Questions About Movie Production Answered!

Things are getting interesting over here at Beach Camera. In the last couple of weeks, some of the geeks have decided to try to make a movie. So, they’ve been arguing over who was going to do which jobs on the production team or even what jobs were on the production team. I decided to stop ignoring the end credits for once to see what they were on about. I came away from that exercise mostly confused until I went and looked things up. If you’ve ever been like that, then this post will be a big help to you.

Most titles are pretty self-explanatory. After all, the producer is the guy who gets the money to fund the movie and who makes sure it actually gets made. The director is the one who directs the scenes and all that. The actors are the ones who act out the movie. But what is a gaffer? Or a best boy? Key Grip? Dolly Grip? Gripper? Boom Operator? And what is the deal with that slate thing with all the numbers on it that makes that “SNAP” sound? Don’t worry, I had the same questions and I’m going to answer them for you now!

First, the easiest: that slate is called a clapperboard and it is held in front of the camera for a few seconds before each take so that they can see which scene, take, and camera angle that footage is from. The reason it makes that “SNAP” sound is that the sound is very distinct and is used to make certain that the film and the sound tracts are in sync.

Now for the funny-sounding job titles. A gaffer is the head of the Electrical Department. He’s in charge of designing the electrical and lighting plan for the whole production. The Best Boys are assistants to the gaffer or the Key Grip. And the Key Grip is the head of the Set Operations department. He works with the director on making sure each set is lit properly and helps with the blocking (the actors’ movements) to avoid issues with the lighting or with the cameras running over important power cords. The Dolly Grip is the person who lays down any track that a camera is placed on and who moves that camera (with the cameraman being a rider). The track is called the “dolly track” and the rig the camera and the cameraman sit on is called the “dolly” hence the name: Dolly Grip. Grippers or Grips are workers in the Set Operations Department who do the heavy lifting and are responsible for the light rigging on the sets. And, lastly, the Boom Operator is the guy who works the large, fuzzy, overhead microphone that is normally held above the actors’ heads and out of the camera frame.

Ridiculous names aside, reading up on this makes me respect the actors all the more. TV shows and movies often make it seem as if the actors are there with just a cameraman. For there to actually be a small crowd of people every few dozen feet or so and for the actors to carry on with the illusion, that’s skillful to say the least.

— da Bird