Glossary of Terms

If you want to work in Hollywood, it's important to speak the language. Here is a glossary of commonly-used terms and job descriptions to use as a reference. Above-the-Line Each of the key creatives in the filmmaking process, usually brought on before production begins (specifically, the writer, the director, the producers, and the actors).

Accounting The accounting department tracks all department expenses, pays the crew and the bills, and helps keep the film on budget.

Actor Also known as the Talent. It is the actors who bring the story, the script, and the director’s vision to life.

Art Director The Production Designer’s right hand. They speak with the construction coordinator about building the sets, stay on top of budgeting, and make the Production Designer’s vision a reality.

Below-the-Line Everyone working on a film crew who is not Above-the-Line. For example, costume designers, grips, production assistants, sound designers, camera operators, etc.

Best Boy Electrical Best Boy is responsible for everything electrical, from selected equipment to generator hookups.

Blue Screen / Green Screen A process whereby actors work in front of an evenly lit blue or green background, which can then be replaced by digital images in post production.

Box-Office The total amount of money paid by movie-goers to see a movie, and a common way for industry professionals to rank “how well” a particular movie did during any given time period.

Call Sheet A list given out on set each night that states what scenes will be shot the next day, call times for each cast and crew member, and other pertinent information regarding the day’s shoot and schedule.

Camera Operator The camera operator and camera assistants are the ones who actually hold the camera while shooting, and are responsible for maintaining the focus and camera movements desired by the DP.

Casting Director Selects the actors to play the various roles in the film through auditions and callbacks.

Catering Provides meals to the cast and crew during filming.

Clapboard Also known as a slate, this board holds all of the information pertinent to a particular shot. One of the camera assistants usually holds it up in front of the camera before the “action” begins so that the anyone in post production can identify the title, Director, DP, scene number, take number, the date, and the time. The stick at the top of the board is “clapped” so that the editor can synch up the sound recordings with the visual image.

Composer The composer writes the musical score to the film.

Continuity The degree to which a movie is temporally continuous. For example, if in scene one of a film an actor is wearing a green shirt in one shot, and a red shirt in another shot, the scene is NOT continuous (in this case, an error probably occurred on the part of the wardrobe department, and then the script supervisor failed to catch the mistake).

Costume Designer Works closely with the art department to conceptualize ideas for wardrobe.

Craft Services Provides food (mostly snacks, as well as “second meal” if the day goes into overtime) to the crew during filming.

Dailies Also known as Rushes, these are the first prints made from the negative film shot on the previous day. Often times the director, as well as some key cast and crew, view the dailies each night to make sure the film is progressing as planned.

Director Often considered the most important person on set, the director is also the principal creative artist on set. It the director’s vision that drives the entire filmmaking process, and he or she who guides the actors, DP, wardrobe, art department, etc, into making it all become a reality.

Director of Photography (DP) Also called a Cinematographer, the DP is in charge of how each shot will look, by coordinating the lighting, film stock, and camera placement, all in accordance with the director’s vision.

Editor Assembles the film together once it has been shot to create the “final cut” of the film (the finished product). In the early days of filmmaking, editing was done by literally cutting (splicing) and pasting the film back together, but now most editing is done digitally, with the industry standard programs being Avid and Final Cut Pro.

Extra/Background A non-speaking, non-specific person who appears in a movie.

First Assistant Director (1st AD) The eyes and ears of the director. The 1st AD often calls “action” and “cut” for the director, prepares call sheets, and tracks the progress of production.

Foley Artist One who creates sound effects using random objects and methods, and then synchs them up to the picture to make them seem like actual sounds from the scene (for example, a foley artist might make the sound of feet stepping in the snow by crunching a pile of corn flakes in his or her hands).

Gaffer Chief lighting technician, responsible for implementing the DP’s wishes with lamps before and during a shoot.

Hairstylist The key hairstylist maps out the hairstyles for each character, making sure they fit into the time period of the film and keeping track of any continuity issues that may arise.

Key Grip The main person in charge of accessing what equipment is needed for each shot and getting it all on set. The grip’s duties include laying dolly tracks, building platforms, and operating the camera cranes.

Location Manager Scouts out locations for the film’s settings, sets up deals, and acquires the correct permits needed to film in a specific location.

Make-Up Artist Makes the actors look good with make up, often times having to use prosthetics and molds to make actors look the part.

Martini Shot The last shot of the day. The martini shot got its name because the next shot will be in a Martini glass. The shot before the martini is called the Abby Singer.

Microphone The instruments used on set to record sound. The two most common types are Boom Mikes, which are a long pole with a microphone on the end, and Lav Mikes, which are usually attached somewhere (though hidden) on the actor or actress.

Option A contractual agreement between a producer and a writer that gives the producer the right to buy a particular work for a specified price within a given time period. During the allowed time (stated in the contract), the producer tries to “set up a deal” with the screenplay or book or written work that has been optioned, and if all goes well, the producer buys the rights to the work. If the option time runs out, and the project has not been set up, the writer has the right to extend the contract, as stated by the terms of the original option, or option it to a different producer. Option fees can range anywhere from one dollar to a few thousand dollars.

Post-Production Everything that happens on a movie after principal photography ends, including editing, special effects, and scoring.

Pre-Prodcution Everything that happens on a movie before principal photography, including script rewrites, set construction, location scouting, casting, and the hiring of the crew.

Producer The producer brings the material, talent, and money to the table, which essentially enables the film to get made.

Production Assistant (PA) The PAs are responsible for any and every odd job you can imagine. Some tasks include running errands, delivering packages, picking up lunch for actors, passing out walkie talkies, handing out call sheets, locking down the set, holding up traffic, and picking up trash. They are usually the first ones on set and the last ones to leave.

Production Designer (PD) Responsible for the overall visual design and feel of the film.

Production Office Coordinator (POC) Runs the production office and handles all the office paperwork, communications, and travel arrangements.

Production Supervisor Works towards becoming a UPM and does most of the same thing as the UPM does.

Script Supervisor Arguably one of the most important positions on set, the Script Supervisor breaks down the script and is responsible for matching each take so there is continuity from one frame to the next.

Second Assistant Director (2nd AD) Helps the 1st AD with call sheets and scheduling, and also often directs the extras/background.

Set Decorator Along with their crew, the set decorator “dresses” the sets with furnishings, paintings, and props each day to give it realistic feel.

Set Designer Draws and executes the plans as described by the art director.

Set Medic On set doctor that takes care of everyone’s aches and pains during the long hours of shooting.

Sound Mixer The Sound Mixer fills in the sounds not captured during filming, and adjusts all of the different audio tracks (layers) so that everything is at the correct level.

Special Effects Editor Artificially creates sound effects (e.g. glass breaking etc.) or Visual effects (i.e. green screen replacement) to add into the film.

Still Photographer Takes production stills the unit publicist can use to promote the film.

Storyboard Artist Works closely with the director to draw a series of sketches that represent the visual progression of the film or a specific sequence of the film.

Unit Production Manager (UPM) Deals with all the details of making the film, from hiring the crew, to managing the budget.

Writer The person who tells the story, either through a novel, play, or script. The screenplay is the starting point for every motion picture.

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