and our favorite show and set, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”.

In fact, he produced eight episodes of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” The production really loved Jesse. At one point, as we entered the farm, one of the production crew yelled, “Jesse’s here!” and I laughed. He said that not all the kids were as focused and well-behaved all day on set, and Jesse stood out because of that.

Once on set I went to get water and came back and Jesse wasn’t with the other kids who were waiting there. I found it a few feet away as production was learning how to color a scene. He was very fond of learning and loved it very much. Without background work, you wouldn’t even know what this technical thing is, especially at such a young age.

What’s the point, I bet you ask!

SAG-AFTRA strike

My son’s career was based on backing gigs. It helped him learn about the industry and get to a place where he got a lot of jobs and really thrived. If the pandemic didn’t hit, I think he would still be acting and in a great place with it, but the pandemic stopped everything and he found basketball during the lockdown. Plus, a year away from the profession meant starting over and being an older kid, which personally was a little harder than being a little kid.

It makes me very angry to hear that the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) has proposed such a crazy thing. During my son’s acting journey, we met a lot of people who worked as full-time background actors. Whether they were chasing the dream of becoming full-time actors or just loved it as a side job, these people were all passionate about acting, even backing gigs. To see their livelihood taken away from them is so upsetting.

And the fact that they propose that the background performers be screened, paid a day’s pay (which, by the way, is just under $200 for a union job and just over $100 for a non-union job), and that the company owns . scanning and using similes for the rest of eternity without any consent or compensation sounds more than just absurd.


SAG-AFTRA took great care of my son on set. By the time the pandemic hit, it was “must join” but we were able to fly under the radar to buy some more time before joining the union. I wanted him to join the union and so did he, but as a kid that would have ruled him out of non-union jobs and his agent suggested we wait a little longer.

But he did a lot of union work and got waivers, so he was very well looked after on set. That being said, I’m sure SAG-AFTRA will fight to the last breath to protect their background actors from this crazy AI.

And will it stop with background actors, or will artificial intelligence take over other jobs? It’s actually pretty scary when you think about it. What do you think of this crazy proposal?

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