Friday, October 5

Staying for the Credits

How many times have you been watching the credits roll across the screen (assuming you occasionally stay seated to do such things) and have seen terms like best boy or gaffer or key grip and have wondered what those jobs are?  Me too.  Have you ever thought you might look up the definitions and then didn't do it?  Well, fear not, The Movie Man has come to your rescue.  The list, of course, is not all inclusive, but hopefully we will hit some of the highlights.  Not all of the following are credits, per se.  Some are simply a glossary of terms.

Arc Shot

Filmed by an encircling camera

Art Director
The person responsible for the design/look of a movie's sets, which can include all furnishings, floors, windows and most anything else that dresses up a set

Best Boy
An apprentice for the gaffer or the key grip whose duties are  routing and coiling of power cables necessary to run the lights for a shot

Black Comedy
They became popular during a favorite movie time for me, as you know, the late 1950s/early 1960s.  It is little more than poking fun at subjects we normally don't poke fun at, such as death, war, dismemberment, murder and most any sort of suffering.  Fargo is a great example of black comedy.

It is the sound-deadening housing around a movie camera designed to keep sound equipment from picking up extra sounds

The process of figuring out where everything is to go in a shot or a scene, including the camera, lights will be arranged, actors'  positions and movements.  Stand-ins are usually used for the actors and they work with the director and the lighting crew

A moveable arm upon which a microphone, light or camera can be suspended overhead above a scene and outside the frame during filming (although often unfortunately seen in a shot).  The person operating it is the boom operator.  A continuous single shot made from a moving boom is called a boom shot

It is that piece of pre-recorded film that contains the studio logo (think the roaring lion for MGM)

About the hiring of actors to play the roles in a movie who are put under contract at least to that film production.  Starring roles are typically selected by the director or producer while supporting, minor or bit parts are filled by a casting director

It's what you see a lot of any more.  It stands for Computer-Generated Imagery.  It could has been more commonly called visual or special effects in the good old days.  Today it more refers to the use of 3D computer graphics and technology.  In the days of yore, when director Howard Hawks needed 3000 cows for a scene, he needed 3000 cows.  Today a director would need 12 cows and the rest are CGIed..

Before you say oh, I know, I know, they direct dancing and dancers, which is true, it is expanded to also include fight scenes and any other physical movement scenes

We can call him the photographer, the cameraman but in addition to capturing the images, he is responsible for the selection of visual recording devices, camera angles, film stock, lenses, framing and arrangement of lighting.  He will be in constant contact with the director

Close-up Shot
Taken from a close distance with the object filling the entire frame

Crane Shot
Put this in your brain along with boom (above) except that now a camera lifts the camera in the air above the ground 20 feet or more, providing an overhead view 

Cutaway Shot
It is a brief shot that momentarily interrupts a continuously-filmed action and then cuts back to the original shot... think of two men talking about a story in today's newspaper and suddenly, briefly, we are shown the newspaper headlines and then return to the two men talking 

They are the rough cuts or initial prints of a film that are viewed by the director, cinematographer, editor, sometimes actors and producers, to see how the film came out after a day's shooting 

Director's Cut vs Final Cut
The director's cut or rough cut is what the director's vision of how the film should be released and the final cut is what the studio says will be released.  The more important directors will sometimes have final authority of what version we see

Dolly Shot
A moving shot taken from a camera that is mounted on a hydraulically-powered wheeled camera platform and the camera moves along with its subject

When shots filmed in a studio are combined with background footage shot elsewhere

Starts with assembly in which all the shots are arranged in script order.  The final stage of editing is called continuity and occurs when this laid out film, arranged originally in the order filmed, is now put in the proper order with events or sequences arranged as if they had occurred continuously.  Cross-cutting is the editing technique of alternating, interweaving or interspersing one narrative action (scene, sequence or event), often combining the two.  Cutting in the editing room refers to the selection, splicing and assembly of all the sequences of a film

Establishing Shot
Usually a wide-angle shot at the beginning of a scene designed to provide an overview and often an aerial view

Executive Producer
The person responsible for a film's financing and often responsible  for hiring writers, lead actors, etc.

Eyeline Match
A cut between two shots that creates an illusion of a person (in the first shot) looking at an object or person (in the second shot)

Foley Artist
This is the person who, in the editing stage, adds sound effects/noises (e.g. tapping sounds for dancers, gunshots, slaps, doors slamming, storm sounds)

Ok here it is.  The gaffer.  What is that!?!  Y'all only need to know one word:  electrician.  That's all there is to it.  Someone has to light a movie set... make her look good, make that living room look perfect... include some shadows... highlight this or that... that's your gaffer.  And before we leave this one, his assistant is a best boy.  Omigawd, your brain is swelling

A physically taxing job, this person is responsible for setting up dolly tracks and camera cranes, moving props or scenery, erecting or removing scaffolding and the like.  He probably doesn't think of it as being a movie glamour job.  The head guy is called the key grip.  And unbelievably you know what his assistant is called... the best boy (grip)

Long Shot
A view of a person or an object from a considerable distance (sometimes called a Master Shot and once taken is then broken up into other kinds of shots)

When actors re-record their dialogue back in the studio after a film has been completed

Medium Shot
Not as easily defined as a long shot or a close-up so let's just say it's something in between

This is the electrical combination of all dialogue, music, sounds and sound effects from any and all sources and adding them to a master soundtrack

One-Shot, Two-Shot, Three-Shot
Refers to the number of people being photographed in a scene

Post Production
After principal photography is completed comes the time for editing, adding music, special effects, mixing, dubbing and all fixing and then distribution

Before principal photography begins on a film, there is the pre-production or planning phase.  A number of directors have commented that this phase is the most fun for them.  It's the time for budgeting, scouting locations, hiring everyone, perhaps rehearsing, set design and construction, etc.

It would be just fine to think of him as the moneyman.  He secures the projected financing.  He is the top man on a film as far as logistical issues are concerned.  (The creative side is left to the director.)  The producer may hire all the key people; he may acquire the story.  He also closely watches how the money is spent and how time is used

Production Design
This person or department is responsible for the overall design of a film... its visual look, continuity and composition.  Under this person/department is the art director who is in charge of the film's physical settings and his department may include designers, decorators, painters, etc.

Reaction Shot
It is just that... filming a character's reaction to something or someone.  When filming such a shot involving a scene with, say, two people, often the other person isn't even present or sometimes an actor's stand-in is used

There are basically two types... the one that is written directly for the screen or one that is adapted from another medium (book, play, etc.)

Second-unit Photography
This refers to the filming of less important scenes (foreign location backgrounds, crowds, herds of animals, scenes not involving actors, to name a few) that has a smaller crew including a director who goes off and films the necessary stuff while principal photography is taking place elsewhere; not always necessary in every film

Stock Footage
Kind of a cheapie way (not used as much today as it once was) of using previously shot footage thus eliminating the need and cost of traveling somewhere to film it.  For example the Gregory Peck-Susan Hayward-starrer The Snows of Kilimanjaro was filmed entirely on the Fox backlot and stock footage was used for the Africa sequences.  We also now know that if they sent a small crew to Africa for filming, it would have been second-unit photography

Next posting:  Arthur Kennedy


  1. You're my best boy.

  2. Aw, aren't you nice? Does the missus know? You're my gaffer. No, wait, I mean my golfer.