There are so many other personnel on a set that you will over-see or with whom you will have to inter-face that it’s useful to know their responsibilities.
Too Many Titles, So Little Clarity
It is important to know that all of these jobs grew out of a need discovered on set. Here is a brief job description of these roles to get you started. Note also, that in almost all areas there is an overlap of responsibilities.
The Director is responsible for carrying out his vision of the film. He or she is solely responsible for directing the actors. No one else (not even the writer) may discuss performance or script issues with the actors on the set.
The Director approves the recommendations of all the various departments necessary to creatively make the movie: the Production Design, Cinematography, Wardrobe, Props and Set Dressings.
The Director works with his Assistant Director to finalize a realistic shooting schedule that takes into account the needs of both production and actor performance.
In most instances, the Director gets the first version (called an edit or a cut) of the film. In rare circumstances, the Director may also get the final cut.
As mentioned there is some overlap. A Director may love a location that cannot be accessed safely or in a timely manner by manpower and equipment. Directors work with Location Managers and the Production Team to find something that satisfies the Director’s vision and is affordable and accessible.
As a general rule, the Producer oversees the production but the set belongs to the Director and the Actors.
THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
Per the DGA contract, the First Assistant Director assists the Director. But what does that mean? A First Assistant Director is to a Director what the First Mate of a ship is to the Captain. He or she executes the latter’s instructions on or around the set. An “AD” sorts out the many bodies working on a set. In other words, he runs the set.
AD’s are responsible for keeping the even flow of production by always looking to the next scene and being sure that all elements of a scene are nearby and ready. She generates (or oversees) call sheets and production reports even though someone else usually roughs in those documents. As a note, the Casting department usually gives the Actors their first call for work, but all subsequent call times are determined by the Assistant Director in consultation with the Director.
Sometimes called the “First,” an AD should never be out of sight of the Director. This is why an AD must have a good Second Assistant Director.
The First may set background action as well.
THE SECOND ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
The 2nd AD assists the First AD. He or she makes the first pass at the paperwork; calls actors; stages background action, and is responsible for the distribution and collection of walkie-talkies.
The 2nd will distributes rewrite pages to actors; keep track of the actors between set ups and rounds them up for work and escorts them to the set at the request of the First.
Sometimes the Second may set background action but only when approved by the “First” and the Director.
It may seem humorous to an outsider, but a 2nd can have an assistant which is called “The Second Second.”
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY, aka The Cinematographer
The DP works with the Director to establish the visual style and tone of the film. He works with the Production Designer on the color aspects of the world; known as the color pallet.
He oversees the lighting of the sets and works with the Director on shot selection and coverage.
The Grip and Electric are considered part of his crew in most instances, although they are technically in other departments and members of different unions.
As the name suggests the Production Designer, designs the production, from the type of architecture, to the sets and set dressings, even down to the kinds and colors of vehicles used.
The Production Designer is part of the creative triangle comprised of Cinematographer, Wardrobe Designer and Art Department. Here is a real world example of how this works: The Head of Wardrobe wants everyone dressed in black, the location has yellow walls, The Director wants a white Rolls Royce to pull us. Who sees the problems with all of this? Well the Cinematographer hates the color white on cars because it bounces the light too much and next to a yellow wall all this light tends to turn the actor’s skin tone a pasty yellow. The Production Designer pulling all these pieces together must convince the Director to use a different colored car or a different location with better walls and so on.
A Production Designer must be good at communication and constructive compromise.
The Location Manager reports to the Production Designer. She is charged with finding and securing suitable locations.
Managing a location is vastly different from finding one. A good Location Manager will interface with neighborhood businesses and residents. More than simply finding the location, being able to return to it in the future is probably the most important part of location management. He must arrange for poster board to protect the floors of sensitive locals, and make sure a location is spotless and all plants and furniture have been replaced in their proper spaces following a shoot. He must also follow up with a location, if there is any loss or damage.
He must secure permits, provide insurance, work with the Transportation Captain for cast and crew parking and arrange for a place for crew meals. He may have to order and help erect tents as places for rest or meals when the temperature warrants such for meals or to get actors out of intense heat.
This is a funny way of saying -- Lighting. The Gaffer works with the Cinematographer to achieve the correct light for any given shot, location or set. Usually, in television, she has a crew of four to twelve people working together. In features, the numbers can stretch far beyond that.
Gaffer is a British colloquialism for grandfather or boss.
ELECTRIC BEST BOY
The Best Boy is responsible for manpower and materials. He or she hires day-checkers, distributes and collect time-cards; calls for and arranges pick-ups of additional equipment.
Depending on the size of the show, he may or may not stay with the electric truck managing and distributing equipment.
Grips rig things for the camera. They push Dollies and work in conjunction with electricians, placing cards, flags and scrims. They also gel windows.
GRIP BEST BOY
Essentially same as Electric Best Boy, but in terms of the needs of the Grip Department.
A Script Supervisor is an Editor’s best friend. She keeps continuity; times scenes and is responsible for matching. She will creates the editor’s notes of which takes are preferred by the Director.
(And speaking of “matching,” it is not solely the province of the Script Supervisor. Wardrobe, Set Dressing and Make-up and Hair should always take stills of each scene. If at a later date the scene needs to be reshot or pieces added they will be able to match the original.)