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Much of the material included in this article
has been adapted from Ephraim Katz's The Film Encyclopedia and
Baseline's Encyclopedia of Film.
Have you ever been to a movie and sat through the
credits only to wonder what those strange names were? Trying to
read the flood of credits at the end of a movie is daunting at
best and downright impossible under many circumstances. After
all, gaffer, key grip and best boy are not titles that most people
use every day -- but if you are a genuine movie buff, you may
find the following credits interesting. (What the heck, you can
always amaze and dazzle your friends with your knowledge, and
at the very least you will do much better the next time you play
"You Don't Know Jack"©.) Aside from that, your
friendly local Film Teacher thinks it would be nice to give credit
to the small army of people out there who really are responsible
for the stuff we watch on the silver screen - as my grandma always
said, "give credit where credit is due."
Associate Producer: The
much-maligned title of associate producer can mean many things.
These individuals often help the producer with numerous post-production
activities including lab work, dubbing, and special effects. Occasionally,
this title is granted to friends, relatives, and business partners
of the powers-that-be.
Casting: Casting directors
are not responsible for determining what the final cast list will
actually look like. What they are responsible for is determining
who will have the opportunity to audition for the producer and
director of the film. A good casting director can make or break
a film. If you have any doubts about that, think about the number
of times you have seen an actor in a minor or major role turn
in such a poor performance that it left you scratching your head
in amazement and asking the question, "Wow! Who do you suppose
Director: The director
is responsible for the entire creative end of the film. Ultimately,
the success or failure of the film rests with the director. Can
you say, "big job"? The director determines the eventual
look of the film, or at least they try to. Sometimes, creative
control is removed from the director; when this happens directors
have been known to have their name removed form the credits and
to have the name Alyn Smithee substituted as director.
First Assistant Director: Think of the first assistant
director as the film's general contractor. It is the first assistant
director's job to turn the directors dreams into concrete reality.
They are the people who make sure that every thing and every one
is in the appropriate place at the appropriate time. These people
wield tremendous power - they get to yell "Lunch!" It
is also the AD's voice that appeals for "Quiet on the set!"
and orders the camera operator to "Roll." Prior to the
start of production, the AD is often assigned to break down the
script for a shooting schedule (the shooting schedule is exactly
what it sounds like - a calendar that lists what scenes will be
shot in which order and on which days). This particular job often
serves as a gateway to other positions, most notably that of director
Second Assistant Director:
The second assistant director is the person who makes certain
that the first assistant director's orders are carried out. They
are frequently in charge of filming "we-the-people scenes"
(scenes that feature casts of thousands where the primary actors
are not seen). They are often assigned to film battle sequences
and stunt sequences where extras are utilized. This particular
job can also serve as a gateway to other positions, such as that
of director or producer.
Script Supervisor: This
is the person who is in charge of what is known as "continuity"
in the industry. Continuity refers to the job of making certain
that a movie that is actually shot out of sequence (most films
are) eventually makes sense. Script supervisors make certain that
actors say the same lines and wear the same clothing during each
"take" of the scene. If the script supervisor does not
do their job, the film is liable to have a bruise on one arm in
the first scene and the other arm in the next. Script supervisors
often carry Polaroid cameras so that they can consult pictures
of the scene to make certain that everything matches up. This
is an extremely important job. You can bet that if Harrison Ford
has a hat on one minute and it is gone the next only to reappear
without warning the moment the camera changes angles there will
be a film critic out there only too happy to point it out.
Camera Operator: The camera
operator is the person who is responsible for carrying out the
cinematographers directions. They are the ones who actually aim
the camera. This can take several forms ranging from tilts (moving
the camera up and down), pans (moves right and left), and zooms
(moves in closer or further away from the subject). It is their
job to make certain that everything and everyone remains within
the frame and in focus.
Cinematographer: The cinematographer
or director of photography is just what the name implies. The
cinematographer defines the photographic style or look of the
film. The cinematographer is responsible for transforming the
screenwriter's and director's concepts into real visual images.
The cinematographer is second only to the director when it comes
to creating the mood, atmosphere, and visual style of the film.
This entails doing everything from measuring the light to lining
up the shot. Lining up the shot is more involved than it sounds;
it requires determining which lens and filter to use, the way
to point the camera and how to mount the camera. In short everything
from ascertaining the best camera angles, setup, and movement
to determining the exposure, and lighting necessary to achieve
the desired effect.
Gaffer: The gaffer is
the head electrician. This means that they are in charge of all
the lighting personnel. How they got this name, I have absolutely
no clue - but rumor has it that the name gaffer predates the sound
era in a time when electricity was used to a lesser degree than
today. The early stages had canvas roofs that were opened and
closed to emit varying degrees of light. This canvas was moved
with large gaffing hooks which had been traditionally used to
land large fish. I won't swear that this is the actual reason
we call them gaffers, but it is the only explanation I have heard
that sounds reasonable.
Best Boy: The best boy is the gaffer's assistant.
Key Grip: The key grip
is the person in charge of all the people who move anything. This
means that they are the boss of all the individuals who move scenery,
cameras (these things often weigh a ton), and set up and take
down the scaffolding that the lights, microphones etc. are hung
on. In live theater, these folks are called stage hands, and in
film they are called key grips. The way to remember this is to
remind yourself that you can't move it if you can't get a grip
Production Designer: This
is the individual who is responsible for the "look"
of the film. The production designer is responsible for the appearance
of all of the movie's sets, locations and costumes. If it isn't
an actor, the production designer was responsible for its selection.
Production designers generally have a background in scenic design
and or architecture. These individuals make a significant contribution
to the "feel" of a movie.
Art Director: The art
director is generally the production designer's assistant. They
work with sets and locations.
Set Designer: The set
designer translates the production designer's ideas and sketches
into blueprints for the construction crew.
Set Decorator: The set
decorator works with the production designer to select all of
the decorations that will be used in a scene. This includes everything
from furniture to carpeting to the drapes on the windows. These
individuals are often the recipients of fan mail - the kind that
asks where can I get a painting, a clock, a flower vase, etc.
like the one that was featured in a film.
Property Master: The property
master is in charge of procuring and preparing any object that
an actor comes in physical contact with during a film. The prop
department handles everything from food on a plate to weapons.
If an actor touches it, it is a prop. If, for example, an actor
throws a flower vase at a wall it is a prop. If it sits on the
table and is never moved, it's set decoration. The prop department
also handles promotional items and their placement in the film.
Promotional items can run the gamut from candy and gum to which
beverage an actor consumes in a film.
Special Effects: Special
effects is the art of illusion that makes the dangerous, magical,
expensive, or physically impossible seem perfectly believable.
Special effects tend to fall into several broad catergories: optical,
physical, animated, and computerized. In laypersons terms, the
special effects department is responsible for anything that explodes,
smokes, breaks away or bleeds on the set. If an actor has to bleed
on screen it is the responsibility of the spfx department. If
the blood doesn't have to burst out, then it is the makeup person's
job. In short the special effects department is responsible for
what has appropriately been referred to as movie magic. It's a
great job if you can get it.
The production assistant, or PA, is an entry level position. This
position is the moral equivalent of serfdom, as these individuals
often work for little or no money in the hopes of eventually advancing
up the ladder. PAs are generally assigned every lousy task that
comes along. So why do they do this? On the premise that their
perseverance will eventually pay off in the form of a better job.
Don't laugh -- today's PA may be tomorrow's movie mogul (they
could also be the son or daughter of the producer, director or
big name star).
Sound Mixer: The sound
mixer records the dialogue and ambient noise of a scene. The sound
mixer is in charge of all the microphones used on the set, everything
form the wireless body mikes the actors wear to the big boom mikes
that constantly hover over the scene. It is the sound mixer's
job to make things sound like they look. For example, if actors
are whispering the dialogue should be quieter than when they are
shouting, and if actors are being filmed in the distance the sound
should also reflect this. How important is this? If you have ever
watched a film only to have the dialogue obscured by overly loud
background noise or music you know how important this is.
Music Editor: The music
editor's job begins in post-production. It is the music editor's
job to insert the composer's prerecorded score into the sound
track. This can be more complicated than it sounds, since the
composer may have recorded the score before the sequence was even
filmed, and as such the music may or may not be the right length
for the scene.
Makeup Artist: These wizards
of grease paint do the actors' makeup. In rare instances, The
Academy has chosen to recognize them with an Academy Award for
outstanding accomplishments in this area. The award was instituted
in 1981and was first given to Rick Baker for "An American
Werewolf In London"
Hair Stylist: Amazingly
enough, the hair stylist does the actors' hair. Don't laugh, it
can be a challenge to make a guy with a buzz cut look like he
has a Mohawk.
Costume Designer: The
costume designer is responsible for the appearance of the actors'
wardrobes. The frequently design and sketch out the costumes for
the actors in a film. The Academy Awards for Costume Design was
first instituted in 1948 and was won by Roger K. Furse for "Hamlet".
One the most recognized costume designers was Edith Head who died
in 1981. Head received 35 Academy Award nominations, and was an
eight-time Oscar winner.
Costumer: The costumer
carries out the costume designer's directions. This can mean anything
from purchasing or renting costumes for the actors to making certain
that these garments have been altered for the actors.
Assistant to the director or to an actor:
These individuals are the director's or actor's right hand man
(I should say person since many women serve as assistants). These
are the people who make certain that the director's or star's
lives do not fall apart during the making of the movie. They do
everything from making the director's or performer's schedule
to running their errands (yes, they have laundry and bills to
pay, too). These individuals perform personal and administrative
duties for the director or actor. The power of this position varies
greatly. One assistant may be nothing more than a glorified baby-sitter
while another may be the power behind the throne. For a better
understanding of what this entails read the irreverent book Wannabe.
Think you know all there is to know about the behind the scenes
world of moviemaking? Click
here to take the practice test to find out if you are a
key grip or just a hanger on.