Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes? Who yells cut or who decides on the location?
Filmmaking is about collaboration. The project’s budget, concept and timeline all play a role in determining the crew size you need. For example, for a big commercial shoot, there may be multiple camera operators on set, so you’ll probably meet many others that are responsible for bringing the elements of a film shoot together, while a smaller commercial shoot may only have 1 camera operator that wears many hats.
In this article, let’s get to know members of the production crew you might come across when you’re on set.
- Assistant Director
- Assistant Producer
- Executive Producer
- Director of Photography
- Camera Assistant
- Production Assistant
- Location Sound
The director most often has the highest authority on a production set. The director holds the highest responsibility for making sure that every component of a movie runs smoothly, from choosing the cast members, giving direction to the cast and crew, production design to making key choices for all the creative aspects of filmmaking. The director is usually hired by a producer unless he or she is also producing the film.
(Check out our interview with Koo, director at Big 3 Media.)
Each director has different directing styles. Here are some famous directors that you might be familiar with;
Steven Spielberg, the co-founder of DreamWorks Studios, who directed Jurassic Park (1993).
The Russo Brothers, who directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
James Cameron, best known for making epic science fiction films like The Terminator (1984) and Avatar (2009).
There is a difference between an assistant to the director and an assistant director. Like every other assistant, the assistant to the director is the right-hand man to the director, whereas the role of an assistant director on a film includes preparing the shooting schedule, organizing the crew, ensuring that the film comes together on-schedule, and communicating with inter-departments.
There are also various sub-roles of A.D. in larger productions such as first assistant director, second assistant director, third assistant director, and additional assistant director. Each sub role holds a different responsibility in the crew.
There are numerous types of producers, for instance, executive producer, supervising producer, field producers, co-producers, and so on. Producers may hold different responsibilities in different production stages but the one thing they have in common is actively working on set, overseeing production logistics from start to finish. Therefore, they are the key coordinators for any level of film production.
You don’t need all types of producers for your project, depending on the size of the set, decide the most essential and efficient execution points of your project and select the right person for the role.
Assistant Producer is usually an administrative role that holds the responsibility of working closely with producers throughout the production process. From pre-production through to post-production and marketing and distribution in pre-production.
As mentioned above, the executive producer is one of the many types of producers and yes, there is a difference between an executive producer and a producer. The executive producer is at the top of the producer hierarchy.
The executive producer is the person responsible for sourcing and securing finance for video production, making sure that there is sufficient money to fund the production. The role includes being concerned with management accounting or associated with legal issues such as copyrights or royalties.
Director of Photography (DP/DoP)
The director of photography (sometimes referred to as DP or DoP) oversees the look of the “frame” of the movie shoots. This person works with the director’s vision to design each shot and makes decisions on how to achieve the project overall aesthetic. The DP is second in command right after the director.
The director of photography is typically the camera operator. When a DP is a cameraman, they are typically referred to as a cinematographer.
There are usually 2 camera assistants (CA) - 1st camera assistant and 2nd camera assistant.
The 1st CA is the in-charge of the camera department. Before production, the 1st CA will have to test all the equipment needed and make sure that all things are ready for the shoot. During production, the 1st CA, is responsible for keeping the camera in focus, hence the name focus puller. This person is dedicated to take good care and maintain the cameras. They have to build the camera rig at the start of the day and dismantle it at the end of the shoot.
The 2nd CA works directly with the 1st CA. The 2nd CA operates the clapperboard at the beginning of each take and is hence nicknamed the “clapper loader”. Not only that, but the 2nd CA also organizes the camera equipment and transportation of the equipment around the shoot venues.
In the case of any reshoots, the 2nd CA will also tape down camera marks, the points where the actors are standing, and report camera settings, like aperture and focal length.
Production Assistants (also known as “PAs”) are perhaps the most important role on the crew since they can be of help to the crew in many ways – from assisting with general tasks such as assisting and helping prepare the set with lights, props, equipment, etc and mission-critical coffee runs.
The gaffer is the chief technician on the set and is responsible for the design of the lighting plan for production. If you recall, DoP is in charge of creating the project’s overall aesthetic, the gaffer finds a way to make their vision a reality.
There are a few kinds of grips - Key Grip, Dolly Grip, and Best Boy.
The key grip is the chief, head grip on the set. They are the trained lighting and rigging technician on a production crew. They work closely with the electric department to assemble, build and operate the camera cranes, dollies, platforms, and other equipment needed to film a shot.
As the name suggests, Dolly Grip works with the dolly track by placing and moving the dolly along that track. The dolly is a cart that the camera or crew can sit on, and move smoothly from one position to another during a shot.
Best Boy is the chief assistant and second in command to the key grip or the gaffer.
Location sound engineer, also known as production sound mixer, location sound recordist or simply sound mixer. This person has the highest authority when it comes to sound during pre-production and production. Their responsibilities include serving as a sound recordist during filming, and recording and balancing the audio effects on set.
These are just some common types of crew members you might find on a production set. If you sit through an end credit scene, you’ll be sure to find many more!
Now that you have learned about some of the crew members and roles, tell us which production crew position do you find most interesting?
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