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Jobs Glossary

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There are hundreds of jobs in film and television, each one with its own specific roles and objectives. What does a gaffer, a key grip or a best boy do? Find out here:

Jobs A–C

ADR Recordist

Automated Dialogue Replacement, also known as looping or dubbing. This is the critical process in film and TV whereby dialogue is recorded in a studio for any number of reasons: to replace existing production sound that is not usable either for technical considerations (usually due to a noisy location) or editorial ones (lines of dialogue have been changed); to add a voice–over to a film (often planned from the outset, but occasionally added at the last moment to help clarify a hazy plot); to add group voices not covered by production sound; to record dialogue for an animated production; or to dub the film into another language.

Aerial Specialist

Camera Pilots fly the aircraft that carries the aerial camera crew (aerial director of photography (DoP) and aerial camera assistant). Together they shoot the aerial sequences that form part of the finished feature film. Camera Pilots are also responsible for flying any aircraft, including helicopters, planes, hot air balloons, etc., that appear as action props in finished films. This may involve performing difficult stunts requiring a high degree of expertise and experience.

Anchor/Host

Anchor/Presenters work at the front line of television and radio. They introduce and host programs, read the news, interview people and report on issues and events. As the number of channels and radio stations increases, so do the openings, but opportunities to become a Presenter are still scarce and competition is fierce.

Presenters work across the whole spectrum of broadcasting—national and regional television and radio, satellite and cable channels—and also in the non broadcast sector, e.g., training and corporate productions. Most are employed on short contracts and the hours can be long and unsociable. The work may be studio based or on location. Some Presenters achieve celebrity status and command high salaries, but life in the public gaze is not always desirable.

Some Presenters work on a range of programs; others specialize in a particular type, such as current affairs. The calm and relaxed manner of successful Presenters makes the job seem easier than it is. They are usually involved in the careful planning that goes into every program, including rehearsals and research and they keep the program running to plan while on air, working closely with the production team, often following detailed instructions while reading from an autocue and/or script and responding positively to any problems or changes. They may write their own material and they also need to be able to memorize facts and ad lib when necessary.

Animal Trainer

Someone who conditions animals to perform various behaviors on cue.

Animator

Animation is the art of making images that appear to come to life on screen. It features in all kinds of media, from feature films to commercials, pop videos, computer games and websites. Animators use a range of techniques to make images appear to move and most specialize in one of the following:

  • 2D drawn animation
  • 2D computer animation
  • stop frame or stop motion animation
  • 3D computer generated (CG) animation

2D drawn animation consists of a series of images which the Animator draws on special paper. Each image represents one stage of a movement, for example, of a character walking or smiling. Traditionally the images are traced onto film and colored. Scenery is then added by layering sheets of film. Increasingly, however, the images are scanned into a computer and colored using specialized software. When viewed at speed and in sequence the images appear to move.

In 2D computer animation, the Animator works with a specialized software package which is used to create and animate characters and add scenery and a soundtrack.

Stop frame or stop motion animation uses models, puppets or other 3D objects. The model is photographed, then moved a fraction by the Animator and photographed again. When the photographs (or frames) are played at normal speed, the images appear to move.

3D CG animation uses specialized software to create animations. This technique is often used in feature films and computer games.

The work can be extremely painstaking and time consuming, but Animators are expected to meet deadlines and production schedules.

Although some Animators create their own characters and stories, others follow a brief from a director, animation director or key animator. Often they work with established characters and layouts.

Animator (with Live Action)

A live action/animated film is a motion picture that features a combination of real actors or elements: live action and animated elements, typically interacting.

Originally, animation was combined with live action in several ways, sometimes as simply as double printing two negatives onto the same release print. More sophisticated techniques used optical printers or aerial image animation cameras, which enabled more exact positioning and better interaction of actors and animated characters. Often, every frame of the live action film was traced by rotoscoping, so that the Animator could add their drawing in the exact position.

With the rise of digital special effects, combining live action and animation has become more common. The Star Wars prequels and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example, include substantial amounts of animation, though it may not be recognized as such because of the animation's realistic, non cartoony appearance.

Art Dept, Leadman

AKA: Leadman, Lead Person Member of the art department who is in charge of swing gangs and/or set dressers and reports to the set decorator.

Art Dept, Swing

Set Dressers who dress and strike sets, as well as pick up and return the dressing. They work apart from the shooting crew, as they are always either prepping a set for shooting or striking it after it's been shot.

Art Director

Art Directors act as project managers for the biggest department on any film – the art department. They facilitate the production designer's creative vision for all the locations and sets that eventually give the film its unique visual identity. Art Directors are responsible for the art department budget and schedule of work and help the production designer to maximize the money allocated to the department. Art Directors are usually requested by the production designer and are responsible for the assistant art director, the draughtsman (as many as 20 draughtsmen may be employed on big budget films), the art department assistant(s) and all construction personnel. As Art Directors must find practical solutions to creative problems while simultaneously monitoring the budget, this is highly skilled work. Many Art Directors work on television dramas and commercials, as well as on films. The hours are long and the job can involve long periods working away from home. Art Directors work on a freelance basis.

What is the Art Director job?
On big budget films, Art Directors start work up to 4 to 5 months before shooting begins (on low budget films 8 weeks may be sufficient). When the final schedule is delivered (detailing the precise order of scenes in which the film will be shot), Art Directors begin the work of overseeing the preparation of the first sets required. Art Directors analyze the script to identify all props or special items that may require longer lead times. Simultaneously, a team of draughtsmen draw up numerous plans for sets and locations for use by Art Directors when working with the construction managers and their team. This is an extremely busy, pressured time for every member of the art department; as well as coping with this pressure, Art Directors must also tightly control the budget (which is prepared and monitored on a spreadsheet).

On big productions, weekly meetings with the accountant are key to this process. A major part of Art Directors' work is troubleshooting – they must find cost effective solutions which also provide practical answers to construction and decorating problems. During pre–production, they are also responsible for commissioning all special effects (such as explosions or car crash sequences), hiring all vehicles (from cars to horse drawn carriages) and organizing the casting of all animals (chosen by the director). As the shooting date approaches, Art Directors liaise closely with the location manager to negotiate when locations can be prepared and dressed.

During filming, Art Directors continue to oversee the construction, dressing and striking (dismantling) of the remaining sets. After the film wraps (shooting is completed), Art Directors must ensure that all sets are struck and locations cleared and that all outstanding art department bills are paid.

Assistant Director (1st)

The First Assistant Director (AD) is the director's right hand person, taking responsibility for a number of important practicalities so that the director is free to concentrate on the creative process. During pre–production, First ADs break down the script into a shot by shot storyboard and work with the director to determine the shoot order and how long each scene will take to film. They then draw up the overall shooting schedule (a timetable for the filming period). Once the film is in production, Firsts are in charge of making sure that every aspect of the shoot keeps to this schedule.

Responsibilities:
First ADs’ main duties are assisting the director, coordinating all production activity and supervising the cast and crew. They are also in charge of a department of other assistant directors and runners. Overall, they provide the key link between the director, the cast and the crew, while also liaising with the production office and providing regular progress reports about the shoot.

Before the shoot, the Firsts' main task is to create the filming schedule, working in careful consultation with the director in order to fulfill his or her creative ambitions. When drawing up the shooting schedule, First ADs must also be aware of budgetary constraints, cast availability and script coverage. Preparing the storyboard, overseeing the hiring of locations, props and equipment and checking weather reports, are all key pre–production duties for Firsts. During production, they must ensure that everyone is on standby and ready for the director's cue for action.

First ADs' core responsibility is to keep filming on schedule by driving it forward, so they frequently make announcements and give directions to coordinate the cast and crew. They also control discipline on the set, supervise the other assistant directors and oversee the preparation of the daily 'call sheet' (a document detailing daily shooting logistics, which is distributed to all cast and crew). Firsts are also responsible for health and safety on set or location and must take action to eliminate or minimize hazards at all times.

Skills:
First ADs must be authoritative team leaders and motivators, while also being approachable team players. They need exceptional organizational and time management skills. The ability to plan ahead, trouble shoot and pay close attention to detail is vital in this role. Being an excellent communicator, with tact and diplomacy skills, is also essential as they must routinely deal with problems or even crisis situations. They must also constantly prioritize tasks and may be frequently interrupted, the ability to multi task is crucial. Firsts work long and often unsocial hours on a freelance basis, so a strong commitment to the job is essential. As they also usually work under highly pressurized and stressful conditions, a flexible and positive approach is highly valued.

Assistant Director (2nd)

The Second Assistant Director is the first assistant director's right hand person. The Second AD's main function is to ensure that all the first AD's orders and directions are carried out. Seconds have two main responsibilities during production: they prepare and draw up the 'call sheet' (a document detailing daily filming logistics, which is distributed to cast and crew), under the supervision of the first; and they oversee all the movements of the cast, ensuring that the principal actors are in makeup, in wardrobe, or standing by on the set at the correct times.

On smaller productions, on which there is no third assistant director, Seconds may also be responsible for finding and looking after background artists (extras). Most Seconds also assist the first in liaising between the set or location and the production office, updating key personnel on the timings and progress of the shoot.

Responsibilities:
On each day of a shoot, Seconds must prepare and draw up the next day’s call sheet, (which involves confirming the details of who needs to be on set and at what time, the transport arrangements, extras required etc.). These details must be approved by the production office before the Seconds can distribute the call sheet to the cast and crew. Ensuring that everyone knows their ‘call time’ (the precise time they will be required on set) is a key responsibility—any delay to filming due to bad time keeping negatively affects the day’s schedule and budget and is considered unprofessional and extremely inefficient.

Once the day’s filming has begun, Seconds must ensure that all actors are ready for filming when they are required, which entails coordinating any transport requirements, as well as makeup and wardrobe timetables. In some cases, Seconds may also be in charge of finding extras, sometimes in large numbers at short notice and coordinating their transport to and activities on, the set or location.

Skills:
Seconds must have excellent organizational and time management skills to coordinate arrangements and to make efficient plans. First class communication and interpersonal skills are also essential, as Seconds must deal with a large number of people, convey messages and give instructions clearly, concisely and confidently. Cast members may be under pressure to learn script lines, or to hone their performance and need to be dealt with tactfully and diplomatically at all times.

Paying close attention to detail and always attaining very high standards of efficiency are vital skills for successful Seconds. To foster the confidence of first ADs, Seconds must consistently offer capable support and assistance. As the work is on a freelance basis and involves long and unsocial hours, Seconds must be extremely motivated and always flexible.

Assistant Director (2nd 2nd)

AKA: 2nd 2nd Assistant Director, Third Assistant Director, 3rd Assistant Director An Assistant to the second assistant director; responsible for (among other things) directing the movements of extras.

Assistant to Producer

The Assistant to the Producer is an administrator who works closely with producers throughout the production process. They are involved at the pre–production stage through to post production and marketing and distribution. They must be well organized, flexible and have a good overview of the production process. The producer will determine their responsibilities throughout the production on a day to day basis. Their tasks may include writing coverage on scripts, drafting letters, making phone calls, running an office, interviewing personnel, coordinating the fundraising process, assisting with duties on and off set, liaising between the producer and the post production team and helping to prepare publicity materials. They may also be asked to help with copyright, arranging meetings and events and managing money. They are sometimes asked to contribute to strategic thinking in relation to projects in development.

A good Assistant to Producer can have a significant influence over the production and is sometimes given an associate producer credit. They may work as freelancers or employees of a production company. As well as excellent organizational and administrative skills, script reading skills, experience with script writing software and knowledge of the film industry is an advantage.

Associate Producer

An Associate Producer position can often be an entry level one. Often referred to as the ‘AP’, an Associate Producer generally assists the producer in putting the TV program or film together. Duties may include writing, editing, organizing scripts, running the teleprompter in news casts, or helping the editor by making beat calls.

An Associate Producer needs good writing and editing skills and may often be called upon to make simple editorial decisions when editing video by choosing the shots that match the copy. The Associate Producer will generally be required to rewrite wire copy and may also be responsible for cueing up tapes and making sure scripts are in order.

The Associate Producer may also pitch story ideas, help guide the editorial content of the program, assist with promotions, handle some bookings as well as manage the growing tape needs on the program. The role may also have the responsibility for assisting with the show's or film's webpage.

Audio Recordist

A member of the sound crew responsible for operating the audio recording equipment on a set.

Autocue Operator

Autocue is a name commonly given to the computerized prompting system used by presenters. The Autocue Operator follows the script and ensures that no matter how fast or slow you’re talking, the Autocue keeps up with you.

Best Boy

The term Best Boy refers to the best electrician in the team led by the gaffer (chief lighting technician). Best Boys coordinate the team of lighting technicians and deal with all the logistics and paperwork relating to the role. They liaise between the production office and the lighting company and relay information for the gaffer. Best Boys ensure that equipment is ordered, arrange its delivery and ensure that it arrives in the right place at the right time. They are also in charge of dealing with any damaged or malfunctioning equipment. This is a senior lighting role and varies according to the size of the production. The Best Boy is the gaffer’s right hand person.

Responsibilities:
Best Boys have specific responsibility for liaising with other members of the production team, e.g., the first assistant director, the special effects director or the art director. On location they may liaise with the building maintenance team, or with the electrician in a particular building. It is the Best Boys’ responsibility to check the lighting team members’ time sheets in order to verify the hours they have worked. Best Boys issue written orders and assist the gaffer in coordinating the other lighting technicians in the team. The work is demanding and the hours long and unpredictable. Best Boys may work a six day week and up to 12 or 13 hours per day.

Skills:
Lighting technicians need several years working experience before becoming Best Boys and it is unlikely that anyone would attain this position before reaching the age of 25. They must be organized, able to motivate other team members and to communicate effectively with other production departments, as well as acting as the liaison with the lighting company. Best Boys must be aware of health and safety legislation and procedures.

Boom Operator

Boom Operators assist the production sound mixer on film and television sets and operate the boom microphone, which is either hand held on a long arm or dolly mounted (on a moving platform). If radio or clip microphones are required, Boom Operators position them correctly around the set or location, or on actors' clothing. Boom Operators are responsible for positioning microphones so that sound mixers can capture the best quality dialogue and sound effects. If this is done well, a great deal of money can be saved by not having to re–record (post sync) the dialogue at a later stage in the film or television production. Boom Operators are also responsible for all the sound equipment, ensuring that it is in good working order and carrying out minor repairs where necessary. Boom Operators begin work on the first day of principal photography, after reading the script several times and familiarizing themselves with the characters and their lines of dialogue. Members of the sound department arrive half an hour before call time, in order to unload and set up all the sound equipment.

Boom Operators are given "sides" (small booklets of pages from the script that are to be shot each day), so that they can memorize all lines of dialogue and anticipate when to move the boom during filming. During the morning rehearsal with the director, director of photography and the actors, Boom Operators carefully note all planned camera movements and lighting requirements, so that they can ensure that the microphone does not accidentally fall into shot or cast shadows. Boom Operators are on set virtually all day, positioned with the camera crew, with whom they must develop good working relationships as they are often asked to move slightly because of lights or camera angles; Boom Operators may also make similar reciprocal requests. They finish work when the film wraps (is completed).

Boom Operators work on a freelance basis and report directly to production sound mixers in production sound departments. They usually specialize in either film or television, but may also work on commercials. The hours are long and the work often involves long periods working away from home.

Boom Operators need a basic understanding of electronics. They should also have a good working knowledge of all sound recording equipment and microphones.

Key Skills include:

  • excellent aural skills
  • dexterity and agility
  • ability to anticipate
  • a good memory
  • good timing
  • precise attention to detail
  • diplomacy and sensitivity on set
  • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures

Broadcast Engineer

Broadcast engineering is the field of electrical engineering and now to some extent computer engineering, which deals with radio and television broadcasting. Audio engineering and RF engineering are also essential parts of broadcast engineering, being their own subsets of electrical engineering.

Broadcast engineering involves both the studio end and the transmitter end (the entire airchain), as well as remote broadcasts. Every station has a Broadcast Engineer, though one may now serve an entire station group in a city, or be a contract Engineer who essentially freelances his services to several stations (often in small media markets) as needed.

Modern duties of a Broadcast Engineer include maintaining broadcast automation systems for the studio and automatic transmission systems for the transmitter plant.

There are also important duties regarding radio towers, which must be maintained with proper lighting and painting. Occasionally a station's Engineer must deal with complaints of RF interference, particularly after a station has made changes to its transmission facilities.

Camera Assistant (1st)

When characters in films run out of a burning building or simply walk across a room to open the door, they are usually moving closer or further away from the camera. This means that the focus point—the distance of the camera lens from the subject—is constantly changing. Adapting or "pulling" focus to accommodate these changes is the main responsibility of the 1st Assistant Camera (AC). 1st ACs are usually requested by the director of photography or the camera operator and work on a freelance basis. Hours are long and the work can be physically demanding.

What is the job?
The role of the 1st AC (until recently known as Focus Puller) is one of the most skilled jobs on a film crew. 1st ACs are responsible for focusing and refocusing the camera lens as actors move within the frame of each shot, but they do not look though the lens to do this; they pull focus according to a set of complex marks (which are placed on the set, on the floor, on props, etc., during the director’s on set rehearsal time with the cast) and by using their instincts and experience of judging focal lengths. As it is impossible to see whether the focus is sharp until the rushes are screened, 1st ACs rely on experience and instinct for each focal adjustment. Because reshooting scenes is expensive and actors may be unable to recreate their best take, 1st ACs must be extremely reliable and good at their work and should be able to cope effectively in stressful situations.

1st ACs are also responsible for camera equipment such as lenses, filters and matte boxes and for assembling the camera and its accessories for different shots. 1st ACs arrive on set or in the studio before the director, director of photography and camera operator and ensure that the camera and all required lenses are prepared for the day’s shoot. If the director or DoP wants to try out a specific lens, the 1st AC assembles the camera so that they can look through the eyepiece to assess the shot. At the end of each shooting day, 1st ACs clean the equipment and pack it up in preparation for the next day. If there is a problem with the rushes (such as a scratch on the film), focus pullers liaise with the film lab to rectify any faults with the camera or stock.

Typical career routes:
Since becoming a 1st AC is about acquiring hands on experience, it is essential to serve an apprenticeship, starting out as a camera trainee and progressing to become a 2nd then 1st AC. Some 1st ACs may start out by working at a junior level in a film lab or camera equipment facilities house, however, since the essence of the job is learning how to gauge focal length to such a degree that it becomes second nature, being around working cameras and learning how to use them is a crucial part of any apprenticeship. Some of the best 1st ACs see this role as an end in itself and make a good living; others go on to become directors of photography.

Essential knowledge and skills:
1st ACs must develop their ability to pull focus to such a degree that it becomes instinctive. This requires excellent knowledge of cameras, lenses and all related equipment. They must also keep up to date with new techniques and equipment. They need expert knowledge of photochemical and digital film processing.

Key Skills include:

  • good eyesight and the ability to accurately judge distances
  • agility and speed
  • precise attention to detail
  • ability to collaborate and to work as part of a team
  • diplomacy and sensitivity when working with artists and crew
  • physical stamina and strength
  • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures

Camera Assistant (2nd)

2nd Assistant Cameras (ACs) are key members of the camera crew and are responsible for the smooth running of the entire camera department. Audiences watching a finished film are not conscious of the camera—a complex piece of machinery, powered by batteries which must be charged and reloaded. Nor are they thinking of the difficult job of anticipating when a magazine (the sealed container that feeds the unexposed film into the camera) is about to run out and what a pressurized job it is to reload quickly so that the flow of filming is not disrupted. These are some of the responsibilities of the 2nd Assistant Camera. Most 2nd AC's are requested by a camera operator or 1st AC and work on a freelance basis. They often work on a combination of commercials, promos and features.

What is the job?
2nd ACs assist the camera operator in positioning and moving the camera and are responsible for loading and unloading film magazines, changing and charging camera batteries, changing lenses, operating the clapper board, filling out and filing all camera sheets, liaising with film labs and ordering the correct amount and type of film stock. 2nd ACs work closely with 1st ACs (focus pullers) and supervise any camera trainees.

Depending on the size of the feature film, 2nd ACs start work two or three weeks before the first day of principal photography, assisting the director of photography (DoP) and camera operator with any tests required on film stock or/and with artists. During the shoot, 2nd ACs begin work early in the mornings, unloading, organizing and preparing all the camera equipment for each day’s work. During rehearsals, they mark up the actors’ positions, enabling the 1st AC to calculate any changes in focus. When the camera starts to roll, 2nd ACs mark each take with a clapperboard which identifies the take and enables the assistant editor to synchronize the sound and picture in preparation for editing. 2nd ACs position themselves next to the camera, where they can anticipate all camera movements and monitor how much film stock is being used. They must know when a new film magazine should be prepared. At the end of each shooting day, 2nd ACs pack away all the equipment, label up film cans and dispatch them to the labs with detailed camera sheets.

Typical career routes:
The majority of 2nd ACs serve an apprenticeship as a camera trainee before progressing through the ranks of the camera department. Because the job involves an in depth knowledge of and feel for the camera, actual experience of handling camera equipment and stock is vital. Working in a camera rental facilities house such as ARRI or Panavision can also provide a good route to an apprenticeship.

Essential knowledge and skills:
2nd ACs must have an exhaustive knowledge of all camera equipment, film stocks and processing techniques. They also need a thorough understanding of how to manage and maintain all camera department paperwork and administration.

Key Skills include:

  • excellent organizational skills
  • agility and speed
  • effective communication skills
  • precise attention to detail
  • ability to collaborate and to work as part of a team
  • diplomacy and sensitivity when working with artists and crew
  • physical stamina and strength
  • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures

Camera Operator

A Camera Operator works with digital, electronic and film cameras in multi and single camera operational conditions, producing pictures for directors by combining the use of complex technology with creative visual skills. The work is based in either a studio, where the Camera Operator usually follows a camera script (which gives the order of shots practiced at rehearsal and is cued by the director during recording) or on location, where there is likely to be more opportunity for creativity through suggesting shots to the director. A Camera Operator usually works under the direction of a director or director of photography and is sometimes supported by a camera assistant (or a focus puller/clapper loader, although with the advent of digital and electronic cameras these functions are in decline). The role is an interesting mix of the creative and technical.

Typical work activities include feeding film into automatic film processor that develops, fixes, washes and dries film; measuring original layouts and determines proportions needed to make reduced or enlarged photographic prints for paste up; exposing high contrast film for predetermined exposure time; immersing film in series of chemical baths to develop images and hangs film on rack to dry; performing exposure tests to determine line, halftone and color reproduction exposure lengths for various photographic factors; mounting material to be photographed on copyboard of camera; measuring density of continuous tone images to be photographed to set exposure time for halftone images; selecting and installing screens and filters in camera to produce desired effects; adjusting camera settings, lights and lens; being prepared to innovate and experiment with ideas; taking instructions from the Director or the Director of Photography; working quickly, especially as timing is such an important factor; taking sole responsibility in situations where there is only one Camera Operator involved in the filming; keeping up to date with filming methods and equipment; repairing equipment; demonstrating a good awareness of health and safety issues.

Part of the role involves interacting and maintaining good working relationships with other members of the camera crew, including sound recorders, lighting technicians and actors.

Casting Director Assistant

Good casting is crucial to making characters credible on screen and is fundamentally important to a film’s success. Casting Assistants perform general running duties around the casting office and assist with specific casting related jobs. They are employed as freelancers on a film by film basis by casting directors.

Casting agencies vary in size but are usually quite small, comprising of the casting director and casting associate. As work on casting a film usually lasts no longer than ten weeks, Casting Assistants must be continuously on the lookout for their next job and should be prepared to work hard in this role for many years before they are offered the opportunity to become casting associates.

What is the job?
The duties of Casting Assistants vary according to the scale and budget of each film and also according to the willingness of the casting director to delegate responsibility. Casting Assistants are usually hired during development casting; their first responsibility is to read the script and to help the casting associate and casting director to draw up lists of possible actors for the main roles. Casting Assistants subsequently call the actors’ agents to check availability and relay this information to the casting director so that the lists are kept up to date with all relevant information.

Casting Assistants provide general running duties in the office, including answering phones, sending faxes and emails, liaising with couriers, making teas and coffees, etc., as well as assisting during casting sessions when actors perform screen tests on camera. Casting associates usually operate the camera during these tests and Casting Assistants ensure that the sessions run smoothly, by making tea and coffee for the actors and providing general support. After each casting session, casting associates make selections and edit together the best takes. These must be labelled correctly and sent to the director, producer and/or financiers by the Casting Assistant. Casting Assistants finish work on a film when most of the cast have been contracted.

Typical career routes:
Although there is no typical career route for this role, most Casting Assistants are graduates with an interest in acting and casting, who have managed to enter the film industry at junior levels as assistants in talent agencies, thereby gaining experience of selecting and working with actors, or as runners for production companies and/or on feature films. Those involved in casting should constantly keep up to date with new and interesting actors and must develop the confidence and taste which are vital for any casting director.

Acquiring casting credits on feature films is important for casting directors’ career progression, but as Casting Assistants are not usually credited it is difficult to develop a good reputation. Many talented, hard working Casting Assistants work for many years for the same casting director, before they are offered more responsibility, e.g., running a casting session on a modestly budgeted film and before they are promoted to casting associates.

Essential knowledge and skills:
Casting Assistants must have a wide knowledge of cinema and actors. An interest in the theater and stage actors is also a prerequisite. A basic understanding of how to operate a video camera (framing, focus, etc.) is also an advantage. Casting Assistants must be computer literate.

Key Skills include:

  • excellent communication skills
  • ability to recognize talent
  • a good memory
  • excellent organizational skills
  • precise attention to detail
  • ability to take direction
  • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures

Casting Director/Agent

Casting Directors organize and facilitate the casting of actors for all the roles in a film. This involves working closely with the director and producer to understand their requirements and suggesting ideal artists for each role, as well as arranging and conducting interviews and auditions. Once the parts are cast, the Casting Director negotiates fees and contracts for the actors and acts as a liaison between the director, the actors and their agents.

Casting Directors must have an extensive knowledge of actors and their suitability for a particular role. On larger productions, Casting Directors may supervise casting assistants, who will support and assist them in this work.

What is the job?
In pre–production, Casting Directors must liaise with both the director and the producer, who rely on the Casting Director to assist them to assemble the perfect cast for the film. Consequently, Casting Directors must have in depth and up to date knowledge of new and existing acting talent. They are responsible for matching the ideal actor to each role, based on a number of factors, such as the actor’s experience, ability, reputation, availability and box office appeal. Casting Directors also work closely with production accountants to prepare the casting budget.

Casting Directors organize and conduct interviews and auditions for each part and are also in charge of offering each actor an appropriate fee to appear in the film, as well as drawing up and negotiating the terms and conditions of contracts with agents, once casting is complete. Casting Directors need a vast knowledge of a huge range of actors and an extensive understanding of their abilities, as well as a thorough appreciation of changing talent and trends within the film industry. This requires a strong instinct for acting talent and great dedication and commitment. A deep passion for the craft of acting is essential. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are vital in order to liaise with a range of people, including other production staff, talent agents and the actors themselves.

Negotiation and organizational skills are also invaluable for agreeing actors’ fees and arranging the terms and conditions of their contracts. In order to cast the ideal actor for a key role in a film, directors and producers have to be highly selective and may be extremely demanding, so it is vital that Casting Directors are patient, hard working and diplomatic at all times.

Essential knowledge and skills:
Casting Directors must have a wide knowledge of cinema and actors. An interest in the theater and stage actors is also a prerequisite. A basic understanding of how to operate a video camera (framing, focus, etc.) is also an advantage. Casting Directors must be computer literate.

Key Skills include:

  • excellent communication skills
  • ability to recognize talent
  • a good memory
  • excellent organizational skills
  • precise attention to detail
  • ability to take and give direction
  • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures

Caterer

Film crews work long hours and need to eat well. On sets or locations, the standard daily meals are breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus coffee or snacks if the crew are required to work late into the evening. Catering is provided by specialized companies who drive catering trucks packed with food and a range of equipment including ovens, extraction fans, fridges, gas and water, to each unit base.

On big films, these trucks can be 35 feet in length and weigh up to 8 tons. Catering companies vary in size; the biggest have as many as 20 trucks, employ hundreds of staff and have their own garage for maintaining their vehicles. The smallest comprise of one or two individuals who prepare the menus, buy, cook and serve the food, make teas and coffees and clean and drive the truck to and from the location.

Catering companies are hired by production managers who put the work out to tender according to the catering budget agreed with the producer. Catering companies prepare quotes and supply sample menus and if their tender is accepted, provide catering for the production. On big films, the Catering Crew typically involves unit leaders, location chefs, salad persons and dish washers. As in all jobs in the catering profession, the work is hard and hours can be long.

What is the job?
Two days before the start of principal photography, unit leaders organize the packing of the catering truck with equipment and food. On each shooting day, they set off early in the morning, to arrive on set in time to prepare cooked breakfasts for the cast and crew. If they need to drive a long distance to the location, or if it is difficult to find, they rendezvous with the location manager who escorts them to the unit base.

Location chefs cook the meals according to their previously approved menus, ensuring that any special dietary requirements are catered for. The salad person is responsible for the preparation and presentation of all cold platters, fruit, salads and sandwiches. The dish washer helps with service, preparing vegetables and salads, dish washing and cleaning duties. They also manage the large tea urns and coffee pots which are required throughout the day. Catering Crews work every day of the shoot, finishing when the film wraps (is completed).

Celebrity Booker

The Celebrity Booker contracts the appropriate performers to star in a production. The Celebrity Booker follows viewer trends to ensure that the most popular celebrities are featured and he or she also works with talent agencies to discover new talent.

Composer

A Composer will need to write music to suit the mood and action in a TV, film drama or documentary. They will need to compose, perform, arrange and then work with producers to rearrange and rearrange as they change and finalize the film.

You will usually have to submit an initial pitch which is mostly unpaid. During the course of the program you will need to do lots of Demos, some of which may not be followed up.

If you do not have an agent you will need to negotiate your fee with the production manager. There are no guides to how much you should be paid, generally it is down to the budget of each program. You will almost always have to sign a publishing contract with the production company or broadcaster.

It helps to be familiar with a vast amount of repertoire and to be on top of what’s happened and is happening in the charts and movies. A classical training can help as it increases your versatility. If you don’t know the music when suggestions are made by the director you will need to know how to find it quickly. Time deadlines are always short.

You may also need to understand the editing of music. You will often produce the theme and also breakdowns with differing instrumentation, underscores or beds and stings. There may also be one off pieces, for example to go with archive footage. You must have the equipment and ability to make something that sounds high quality. You will also need to be able to sync to picture.

You need to get your music heard. The credits at the end of programs are a useful source of contacts. Check who produced and directed them and send a demo to them care of the production company. You can also try sending demo to editors and edit suites.

Compositor

Compositors work in most areas of animation and post production.

They are responsible for constructing the final image by combining layers of previously created material. Although it is primarily a 2D role within the 3D world of CGI and VFX (Visual Effects), Compositors need a thorough understanding of the CG process combined with relevant artistic skills.

In post production companies, some TDs (Technical Directors) may do their own compositing.

What is the job?
Compositors work at the end of the production process. They receive material from various sources which could include rendered computer animation, special effects, graphics, 2D animation, live action, static background plates, etc.

Their job is to creatively combine all the elements into the final image, ensuring that the established style of the project is respected and continuity is maintained.

To achieve this they enhance the lighting, match blacks and other color levels, add grain where required, add motion blur (if appropriate), create convincing shadows and make sure levels combine together seamlessly, keying, rotoscoping and creating mattes where necessary.

They work closely with lighters and need to have technical knowledge of how 3D lighting works in order to understand the ‘multi passes’ that the lighters create. They also liaise closely with render wranglers to progress work through the department.

As this is the end of the production line, there can be occasions when it is necessary to work very long hours to catch up on a schedule. Compositors need to keep up to date with technological developments within their field.

Construction Coordinator

Construction Managers (or Coordinators) supervise the construction of sets and stages for film productions. They coordinate the entire process of set building, from initial planning, through to the final coat of paint on the finished sets. Reporting to and hired by, the production designer, Construction Managers lead a team of craftsmen, including carpenters, painters, riggers and plasterers and ensure that all sets are completed to deadline and within budget and that they meet production requirements.

Construction Managers need excellent organizational and management skills, close attention to detail, an ability to see the "bigger picture" and to work under pressure, as well as an understanding of all facets of the construction process, usually acquired during many years’ experience of working in the film industry.

Responsibilities:
Construction Managers are responsible for interpreting and realizing production designers’ plans. They consult with production designers in order to establish the film’s construction requirements. Working from production designers’ plans, they establish the number of sets required and their size, design, color and texture. Staying within relevant budgets, Construction Managers hire the carpenters, painters, riggers and plasterers required to complete the work and negotiate their wages. They brief the heads of the carpentry, painting, rigging and plastering departments, passing on the relevant drawings and plans and agreeing on construction methods, procedures and deadlines. Construction Managers are responsible for supervising all aspects of construction work, ensuring that it proceeds smoothly and to strict timetables.

Construction Managers order in and negotiate the best prices for the materials and tools required for set builds. They are also responsible for arranging the transport of materials and tools to the correct location, at the right time. A key responsibility for Construction Managers is to ensure that strict health and safety guidelines are met and enforced, in particular those that ensure the safety of crew working at heights and with machinery; and those that dictate the requirements for the safety and stability of all the sets constructed. In addition to overseeing the construction of sets, Construction Managers coordinate the ‘strike’ (the dismantling of sets) and ensure that all materials are disposed of, or stored, safely and appropriately.

Skills:
Construction Managers must have project management experience and excellent leadership skills. The work is challenging and often hugely complex and involves coordinating large numbers of staff and materials. Construction Managers should be able to motivate their staff and inspire good work. They must also be aware of individual workers' particular craft skills and strengths.

As much of the work involves contributing to planning meetings, which may involve senior crew members, such as production designers, or directors, they need good verbal and written communication skills. Excellent numerical skills and the ability to work within budgets are also vital. Construction Managers must also be creative and resourceful, as they often need to find solutions to construction problems while working under great pressure.

Costume Designer

Costume Designers start working on films at the beginning of pre–production. They are in charge of designing, creating, acquiring and hiring all costumes for actors and extras. This must be achieved within strict budgets and to tight schedules. Costume Designers’ work is integral to defining the overall ‘look’ of films and their role requires a great deal of expertise. Their creative work ranges from designing original costumes, to overseeing the purchase and adaptation of ready made outfits. As heads of the costume department, Costume Designers are responsible for staffing and for managing a team of skilled personnel. Costume Designers also supervise practical issues, such as departmental budgets and schedules, the organization of running wardrobes and costume continuity.

Responsibilities:
During pre–production Costume Designers break down scripts scene by scene, in order to work out how many characters are involved and what costumes are required. They then begin the more complex task of developing costume plots for each character. These plots ensure that colors and styles do not mimic each other in the same scene and highlight the characters' emotional journeys by varying the intensity and depth of colors.

Costume Designers must carry out research in to the costume styles, designs and construction methods which are appropriate for the productions’ time period, using a number of resources including libraries, museums and the Internet. They may also discuss costume and character ideas with performers. They deliver initial ideas to directors about the overall costume vision, character plots and original costume designs, using sketches and fabric samples. They also discuss color palettes with the director of photography and the production designer.

Throughout the production process Costume Designers ensure that accurate financial records are kept and that weekly expenditure reports are produced. They prepare overall production schedules, as well as directing the day to day breakdowns of responsibilities. Costume Designers select and hire appropriate suppliers and costume makers, negotiating terms with them and communicating design requirements. They make sure that fittings for actors and extras are arranged. They supervise fabric research and purchase and ensure that garments are completed to deadlines.

Depending on the numbers of costumes to be created and the scale of budgets, Costume Designers may decide to create a dedicated costume workshop. They should be on set whenever a new costume is worn for the first time, to make sure that performers are comfortable, to explain special features and to oversee any alterations. Once filming is completed, Costume Designers are responsible for the return of hired outfits and the sale or disposal of any remaining costumes.

Skills:
Costume Designers must be highly organized, with good presentation skills and the confidence to manage and motivate their teams effectively. They should be able to work under pressure, to meet external and departmental deadlines and must have stamina and be adaptable to changes. They need to be able to listen to the ideas and concerns of others, while at the same time trusting their own opinions and instincts. They work closely with actors in a physical sense and must therefore be tactful and able to put people at their ease.

Costume Designers need good descriptive abilities, they must be able to break down scripts in terms of costume plots and have knowledge of story structure and character arcs. They must understand the research process and know how to source information. They need creative flair, a strong sense of color and design and the ability to draw. They should be confident in their knowledge of period costume, jewellery, corsetry, hosiery, millinery, footwear, costume accessories, etc. They must be experts on fabric qualities, clothing cuts, fits and techniques, pattern making and sewing. Creatively, they should know how to dress to particular faces or physiques to create characters.

Overall Costume Designers need a wide ranging cultural knowledge base, not only in terms of fashion, but also art and literature, film and textiles. Costume Designers should be familiar with the requirements of all relevant health and safety legislation and procedures.

Costumes / Wardrobe

The Costume Department is responsible for the design, fitting, hire, purchase, manufacture, continuity and care of all costume items on feature films. The term ‘Costume’ refers to the clothes that the actors wear and these differ enormously from production to production, ranging from contemporary urban fashion to period ball gowns and even wetsuits. The Costume Department is also responsible for jewellery, footwear, corsetry, hosiery, millinery and sometimes wig work. Costume is integral in defining the overall ‘look’ of the film. It provides the audience with information about the period, culture and society the actors inhabit and, on a more subtle level, the underlying themes of the film itself.

Work in the Costume Department is divided between two ‘wardrobe’: the ‘making wardrobe’, which incorporates the design, acquisition and creation of costume during pre–production; and the ‘running wardrobe’, which takes care of the organization, maintenance and continuity of costumes during the film shoot.

The costume designer is the head of the department and works closely with the production designer and director to ensure that costumes blend into the overall production design. The costume designer oversees a team that usually includes a costume design assistant, costume supervisor, costume assistants and costume dailies. On larger productions, the costume designer may employ a team of skilled technicians in a costume workshop, which could include cutters, makers, finishers, dyers and milliners. There may also be a wardrobe supervisor to oversee the running wardrobe.

Job responsibilities for personnel in the Costume Department vary enormously from production to production, depending on the requirements of the costume designer. As a result, the boundaries between job roles are blurred, particularly in the case of costume design assistants, costume supervisors and wardrobe supervisors. During the shoot costume personnel ensure that costumes are available when required, assist performers with dressing, oversee costume continuity and maintain and service costumes when not in use. After the shoot costume personnel ensure that costumes are safely stored, packed and returned to the relevant sources, or sold.

Craft Service

The person (or people) available to assist the other crafts which include camera, sound, electricians, grips, props, art director, set decorator, hair and makeup, during the actual shooting of a motion picture, with tasks including providing snacks and cleaning the set.

Crane Operator

Although negotiating a crane, carrying a heavy camera and a camera operator around a feature film set, or steering a remote head 100 ft above a location on a high–tech Strada crane is a highly skilled job, the audience is unaware of this as they marvel at the resulting bird’s eye views and breathtaking cinematography. Operating these potentially hazardous pieces of heavy machinery in difficult locations, often under the pressure of hectic shooting schedules, is the job of the Crane Operator. Crane Operators normally work as freelancers, but are affiliated with one of the camera equipment facilities houses. They are usually requested by the grip and ultimately report to the director of photography. Most Crane Operators combine work on commercials with television and feature films and some foreign travel may be involved, involving long periods spent away from base.

What is the job?
Crane Operators are responsible for setting up and operating all cranes on film productions. This can involve working with a variety of equipment, ranging from a small jib arm, used to make slight camera movements up and down, to a massive 90 foot long crane for shooting huge crowd or action sequences. Because the equipment is heavy and potentially dangerous, Crane Operators carry a great deal of responsibility for health and safety; this is one of the few jobs on productions that involve real life risks for all cast and crew. Depending on the size of the crane and of the production, Crane Operators may work alone or with another Crane Operator, but there are always a minimum of two grips per crane.

Crane Operators check over all the equipment on the day before the crane is required. On shooting days they drive the vehicle carrying the crane to the studio or location. Working closely with the grip, they assemble the crane and standby for any shots that require the camera to be elevated. This could involve a riding crane, which carries the camera operator and 1st assistant camera, or a pan–and–tilt head, which allows the camera to be operated by remote control and which can be elevated much higher. At the end of each working day, Crane Operators must make the crane safe for the next day, or if the crane is no longer required, de–rig it.

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