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Production Staff - What Do They Do?

Explaining the Roles of Film Production Staff

The notes below form a concise digest of a talk delivered by Club member Ashby Ball (4 July 2013).

The crews listed tend to be those used for a feature film, and personnel are reduced in number where the budget is smaller.



Pre-production

Covers the period prior to start of shooting:


Scriptwriter

Writes treatment or premise, and shooting script. Hollywood hires and fires them with impunity. Adaptation of existing story. Original author tends to be horrified at the way his story drastically changed.


Producer

Has finance or has to raise it. May be a well-known name or representative of a big studio. Line Producer or Executive Producer work on planning production but are not providers of finance.


Technical Advisor

Technical Advisor normally gives advice on the subject-matter of the film.


Art Department


Employs greatest number of people in any film crew. (Although doubtful where shooting in existing buildings etc). Production Designer designs sets. Draughtsmen. In earlier days reluctance to film away from studio. Sets constructed on sound stages or erected on studio back lot. Recent plan at Pinewood to erect various permanent sets next to studio, and use them as permanent housing. Planning authority turned scheme down. Now existing buildings often used.

Carpenters, Plasterers, who work with any mouldable materials, such as plastics, in addition to plaster, Riggers, Painters.

Model Makers. Frequent scale for models 1/10 of fullsize. Models of bridges to be blown up, ships in water tanks. Water in models does not behave like in real life. Over-cranking to create natural appearance.

Storyboard Artists. Every shot in a film can be sketched as a guide to how the shot must be set up during the shoot.


Production

Covers the period while shooting:


Director

Amount of control exercised by director varies enormously. Some are in artistic control all the way through making of the film. Others have no further part to play after shooting is completed.

In a major production, director is not shouting “Camera, action, cut” all the time. This may be left to 1st Assistant Director (AD). 2nd AD works on preparation of call sheets etc. 3rd AD directs crowd scenes.

Runners are usually young people in the early stages of their career who carry out odd jobs.


Camera Department

When motion picture film used, well-known line-up of the team. Director of photography is ultimately responsible for quality of the picture, artistically and technically. He will consider lighting required and take exposure meter readings.

Camera operator works camera. Focus puller sets focus. Sometimes it is necessary to alter focus whilst camera is running, to keep an actor in focus when he moves nearer or further from the camera or to shift the focus from one area to another. The clapper/loader operates the clapperboard, and loads the film magazines into the camera.

Shooting on high definition video, after the camera operator, sometimes the focus-puller is called the 1st AC (Assistant Camera), and the clapper/loader becomes the 2nd AC, who changes the cards and batteries and positions the monitor where it is needed. Then there is the DIT (Digital Imaging Technician), who copies the newly-shot material onto a computer and onto two discs. Any drive can fail, and copying onto two discs is an insurance against loss of the data. (On a low-budget production, the 2nd AC is also the DIT.)After the material has been copied onto the computer, the card is then available for re-use, as they are expensive. Only two or three cards are kept for each camera.

Script Supervisor, formerly known as the Continuity Girl, keeps a note of all material shot, and where a single camera is used. That crew members also notes where the film is shot out of sequence watches out for lapses in continuity. An example is a scene of two men having a conversation over glasses of beer. The level of beer in the glasses must not suddenly rise.

The Grip is member of camera crew who carries equipment around. Tripods are known as ‘legs’, and there are often long legs and short legs.

The Dolly Grip moves around and sets up the track on which the dolly runs. He would also push the dolly during a shot.


Lighting Department

The Director of Photography (DOP) lists the equipment required for a particular production. It is normally hired, and the DOP explains to the Gaffer what effect he is aiming to achieve. The Gaffer is in effect the foreman electrician, and he is assisted by a team of electricians, known as Sparks. In a large production, there is a Best Boy, who is more experienced than the other Sparks.

Few Sparks are qualified electricians for wiring installations. Those who are can make a ‘tie in’, where additional power is run from adjoining property. They are known as Practical Lighting Technicians, and may also make electrical installations as part of a set.

Genny Operators work the large mobile diesel generators, which are used when sufficient power is not available from the mains.

                                                                                           

Sound Department

Sound often recorded independently of the picture, which is why clapperboard is used. There may be a Sound Recordist and Boom Operator.


Costumes, Make-up Etc

Costume Designers, Seamstresses, Make-up and Hair Designer, Chief Make-up Artist, Make-up Artists, Hairdressers, Wigmakers, Prosthetic Artist. It can take hours to complete a character make-up.

Special Effects

Some effects produced at time of shooting. Explosions, pyrotechnics. Special Effects Operators, Stunt Men. Use of firearms involves an Armourer, who is responsible for the weapons.


Catering staff

The day starts with breakfast, and is normally a 12-hour day, or a 12-hour night, if it is a night shoot.


Transportation 

Captain, Drivers, of cars and minibuses.


Post Production

Editing

Where motion picture film is used, it is normally negative stock. It is developed by the laboratory, and in the old days a cutting copy on film was made from the negative. To save cost only the takes which were likely to be used were printed for the cutting copy. There were many people handling parts of the film, but not being able to make artistic decisions. The Editor assembled the material from the cutting copy as desired, and this was when the artistic decisions were made. The negative was assembled to match the cutting copy and then release prints could be made from the negative. Nowadays, the negative is developed and a video copy made. This serves as the cutting copy, and the film is edited electronically as desired. The negative is then cut to match the edited version, and release prints can be made from it. Nowadays many cinemas are being equipped for video projection, so video copies are required.


Sound Editing

Foley Editor, named after a man named Foley, who worked at one of the major studios and specialised in this. It is the creation of sound to match the visuals, such as making footsteps on gravel by tapping hand-held shoes in a box of stones. At the BBC studios in Salford recently, we heard how shaking a bunch of rubber gloves could imitate a flock of birds. Esther Rantzen, who presented the TV series “That’s Life”, was a Foley editor in an earlier stage of her career.

Supervising Sound Editor, Sound Editor, Re-recording Mixer.


Film Exhibition

Film Programmers plan film programmes for chains of cinemas.

Cinema Managers, Projectionists, Ushers.