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Filmmakers use a very complex, and often confusing, vocabulary of film terms. Knowing how to communicate with your cast and crew is made easier by knowing the right film terms to use. These film industry terms and definitions should help keep the confusion at a minimum while you're working on the film set. If someone asks about a Dolly, you won't have to admit that you've "never met her"
Use this glossary of film industry terms to keep those who would try to intimidate you with the lingo from doing so, but remember where you started from. Don't use this glossary or dictionary of film terms to become one of those intimidators who like to throw around big words and terms about the film industry to show how much you know.
This glossary is intended to be supplemental to a film production course. It is a glossary with many film terms relating to the movie, entertainment, and film industry. It is not an encyclopedia of filmmaking. This is a list of basic film terms and definitions to help you “speak film” and find and understand the answers to your questions rather than be the answers themselves.
Some of the most popular film terms include the following:
A person who plays the role of a character. Historically, the term "Actor" refered exclusively to males, but in modern times the term is used for both genders.
AKA: Assistant Chief Lighting Technician, Best Boy Grip, Best Boy Electric
The chief assistant, usually of the gaffer or key grip. In charge of the people and equipment, scheduling the required quantities for each day's work. The term originates from promoting the crew's 'best boy' to supervising, allowing the gaffer and key grip to stay on set and carry out the cameraman's lighting needs. The origin of the term is from "pre-union" filming days when the line between Grip and Electric departments was less rigid. When the head of either department needed another body temporarily, he'd go to the head of the other department and ask him to "lend me your BEST boy". By default the 2nd in charge of either department came to be known as best-boy. This term may also have been borrowed from early sailing and whaling crews, as sailors were often employed to set up and work rigging in theatres. There are no "best girls" per se; female chief assistants are also called "Best Boys".
The process of hiring actors to play the characters in a script, typically done by a casting director, but with some input from a director, producer, or studio. See also CSA.
A shot in which the subject is larger than the frame, revealing much detail. The abbreviation is often used in a slug line.
AKA: Dolly Shot, Dolly Up, Dolly In, Dolly Back, Pull back
A dolly is a small truck which rolls along dolly tracks carrying the camera,some of the camera crew and occasionally the director. "Dolly" is also the action of moving the camera towards (dolly up/in) or away from (dolly/pull back) the object that it is pointing at. The term often appears in screenplays. There is a subtle difference between the results of a zoom shot and a dolly shot. In a zoom, the relative positions and sizes of all objects in the frame remains the same, whereas in a dolly shot this will change as the camera moves. Alfred Hitchcock's much-imitated shot in Vertigo used a combination zoom-in and dolly back, resulting in a dramatic change in perspective.
AKA: Chief Lighting Technician
The head of the electrical department, responsible for the design and execution of the lighting plan for a production. Early films used mostly natural light, which stagehands controlled with large tent cloths using long poles called gaffs (stagehands were often beached sailors or longshoremen, and a gaff is a type of boom on a sailing ship). In 16th Century English, the term "gaffer" denoted a man who was the head of any organized group of laborers.
In the USA, a grip is a skilled person responsible for the set up, adjustment and maintenance of production equipment on the set. Their typical duties involve camera movement, lighting refinement, and mechanical rigging. In the UK, grips work exclusively with equipment that the camera is mounted on. Contrast with swing gang, see also key grip.
A single continuous recorded performance of a scene. A director typically orders takes to continue until he or she is satisfied that all of his or her requirements for the scene have been made, be they technical or artistic. For interesting exceptions, see the trivia entries for Stagecoach, The Gold Rush, , Rope, Shi di chu ma, Some Like It Hot, and The Usual Suspects. A continuity report stores the status of each take. Of the ones that don't contain obvious errors, the director will order some to be printed. See also out-take, hold.
Fictional Movie(s): Ed Wood (1994)
Many more of the most popular and useful film terms and their definitions are available throughout our film term glossary. Using the proper film industry terminology from our glossary of film terms will help you "speak the language" to others in the film industry.