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:
A Script Coordinator is the point person between the writers and production and will distribute scripts to production. This person will also take care of clearance issues.
Script Supervisors in film and television work as part of the camera department to make sure that the production has continuous verbal and visual integrity. They must ensure that when different takes and scenes are finally edited the production does not contain distracting continuity errors. Script Supervisors observe every shot closely and take precise and detailed notes to provide directors and editors with an authoritative reference. Script Supervisors work long hours and are involved during pre–production and principal photography. They may be required to spend long periods away from home.
During pre–production the Script Supervisor will check the script for any inconsistencies, prepare estimated running times and break down the script according to production requirements. They will develop story synopses and character breakdowns, checking the shooting schedule to ensure that all the required scenes are shot and adequately covered from all required angles and working closely with directors to anticipate and solve any potential problems.
On each day of principal photography, Script Supervisors file reports and photographic records for the previous day’s shoot and prepare all paperwork for post production. They check continuity requirements for each scene to be shot. During filming they closely monitor the script to check that no dialogue is overlooked and cue actors where necessary. They keep detailed continuity notes and photographs or sketches of each actor and camera position for each shot. The detailed records they need to keep include all shot timings and camera movements, whether the scene is shot during the day or at night, any scene changes and their implications, all camera details including lenses and focal distances and any inconsistencies.
They liaise closely about continuity with other departments including costume, makeup and hair, props and lighting. Where pick up shots are required, Script Supervisors provide actors with dialogue start points and exact continuity details. They also ensure that other departments are aware of the status of each shot and that clapper boards are marked up accordingly. Where more than one camera is used, they ensure that each camera’s output is accurately identified. They confirm directors’ take preferences and note these for post production. They often assist sound mixers in taking additional notes of any recorded wild tracks or voice–overs. Script Supervisors retype scripts to reflect any major dialogue changes and markup scripts with slate numbers, cut points and other relevant details for post production. They prepare detailed daily continuity reports, editors’ daily log sheets and daily production reports. They also provide production with records of the requirements for any outstanding shots or inserts.
Script Supervisors may begin their careers as assistant production coordinators, or as production assistants in television. They may then progress to Script Supervision on 2nd camera shoots and 2nd unit work, eventually becoming recognized Script Supervisors. Script Supervisors may also move in to other areas of production, including producing, writing, directing, editing, script editing.
Second Unit Director
The Director of the second unit. The second unit is a small, subordinate crew responsible for filming shots of less importance, such as inserts, crowds, scenery, etc.
A Segment Producer produces one or more individual segments of a multi–segment production, also containing individual segments produced by others.
A Series Producer/Showrunner is the person who is responsible for the day to day operation of a television series, in other words, the person who "runs" the show
Financial responsibilities include budgeting, tracking costs, generating reports, etc. Through drawings, a Construction Coordinator is directed artistically by the production designer and art director to produce their "vision" in three dimensions. Also responsible for the physical integrity of the structures built by the construction department.
Costume Assistants may be employed on films at any stage during pre–production. They are responsible for carrying out any tasks allocated to them by costume designers, costume design assistants, costume supervisors and wardrobe supervisors. Their tasks may include: assisting with the design of and carrying out research into costumes; making, ordering and adapting the costumes and accessories required for productions; organizing fittings, dressing performers and overseeing continuity on sets.
Costume Assistants may help to break down the script into costume plots and detail costume requirements and changes in the continuity book. They may also carry out research for the costume designer into 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.
Costume Assistants help to organize the costume department, ordering supplies and assisting in setting up any workrooms needed for productions. They take artists’ measurements and they may also assist with making costumes, including pattern cutting, ageing and distressing costumes, etc. They may be involved in sourcing and buying costumes and accessories and in liaising with costumiers about costume hire. They may be given specific responsibility for crowd fittings, overseen by costume design assistants or costume and wardrobe supervisors.
Costume Assistants may be responsible for packing costumes for overseas shipment to other locations or units. During the shoot, they help to organize the costumes by ensuring that the appropriate outfits are correctly placed for actors. They may dress actors and explain their costumes to them, checking that the costumes match continuity requirements. Costume Assistants monitor the costumes for damage, carrying out any last minute alterations and repairs, or sending garments to the workrooms for special treatment. Costume Assistants may also act as standbys, dressing the costumes to camera by referring to a monitor and ensuring that there are changes of clothes available in case of wet weather on locations. During breaks and between shoot days, they clean and iron costumes, look after accessories such as hats and gloves and keep a record of all jewellery used by actors.
Set Decorators provide anything that furnishes a film set, excluding structural elements. They may have to provide a range of items, from lumps of sugar and tea spoons, to newspapers, furniture and drapes, to cars, carriages, or even cats and dogs. There are two types of props: action props, or all props that are described in the shooting script; and dressing props, or items that help to bring characters to life or to give a certain atmosphere and sense of period to a place.
Small details often tell the audience the most about characters in feature films: the pictures hanging on the walls of their homes; the contents of their fridge or bathroom cabinet; their books; the treasured objects kept in a box hidden in the desk drawer. All of these details are created by the imagination and creative flair of Set Decorators, who research, prepare and oversee the dressing of every set and adapted location on a feature film. Many Set Decorators work on commercials, where they are known as stylists, as well as on films. They work on a freelance basis with a number of Set Designers who usually specifically request them. The hours are long and the job can involve long periods working away from home.
Once Set Decorators have met with the production designer to discuss the agreed aesthetic of the film, they visit numerous prop houses, where they carefully select the bigger props and book them for the shoot. In the art department office, Set Decorators prepare a detailed prop breakdown, marking the script up and listing requirements for action props, animals, vehicles, dressing props and any graphics items (letters, newspapers, posters, books etc). Production buyers and graphic artists also prepare their own lists which are compared to check for any missing items. These lists are combined to make the definitive list from which Set Decorators work. The required items are then located, purchased or hired and where necessary model–makers are commissioned, arrangements are made for furniture to be reupholstered, etc. When the final schedule is delivered (detailing the precise shooting order of scenes in the film), definitive lists of all props and set decoration are prepared according to daily requirements.
Set Decorators may also work on product placement arrangements, or on acquiring copyright clearances for branded items. Close to the beginning of the shoot, Set Decorators photograph all items, taking careful measurements where necessary and allocate the appropriate props to each set. The day before shooting begins Set Decorators and their teams arrive in the early hours to begin dressing the set. After the Set Designer has checked over the dressed set and made any last minute changes or additions and the director and the director of photography have given their final approvals, Set Decorators begin work on the next scene detailed on the schedule. Because locations and prop hire can be very expensive, striking (dismantling) each set and returning all the props must be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Scenic Artists paint backdrops, murals and many other elements on film sets. Working to briefs set by production designers, they are usually highly trained artists, with an art school background, or they may have trained as scenic artists for theater productions. The role requires excellent artistic skills, combined with the ability to work independently, accurately and to deadlines.
Scenic Artists are usually briefed by the production designer and/or the chargehand painter to produce one or several scenic works for films, such as cloud backdrops, or the backdrop of a city such as New York or London, which is to be viewed out of a set window. They may also be briefed to paint the murals or paintings required on sets and to touch–up or finish work undertaken by the painting team. They may be asked to paint complex prop pieces. They are responsible for scheduling their own work, buying in the necessary supplies and translating the production designer’s vision into reality.
Scenic Artists must ensure that their work is carried out to the agreed standards and deadlines. They assist at the load in and strike, of all their work. They must adhere to strict health and safety guidelines, carry out their tasks in a safe work environment and clean up and dispose of any waste in their work area.
Scenic Artists need excellent, comprehensive artistic and scenic skills. They should have a good knowledge of basic scenic painting techniques, layout and paint application skills and color mixing. Scenic Artists’ abilities should include the traditional fine arts skills of sketching, rendering and painting. They must also be well versed in techniques such as marbling, ragging and wood graining and texturing and should have a good understanding of art history, period styles, motifs and architecture. They must be able to interpret designers’ small–scale ideas and develop them into full–scale reproductions, perhaps even improving on the design during the process. They must be able to handle scenic painting materials safely. They should be able to work independently, but also as part of a team and to deadlines.
Most Scenic Artists acquire their qualifications at art schools and have a good understanding of art history, architecture and color theory. Many gain experience by painting backdrops for theater productions. Detailed knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures when working with paints is essential
The Sign Writer is the person in charge of writing and making signs shown in a production; possibly part of the set designer’s team.
Sound Assistants are the third members of the production sound crew and provide general backup and support to the production sound mixer and the boom operator. They are responsible for checking all stock, microphones and batteries and making sure that the sound department runs as smoothly as possible.
On large scale productions, Sound Assistants may be called upon to operate the second boom, recording all off–camera lines of dialogue, i.e., lines spoken by characters who do not appear on screen. Sound Assistants usually work on a freelance basis with the same production sound mixer and boom operator. Most Sound Assistants work on both film and television productions, unless they work with a production sound mixer who works exclusively on feature films. The hours are long and the work often involves long periods working away from home.
What is the job?
Sound Assistants usually begin work on the first day of shooting, arriving on set half an hour before call time, with the rest of the sound crew. They help to unload the sound van and working with the boom operator, check that all equipment is prepared and fully operational. During the director’s rehearsals with the director of photography and actors, sound assistants must pay close attention in case they are required to move positional microphones, or assist the boom operator to plan for difficult shots.
Sound Assistants also help to lay carpet if required to stop any unwanted noise being picked up from the studio or location floor. When other members of the crew or guests visiting the set use headphones with audio receivers to check for dialogue continuity, it is the Sound Assistant’s responsibility to ensure that they are in good working order and that their batteries are fully charged. If there is unwanted noise during recording (talking, coughing, traffic, etc.), Sound Assistants are required to find the source of the problem and deal with it as quickly and tactfully as possible so that the shooting schedule is not disrupted.
Sound Assistants help the production sound mixer to attach clip microphones to actors’ clothing. They also help the boom operator to negotiate cables on the studio floor during recording and at the end of each shooting day, to ensure that all the sound discs containing the sound rushes are correctly packaged and labeled. They are employed until the end of the shoot, when they make sure that all equipment is carefully packed away and that any remaining sound paperwork is handed over to the production office.
On large scale productions where Sound Assistants are required to swing a second boom, sound trainees are usually employed to perform general running duties (making tea and coffee for the sound crew, helping with unpacking, cleaning and setting up all sound equipment, etc.). They also shadow the production sound mixer and boom operator, learning while gaining invaluable on the job experience.
Sound Designers are responsible for providing any required sounds to accompany screen action. They work closely with the production mixer, sound supervisor, the editor and the director to create original sound elements. They may work with the director to create the entire soundtrack, or be hired just to create one kind of effect.
Most Sound Designers are experienced sound editors who often carry out a managerial role. They may supervise the work of the entire sound post production process as well as having a specialized role in creating the sound concept for the production.
Sound effects are added after filming during the editing process to give the film an authentic sense of location or period, or to give it a particular mood. They may be employed by audio post production houses, or work on a freelance basis and provide their own digital audio workstations. They are also likely to own their own recording equipment.
Good communication skills are needed, along with imagination and creative flair to produce original sound elements and effects. The ability to accept direction and work well with others is also important. Sound Designers must have a good understanding of acoustics and an expert knowledge of sound recording and analog and digital editing techniques.
Sound Designers are enthusiasts who have usually spent years recording and experimenting with everyday sounds before entering the industry. They often progress from being runners in picture or sound cutting rooms, or in audio post production facility houses, to becoming assistant re–recording mixers or assistant sound editors providing backup to experienced sound editors. They may also have a background in music or may have learned their editing skills working in television production. Many Sound Designers are also supervising sound editors, or re–recording mixers.
A Sound Editor creates the soundtrack by cutting and synchronizing to the picture, sound elements, such as production wild tracks, dialogue tracks, library material and foley in analog or digital form and presents these to the re–recording mixer for final sound balance. Depending on the complexity and the tightness of the schedule it may be necessary to employ a dialogue editor and/or foley editor. They work closely with the sound designer, re–recording mixer and the director to establish what sound effects are required throughout the production and to ensure that these effects are available from sound effect libraries, or can be created to production requirements within tight time schedules.
Must be computer literate and have a good working knowledge of sound recording, playback, editing and mixing equipment, also experience in the various soundtrack delivery systems. Excellent hearing and a good sense of timing are required, as are attention to detail and good communication skills.
Supervising Sound Editors are responsible for all sound post production. They are the director’s main point of contact for everything concerning the production soundtracks. They must have a good grounding in dialogue recording, automated dialogue replacement, foley and sound effects or music editing. On big budget film and TV productions they usually start work before shooting begins and appoint specialized Sound Editors to supervise separate teams for each area of work. For smaller productions they will be more hands on. They are responsible for the sound budget and managing the schedule to ensure it goes to plan.
Sound Editors must have an excellent working understanding of acoustics, sound recording processes and electronics and an expert knowledge of all post production sound equipment, processes and procedures, both analog and digital.
Sound Engineers operate consoles and other equipment to control, replay and mix sound from various sources in live concert performances and in the production of records, tapes and films. Sound crews also install and hookup equipment. The sound crew is supervised by the sound mixer. The sound crew may also have a number of assistants. Workers may also work as utility sound operators, sound cable workers, maintenance design sound engineers, microphone operators.
A member of the sound crew responsible for operating the audio recording equipment on a set.
Special Effects is an artificial effect used to create an illusion in a movie. It refers to effects produced on the set, as opposed to those created in post production. Most movie illusions are created in post production. These are called visual effects. Special Effects Supervisor is the chief of a production’s special effects crew.
Special Effects Editor
An Editor who specialises in editing special effects.
The Stage Manager is the director’s right hand man prior to performance. They keep track of rehearsal schedules, scripts, props and actors during the rehearsal process. Once the run of the show has begun, the Stage Manager is in control of everything that happens backstage or onstage. The Stage Manager "conducts" each performance by calling cues. This means the SM follows the show in the prompt book and tells the light board operator and the sound board operator when to execute a cue.
Steadicam Operators are usually trained and experienced camera operators who learn most of their practical skills through hands on experience on the job. The technology changes rapidly, so they need to be prepared to keep learning. Basic stills photography, which develops their visual and composition skills, can be a useful starting point.
Steadicam Operators need a good working knowledge all camera systems and lenses. They must have up to date knowledge of all available Steadicam and body mount systems along with knowledge of available accessories such as remote focus systems, video senders and receivers and any specialized equipment designed and used by other operators. It is a physically demanding job, so awareness of stretch and positioning techniques such as Pilates, Yoga or Martial Arts is useful to help avoid injury.
Steadicam Operators are responsible for the technical set up of the Steadicam system and for balancing the camera on it. They liaise with director, director of photography (DoP) and actors to set up and perform the required shots. They also work with the 1st assistant camera to ensure that shots are in focus and with the 1st assistant director to make sure that the choreography of the shot runs smoothly.
Steadicam Operators are specialists within the camera department and may be hired on a daily basis to perform specific shots within a scene, or employed as camera operators who specialize in Steadicam. Steadicam allows camera operators to follow or create movement without extensive use of grip equipment. The Steadicam system isolates the Operator’s body movements, enabling the camera to be moved with great fluidity, while remaining stable. Many specialized Steadicam Operators have invested in their own equipment and are normally requested by directors or DoPs. They must be willing to work long hours and be prepared to spend long periods spent away from home.
Unit Stills Photographers take the vitally important photographs of film sets or studio shoots that are used to create the press and publicity for feature films. These arresting images, if they are used well, can genuinely contribute to a film’s box office and international sales success. Unit Stills Photographers usually work on set, recording scenes from the film; alternatively, they may be required to set up photographs in the style of the film in a studio environment.
Many big stars have a clause written in to their contracts enabling them to "kill" any images of themselves which they do not approve—often the bigger the star, the greater the "kill factor," which can be as high as 75%. Unit Stills Photographers must therefore be prepared for the rejection of what they may consider to be their best work. Unit Stills Photographers are employed, on a freelance basis, by producers, film PR companies, film sales agents, or distributors and usually combine unit stills work with a variety of other professional stills photography (portraiture, travel, beauty, editorial, film festivals and special events). The hours are long and they often spend considerable periods of time away from base.
What is the job?
The number of days Stills Photographers work on set depends on the budget and scale of each film. On medium sized films, they are usually employed for at least 15 days; on big budget films with A–List casts, they may be required to be on set every day of the shoot. Their first responsibility is to run through the shooting schedule with the film PR and decide on the best days for them to visit the set.
Once these days have been approved, Unit Stills Photographers make their own way to the set or studio with their equipment, including 4 or 5 different cameras (both manual and digital) which enable them to shoot concurrently on different kind of film stocks, lenses, tripods, etc. Unit Stills Photographers must be patient and sensitive when working on set, because actors may feel that having another camera pointing at them could adversely affect their performance. In these circumstances, Unit Stills Photographers use the morning blocking rehearsal to attempt to capture some good shots.
Usually, however, with the actors’ permission, Unit Stills Photographers position themselves as close to the film camera as possible and shoot every scene in detail using a piece of equipment called a Blimp, which houses the stills camera and cuts out any noise it might make.
Unit Stills Photographers send the exposed film to processing laboratories every 3–4 days and continuously choose the best shots and mark up contact sheets. If a studio shoot is planned, they work with the actors to create the desired shots, usually based on a brief from the poster artwork designers. Once their work is completed, all the images are sent to the sales company, distributor, film PR or publicist, who use them for the P&A (Press and Adverting) campaign.
A Story Editor/Story Producer is a non standardized reality television term for a writer/producer who may be involved (at any level of pre to post production) in producing/editing source footage to create and nuance story. Other duties may include writing host dialogue, VO and dialogue/action pickups. During the post production process, most either work directly with editors or provide detailed paper edits for editors to work from.
Storyboard Artists translate screenplays, or sequences from screenplays, into a series of illustrations in comic book form. These illustrations have two functions: to help directors clarify exactly what they want to achieve and to illustrate to all other heads of department exactly what is required, e.g., prosthetics for makeup, computer generated Images (CGI) for visual effects, props for the art department, etc.
In many ways comic books are the art form that most closely resembles cinema—they both tell stories in a primarily visual form, involving discrete, framed images linked sequentially to convey information. Although comic book images are static, it is often useful to employ the comic book form to develop complex sequences in films that require careful planning and that cannot or should not be left to on–set improvisation. Helping the director to conceptualize these sequences is the specialized task of Storyboard Artists. They work on a freelance basis.
What is the job?
Storyboards are mainly required on films containing large amounts of action and/or CGI, where complex chase, fight or battle scenes need to be visualized and carefully planned. It is now becoming commonplace for many big budget feature films to be storyboarded before shooting begins. Although it may be argued that this stifles the creative process of directing a film, it is a sensible way of avoiding overshooting and spiraling budgets.
Depending on individual directors and their requirements, Storyboard Artists usually start work early in the production process. After reading the screenplay, they meet with the director to discuss the mood and atmosphere of any scenes to be storyboarded. During this process Storyboard Artists must analyze the director’s requirements and visualize the scene from the camera’s point of view, working out the characters’ positions, who or what else is in the frame and from what angles they are seen and imagining their feelings. After Storyboard Artists have delivered the first few illustrations, directors usually allow them to suggest their own ideas for the following scenes, although some directors are more prescriptive about what they want, using storyboards as a reminder rather than as a template. On big budget films, two or three Storyboard Artists may be employed full time, usually in art department offices at film studios, where they are able to examine any models of the sets and photographs of various locations and refer questions to the production designer.
Although most Storyboard Artists still prefer to use pencil and paper rather than draw on a computer screen, as they have more control over the movement and flow of a pencil line, they use computer software packages such as Photoshop to collate and change work easily. Because of advances in computer games and in animation techniques, many storyboard software packages are available, e.g., Storyboard Lite, Frameforge 3D Studio and Storyboard Artists & Storyboard Quick.
A Studio Videographer is the person who works in the video medium, recording moving images and sound onto linear analog or digital tape, non–linear digital disc, or any other digital recording media, such as memory cards. On a set, he or she may be responsible for the lighting as well as the audio and images captured by the video camera/camcorder. Videographers differ from cinematographers because they record using video cameras/camcorders while cinematographers use film cameras to shoot film footage onto motion picture film stock. The development of high definition digital cinematography, however, is quickly blurring this distinction.
A Stunt Coordinator is a person who arranges and plans stunts.
A Stunt Driver is a specialist who performs car stunts.
A Supervising Producer supervises one or more producers in the performance of some or all of his/her/their producer functions, on single or multiple productions, either in place of, or subject to the overriding authority of an executive producer.
The Talent Booker contracts the appropriate performers to star in a production. The Talent 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.
The Technical Director (TD) or technical producer (TP) is usually the most senior technical person within a theatrical company or television studio. This person usually possesses the highest level of competence in a specific technical field and may be recognized as an expert in that industry. The Technical Director provides technical direction on business decisions and in the execution of specific projects. He or she may be assigned to a single project, or may oversee a number of projects with related technologies. This position is often similar to that of chief scientist or chief responsible to make sure that the technicians hired, volunteering or renting the theater know how to properly use the sound, lighting and rigging equipment. It is their job to make sure the technical equipment in the theater is cleaned and safe; although these duties should be delagated to a shop or house manager. Technical Directors of theater companies are often hired to fill the role of Technical Director for productions as well, but these are two separate jobs.
A Technical Director for a specific production(s) is responsible for working closely with the scenic designer and director. It is their responsibility to determine how the scenery will be built and out of what materials. A TD will take a scenic designer’s artistic draftings and create technical draftings of them. These are the draftings given to the scenic carpenters. They should be clear and have all the information a carpenter needs to start work immediately. A TD also keeps close contact with the production manager and keeps them informed of their budget’s status at all production meetings.
Technical Director can also refer to the in–house chief designer/master carpenter for a smaller theater company.
A teleprompter is a device used in video, film and TV that prompts actors for lines that may be forgotten or missed. Teleprompters are also used for speeches and for providing information such as a news anchor or reporter. The Teleprompter Operator transcribes scripts or recording into readable banners or special screens that are used to prompt people to remember what they are to say. Some teleprompter information may be provided in advance in the form of audio or videotape that must be transcribed into text format.
Teleprompter Operators must have a good working knowledge of the language being used in the film and must also be able to work with various individuals in the film that have different speech patterns. Since the Teleprompter Operator must match the information on the screen with what is occurring in the scene it is very important that they have an ability to work in highly distracting settings and under considerable pressure.
A Teleprompter Operator needs to have excellent organizational, time management and communication skills. Since they are part of the production team they will be required to attend planning meetings as well as operate the teleprompter during the event or filming. Most Teleprompter Operators work flexible hours and may have to work long hours, evening and weekends to complete filming on schedule. A college degree in English, communications, film or a related field is often an asset. Excellent computer and keyboard skills are also required.
As a Television Producer, your main purpose is to deal with the practical and business side of a project, to allow the director and crew to concentrate on the creative aspects.
You would manage the production process from start to finish, organizing all the resources needed and often coming up with the initial idea for a project.
Your work might include:
- deciding which projects to produce, or coming up with program ideas yourself
- reading or editing scripts
- securing the rights for books or screenplays, or getting writers to produce new screenplays
- raising finance for projects
- bidding for television broadcasters to commission your program
- planning and managing resources and schedules, making sure that the entire production stays on schedule and within budget
- hiring all the necessary technical resources and support services, recruiting key production staff and crew and being involved with casting performers
- managing cash flow
- making sure that the entire production stays on schedule and within budget
In smaller productions you may be involved in all of these areas and may even direct as well. In large TV productions, you may be part of a team of Producers with separate responsibilities.
You will need substantial experience in the creative and business sides of program making. You will also need an in–depth understanding of the production process and a network of contacts in the industry.
You could work your way up through the industry to become a Producer in various ways. In television, you would usually start as a runner or production assistant. Producers of factual programs often start as program researchers or journalists. Alternatively, you could progress through production office roles, starting with production secretary and assistant production coordinator.
Television Shows Director
In television, Directors work across all genres, including news, sport, documentaries, current affairs, light entertainment, children’s programs, situation comedies, soaps or serial dramas, or one–off dramas. These programs may be either transmitted live, recorded as live, or prerecorded in any multi camera environment in studios or during outside broadcasts (OBs), or shot on single or multi camera film or tape shoots and edited in post production.
Directors are responsible for the look and sound of a production and its technical standards; they interpret the producer’s and/or writer’s vision. Every production has its unique internal dynamic and directors are responsible for ensuring that the final program is faithful to the original concept. They are the guardians of the genre and need to be able to push boundaries while remaining in total control of their material. They collaborate closely with all heads of department, including designers, camera, sound, lighting and choreographers. Directors may be employed by broadcasters, or work on a freelance basis.
What is the job?
Directors work closely with producers and/or writers, embellishing, refining and ultimately realizing original ideas into finished programs. They make careful preparations in order to ensure the success of each shoot. Directors must have a clear creative vision of the project and what materials are required to achieve it. They should not shoot endless footage which may be useful, but prepare a carefully calculated shooting schedule which provides the required footage within budget and to deadlines. Within those parameters they should also be able to contribute creatively to projects. So that they can construct productions with logic and integrity, particularly in drama, Directors should understand the significance of scenes and how they fit into the overall program structure, as well as knowing what is happening within each scene as it is shot.
Studio multi camera shoots are essential elements in the production process of high volume drama series and soaps. Detailed preparation is required in order to provide crew members with accurate instructions and directions. Directors carefully read through scripts before their first meeting with producers, script editors, story editors, series editors, script supervisors and/or 1st assistant directors. At these meetings Directors may suggest changes to the structure or order of scenes in order to create greater dramatic tension.
The other heads of department may draw attention to potential technical, logistical or creative problems with scripted scenes and suggest solutions or alternative arrangements. Once all these factors have been taken into account and changes approved, scripts are returned to writers and changes negotiated. Final amended scripts are delivered to the Director so that marked–up camera scripts and/or running orders can be prepared for cast and crew members.
The Director’s marked studio script is the blueprint from which all crew members draw their requirements. It is used by the script supervisor to prepare a script breakdown or story order listing additional requirements. Departments as diverse as sound and costume select and use the information that is relevant to them. Once all changes have been approved and implemented, Directors are responsible for the creative and technical aspects of producing finished programs, working to the producer’s budget.
Directors block all aspects of the script (plot the required camera movements, backgrounds and locations, in relation to the actors’ actions) in order to keep the production under control and to create a safe environment for actors to work creatively without wasting production time. Directors and actors attend script read throughs in order to explain and discuss all aspects of the script, such as the relevance of particular scenes, including whether they should be performed particularly dramatically, amusingly, tragically, etc. They also discuss whether scenes are significant to the storyline, or if they are there as reminders to the audience of earlier developments.
Directors liaise with crew members about all technical requirements, e.g. lighting and camera movements, sound recording requirements (such as what type of microphones should be used), set dressing, vision effects, graphics and transitions. While the crew prepare the sets and set up the equipment, Directors may work with individual actors on specific scenes which require particularly sensitive, dramatic or comedy performances.
On single camera shoots, e.g. for scenes shot on location or documentary shoots, preparation is equally important. Directors must work closely with the production manager, designers, lighting directors, 1st assistant director and others, to choose suitable locations and plan the shots required. They must ensure that there is sufficient coverage, including appropriate wide shots, mid shots and close ups, so that the correct emphasis and dramatic atmosphere can be created in the editing process. Edited sections are subsequently incorporated into scenes shot in studio or on OB during recording, or in post production. Drama productions may also be shot completely on single or multi camera film or tape shoots and edited in post production. On documentaries and factual programming some Directors shoot their own material, interview contributors and edit these materials as well.
Directors must be able to carry out detailed preparations to ensure that sufficient material is shot or made available from other sources (e.g. archives, stock shots, stills, etc.) for editing and post production. Producers also have input into these processes, enabling them to affect the production’s tone and feel.
Light entertainment programming is usually produced in multi camera studios or on OBs. Documentaries are usually shot on single camera and edited in post production under the supervision of Directors. On some low budget documentary productions, Directors may work with the support of only a researcher/associate producer and an executive producer and with very small technical crews (camera, sound and editing only). In these cases, Directors must be more self sufficient, often taking on the dual role of producer/director.
News or current affairs Directors may not be responsible for individual shot items and may only direct multi camera programs from the gallery, under considerable time pressures to produce smooth running, quick turnaround programs. They may need to change the running order at the last minute in order to accommodate emerging items and must be able to react quickly and effectively in extremely stressful circumstances.
During multi camera studio recordings, or live transmissions, Directors work closely with vision mixers and production assistants (PAs) in the gallery (control room) to visually create the program. The gallery is located away from the studio floor and Directors communicate via talkback equipment to technical personnel including floor managers, camera operators, sound supervisors, boom operators, lighting gaffers and other personnel. Directors cue all movements, PAs provide countdowns and shot calling, vision mixers effect all transitions and, in some circumstances, producers may offer last minute suggestions/amendments. Crew members may also provide feedback from the studio floor. Directors must be able to absorb all this information while following agreed camera scripts and simultaneously monitoring program content, performances and technical quality.
Television Writers are skilled writers who prepare scripts for a wide range of television including commercials, soap operas, comedies, documentaries and dramas.
Some Writers create station announcements, previews of coming shows and advertising copy for local sponsors. These editors may also write material for locally produced shows. They must be able to write persuasively, creatively and quickly because of the pressure of deadlines.
The Television Writer is the person responsible for creating all plot lines, dialogue, characters and situations. The Writer provides the initial story as well as rewriting and polishing scripts. Episodic Television Writers can also serve as producers as well and are responsible for both the budget and the overall quality of production.
Writing for television is different from writing for film or stage. Television Writers must be able to write to order. For example they will need to write for a specific audience and to fill a specific time slot. It can be almost a technical job. They may be working as part of a team under a head writer who makes many of the creative decisions. Writing what the show calls for under a strict timetable is often more important than artistic expression.
Some Writers work full time for television stations but many work freelance on a job by job basis. Although individual television episodes are credited to a single Writer (or writing team), Television Writers often write as a group. Depending on the show, the budget available and the preference of the showrunner, there could be up to twenty Writers working at different levels on a single series from staff writers to producers.
Television Writers are usually employed on the basis of what they have written. A good spec script is a sample of your writing that shows other people that you understand television writing and is a good way to demonstrate your skills. It could be a script of an existing television show that you have written or an original television pilot.
A Transcriptionist requires the skill of literacy. Because there is the opportunity for just about any word in a given language to be used during the course of a meeting or session that will require transcription, the Transcriptionist must have the ability to transcribe what is heard accurately. This includes understanding colloquialisms that may be employed by various speakers, being able to use punctuation in such a way that the inflection of the speakers are captured as much as possible and being able to record the dialogue exactly as it occurred. A well rounded education in the art of language is an essential for any good Transcriptionist.
Above and beyond basic language skills, the need to deal easily with technical terminology or simple shoptalk is very handy in many transcription jobs.
Strong typing skills are a must for any Transcriptionist. In some cases, the job has to be accomplished in a real time setting. In effect, the Transcriptionist is taking dictation, without the ability to employ the old–fashioned shorthand method. Even in cases where the Transcriptionist is working off an audio recording of a meeting or event, a quick delivery of the finished transcript may be very important to the client. Circumstances often dictate that a finished transcript be made available to the customer within a day or less. Fast and accurate typing skills go a long way to meeting those sorts of deadlines.
Lastly, a Transcriptionist also may need to employ some research skills to the task. No matter how well versed the Transcriptionist may be in a given field, chances are that he or she will have to look up a few terms or phrases that are used within a meeting or session. This research often helps the Transcriptionist put the remarks into context, which aids in using appropriate punctuation. The research can also serve to verify the spelling of any words that the Transcriptionist may be unsure about.
A Translator is a person who translates written messages from one language to another.
The Transport Department varies in size depending on the scale of the shoot. On big budget features, the department is run by the Transport Coordinator who oversees the entire transportation requirements for the film. He or she employs one or more Transport Managers to manage the use of the support vehicles, as well as the trucks and vans used to transport equipment. Transport Coordinators also appoint Transport Captains to take charge of the travel arrangements of cast and crew. Transport Captains ensure that people are picked up at the right place and delivered to the set on time, by private cars, mini–buses or coaches. Smaller budget films may only employ the services of one Transport Captain, who ensures that cast and crew arrive on time.
Members of the Transport Department are likely to have extensive experience of working in the transport industry, either as HGV drivers, or as private hire drivers. They must be aware of and abide by, existing transport legislation and ensure that their vehicles are safe and roadworthy. Each of the Transport Department roles requires good timekeeping and communication skills.
An executive who is responsible to a senior producer for the administration of a particular movie. Unit Production Managers only work on one film at a time. Only DGA members can be called Unit Production Managers.
Unit Publicists (UPs) provide a vital conduit between producers, cast, crew and the media during film shoots. By generating publicity, they help sales agents to sell films and to create public interest. UPs work closely with producers, distributors and sales agents to plan all press strategy for film shoots, making sure that only the right amount of information is released at specific times, so that the press coverage is not jeopardized when the film is released.
UPs are responsible for unit press and publicity budgets which are set by producers. UPs work on a freelance basis and are hired only for the duration of each shoot, although they may also be employed to handle distribution publicity in the run up to the film’s release date.
What is the job?
Unit Publicists (UPs) start work on films between 4 to 6 weeks before the first day of principal photography. Their first responsibility is to issue a press release providing information about the film to selected press and to ensure that details about the film shoot, cast and crew are printed in the trade press. Once the shooting schedule has been agreed, UPs work with the producer and often with the actors’ agents (or managers) to schedule visits to the set, on specific shooting days, by a number of selected journalists, who may represent a mixture of magazines and regional, national and international newspapers and broadcasters.
UPs ensure that the actors and director are available to the journalists on these days and that there is plenty happening to provide a good color piece (an article that sets the scene and is full of lively descriptions of the set, etc.) The UP and the journalists, or sometimes the newspaper/magazine editors, discuss when each article will be published in order to maximize the film’s publicity. During a set visit, UPs liaise with the 2nd assistant director to check actors’ schedules and to deal with any last minute changes, which often occur on film sets and help to facilitate the journalists’ work. UPs may also work closely with the EPK (electronic publishing kit) crew.
UPs are also responsible for: the production of films’ press packs, which involves interviewing cast and crew members (UPs may undertake these interviews themselves or hire a journalist to do so); preparing a comprehensive list of cast and crew; writing a long and a short synopsis of the film; writing production notes (containing information about the work histories of the writer, director, production designer, costume designer, script writer and key cast members).
UPs usually oversee the work of the unit stills photographer with whom they work closely, selecting the best days for the photographer to be on set. After the film has wrapped (been completed), UPs must provide captions for all the photographs and ensure that the agreed number of color and black and white prints/negatives are delivered to the production or distributor.
The person who is responsible for various manual tasks, running errands, or performing whatever jobs other members of their crew assign them.
Video Editors prepare the final version of the product. At the post production stage they take raw footage, choose the best shots and put them in order and add sound, graphics and special effects. Skilled Editors can have a big influence in the quality of the finished piece.
As a Video Editor, you would normally use digital technology and computer software to edit sound and pictures. You could work on projects including feature films, TV programs, corporate videos and commercials.
Digital technology is increasingly the key medium for Editing. Based in the post production editing suite, the Editor works closely with the director to meet his or her requirements. The majority of film/video Editors are employed on a freelance basis, working on short term contracts for post production studios, television companies and corporate employers.
Your job might involve:
- discussing the project with the director or client, or receiving instructions from them
- transferring film/video footage to computer
- examining the footage and deciding which shots to keep and which to cut
- cutting and joining shots using editing software
- keeping a clear idea of the storyline, even though you may be editing scenes out of sequence
- creating a ’rough cut’ from the chosen material
- digitally enhancing picture quality
- adding titles, graphics, visual effects and sound
- putting together the final version
On a larger project you may be one of several Editors with different jobs and specialities such as offline editing (making the rough cut), online editing (producing the final version) or sound editing.
The key to becoming an Editor is to gain as much experience as you can—paid or unpaid—in the post production process and in using editing equipment. Employers will be interested in your technical skills, previous experience and personal qualities such as enthusiasm and initiative. You could get relevant experience from editing student or community film productions, working for an editing equipment hire company or work experience as a runner in an editing facilities house. You may find it helpful to take a course in video or media production, which will help you to gain practical skills in using editing equipment. Many courses include work placements and the chance to build contacts in the industry.
A Video Engineer is an individual in a television studio who is responsible for the video portion of all television.
Video playback provides a point of reference for and a method of monitoring, everything that is shot by the camera crew and recorded by the production sound mixer. Video assist is used by directors (and other relevant crew members such as script supervisors), who watch the video monitor during each take. If playback facilities are available, Video playback is used to review shots. This is captured by special video tape recorders which are fitted to film cameras next to the eye piece and record exactly what the camera operators see. Ensuring that all the required images are captured and that the equipment is in full working order, are the responsibilities of the Video Assist Operator (VAO). VAOs are usually employed by camera facilities houses or specialist video playback companies and are requested by 1st Assistant Directors, directors or script supervisors. On larger films, VAOs work with assistants.
What is the job?
Before filming begins, VAOs check the compatibility of their equipment (which includes a playback system, recording unit, trolley, batteries and external monitors) with the film camera(s). On the first day of principal photography, VAOs arrive on set at the same time as the camera crew and test their equipment in preparation for the first set up. VAOs must be able to concentrate for long periods and be extremely alert, in order to monitor all the action and to maintain the equipment throughout the shoot. On big films involving many complicated set ups, the director, director of photography, camera operator and other heads of department frequently use playback facilities.
If visual effects are employed, VAOs may edit sequences together on set so that directors can see how they will eventually play on screen. At the end of each filming day, directors usually check shoot video footage immediately. VAOs must ensure that all footage is carefully stored on hard disc and that their equipment is packed and ready for use the next day. VAOs finish work when the film wraps (is completed). Most camera equipment hire companies have video assist departments which employ experienced VAOs. Many start their careers working as runners or drivers for video playback or camera hire companies and progress to become video assist trainees, which involves helping VAOs with video cables on set, changing batteries and providing general support.
Video Tape Operator
Video Tape (VT) Operators (Sometimes called CAR Operators, Technical Runners or Tape Operators) work in post production facilities houses which provide complete end to end services for offline, online and non–linear editing, visual effects and DVD production to the independent, corporate and broadcast media sectors. Post production involves creatively weaving together visual and audio materials shot or created during the production process and combining them with other media, graphics, effects, subtitles, archive footage, etc., to create a variety of final products including broadcast programs, DVD titles, corporate productions, etc.
VT Operator is a machine room role, requiring a good working knowledge of the technical aspects of each facility, how it is networked, what machinery is in the building, what equipment and formats are compatible with one another and crucially, how to fix things quickly and correctly. Many of the skills required are similar to those of edit assistants and, to a lesser degree, of engineers and in some smaller facilities edit assistants’ and VT Operators’ roles may be combined. However, working in the VT machine room usually requires more technical skills and aptitude than are normally expected of edit assistants. Larger facilities of 50 or more staff employ a number of VT Operators, with varying degrees of experience. In some cases, particularly in smaller companies, the VT department also manages the library system and database.
What is the job?
VT Operators work in and manage the machine room, operate tape recording equipment and ensure that the contents of tapes meet the correct technical specifications. They prepare VT machines for use by clients and editors and in some cases set up Avid and other editing equipment. They make inter–format tape copies, black tapes for future use, blank (wipe) tapes for further use, make non–broadcast copies (VHS) and label tapes accurately and appropriately. VT Operators move media and machines around the building. They auto conform media and may digitize media for use on Avid and other non–linear equipment. They are responsible for quality control of output media and for quality assessment reports, conversions, digitization, transfers and duplication of video and audio materials. They must understand the importance of unambiguous labeling of every frame of each project, using roll numbers and time codes that conform to recognized industry practices.
VT Operators must be able to read oscilloscopes and audio meters, read TV and video signals and understand how they work. They must be able to identify what is acceptable for which media and broadcaster and their different technical specifications. They should understand compression and be able to utilize VT recorders (VTRs) in normal and abnormal settings. They operate, patch and un–patch equipment and must possess relevant computer skills in order to move media around the facility. They should know how to digitize media and make copies. VT Operators manage equipment and identify faults, utilizing aspect ratio converters (to adjust the shape and size of the screen) and standards converters (to convert between NTSC and PAL standards, for transmission or distribution in different countries). They must also have the necessary communication skills to ascertain clients’ needs and problems and to identify appropriate solutions. They must be able to communicate technical issues in layman’s terms when liaising with clients and other non–technical colleagues and should fully understand the implications of their decisions and actions, keeping accurate and detailed records
Visual Effects are alterations to a film’s images during post production. Visual Effects Supervisor is the chief of a production’s visual effects crew.
The Voiceover Artist is the unseen person who does the speaking necessary to create a voiceover.
A Wardrobe Stylist is the job title of someone who picks out the wardrobe used in photo shoots, television appearances, music videos, concerts etc.
Writers are involved in the creation and/or development of all types of creative writing for film and TV. Creative writing covers a number of wide and varied forms including screen and radio (such as comedy/soap opera scripts, drama productions or documentaries). Writers may also help to create the content for video games and cartoons.
Typical work activities and skills required are likely to include some or all of the following:
- select subject matter based on personal or public interest: Writers must be aware of the cultural zeitgeist
- utilize application and discipline to write and rewrite continuously and maintain originality
- develop the technical skills of writing and methods for creative and imaginative thought
- researching stories and character
- conduct research to obtain factual information and authentic detail, utilizing sources such as newspaper accounts, diaries and interviews
- review, submit for approval and revise written material to meet personal standards and satisfy needs of client, publisher, director, or producer
- select subject or theme for writing project based on personal interest and writing specialty, or assignment from publisher, client, producer, or director
- work to tight deadlines, especially for theater, screen and radio
- develop factors, such as theme, plot, characterization, psychological analysis, historical environment, action and dialogue, to create material
- use literary skills to develop themes and storylines, while making characters and plots believable
- write humorous material for publication or performance, such as comedy routines, gags, comedy shows, or scripts for entertainers
- write fiction or nonfiction prose work, such as short story, novel, biography, article, descriptive or critical analysis, or essay
- adapt a play or script for moving pictures or television, based on original ideas or adapted from fictional, historical, or narrative sources
- organize material for project, plan arrangement or outline and write synopsis