Unlike many other art forms filmmaking needs a film crew of collaborators to bring the art to life. A film’s success or failure depends on the ability of the film crew to make good decisions.
If you are new to filmmaking, you might find it helpful to take some time to learn about the roles of the various members of a film crew and how they can contribute to making a successful film. This article will briefly discuss the roles of the crew in a typical production.
Table of Content (click to jump to the department of your choice)
- Above the Line
- Assistant Directors
- Camera Department
- Grip Department
- Electrical Department
- Art Department
- Costume and Wardrobe
- Hair and Makeup
- Visual Effects
- Special Effects
- Catering and Food Services
The term “director” usually refers to someone who directs actors on stage, in a movie, on TV, or even on video games. However, the director of a film also directs the other people involved in the production. This includes casting, scriptwriting, and even the special effects and music in the film.
A film Producer is often the person responsible for making sure all the details fall into place for the production of a movie. This includes setting the tone of the production (ie. what tone should the production be set at), picking a director, and finding a cast and crew.
A producer also handles casting (finding the actors and actresses), organizing the budget, and hiring the staff needed to make a film happen. A film producer is usually the one who hires all the different professionals needed to put a movie together.
They make sure that everything’s going according to plan. They might also work closely with directors and screenwriters, helping them navigate the sometimes-confusing world of filmmaking. They can also help to make sure that the final product is what everyone involved hoped it would be.
The line producer is responsible for ensuring that the movie is shot according to the production schedule and budget. On the production side, the line producer's main task is to make sure that the movie is delivered on time and under budget. If it doesn't meet these goals, he or she will make sure to change things up until the filming is completed.
It's not a creative role. Typically, it's all about project management. The line producer hires most of the “below the line” talent and craftspeople. The best one makes the budget and makes sure the project doesn't go over.
Unit Production Manager (UPM)
A UPM or unit production manager manages the day-to-day operations of the film production team (film crew) and ensures that they are well-trained and equipped to complete their tasks.
In other words, a UPM ensures the safety of cast and crew during production and ensures that the finished product (the final cut) meets expectations. The job requires great attention to detail.
A unit production manager might also ensure that safety rules are followed during filming. This is because it is vital that the safety of actors and crew is the number one priority, especially when shooting on location.
Production Coordinators are essential for making sure that all the little things happen on a set or in a movie studio. They keep everything in sync and organized on a film set. They ensure that there’s enough food and drinks on set. They check the wardrobe and makeup of cast and crew.
She ensures that the set is ready to shoot, that the script is being followed, and that the actors are prepared and well-rested. They make sure everyone is where they need to be before they begin filming each day on set.
A production secretary helps the crew on set. She or he may be called an administrative assistant, office manager, or secretary to some productions.
Depending on the project, they can help with scheduling, acting as a liaison with production services, dealing with insurance, handling payroll, organizing the schedule, coordinating set dressing and construction, and keeping the set clean.
They also may do some prep work before a shoot, like arranging props or equipment and finding the perfect background. A production secretary’s role is not limited to the actual set—they may also be in charge of the office on the set, as well as the post production work.
Office Production Assistant
Office production assistants duties typically include: assisting with answering phones, filing paperwork, and data entry; organizing lunches, dinners, and transportation reservations; photocopying; general office administration; and distributing production paperwork.
1st Assistant Director
A 1st Assistant Director (first or 1st AD) is one of many crew members responsible for keeping the set running smoothly. An 1st AD coordinates various functions on set with the rest of the crew. They manage the day-to-day operations of the film production, from scheduling cast, crew, and equipment to managing set construction and budgeting.
They are typically in charge of safety on set and supervising the shooting of each take.
2nd Assistant Director
A second assistant director creates daily call sheets from the production schedule. The “second” also serves as the “backstage manager”. He liaises with actors, puts them through their make-up and wardrobe and relieves the “first” of these duties. They report to the 1st AD.
2nd 2nd Assistant Director
The 2nd 2nd AD (often referred to as the 3rd AD outside the U.S.) is the primary assistant to the first assistant director, and is responsible for coordinating the work of all the background actors, crew, production assistants and sometimes talent.
Key Production Assistant
This is the lead production assistant on production. Many times they will help the first assistant director and line producer coordinate the other production assistants on a film set.
A production assistant helps keep the cast, crew and production staff of a film or television project organized and on track. But, more importantly, the PA. is the person who handles all of the logistics for the filming of the production.
This can include: setting up the set, taking care of props, equipment, and costumes, coordinating the locations with the director or producer, making sure that there are enough food and drinks available, and most importantly, taking care of the actors and crew.
The location manager is responsible for finding a place and/or service to be used in a film. This can include scouting for locations, finding permits, getting contracts, coordinating with other departments, and more.
Location managers are also responsible for making sure that the production company, the cast, and the crew all have the best experience possible on set. If the location manager is not properly prepared and knowledgeable, the entire production may fail to meet the director’s vision for the film.
The location scout’s job is to find the perfect place to shoot. He or she will study the space, read the script, and make sure there are no major obstacles in the way. The location scout should also have access to the set, but will most likely meet with the director and producers beforehand to determine if the space will work for their needs.
The location scout should also have a keen eye for cost. Because the location scout will be doing a lot of scouting for free, he or she must be able to find good locations for less money than they’re paying for professional production equipment and services.
Unit Production Assistants
Unit Production Assistant (UPA) is the entry-level position for locations management. They are directed by the locations department, and their responsibilities are similar to those of other locations department crew, including the assistant location manager.
They are the people who help the locations department by checking in and out locations for the shoots, ensuring that the locations are restored and cleaned to be in the same or better condition at the end of the shoot as they were when the crew first arrived.
The Transport Captains in your film transport the cast and crew from one location to another by private cars, mini-buses or coaches. If you’re a low-budget film, you may only have one Transport Captain who makes sure that everyone arrives on time.
All transportation needs for the production will be coordinated by the transportation coordination person. Transporting equipment and crew to the filming locations as well as to any other necessary areas relative to the shoot is included in this.
Picture Car Coordinator
The picture car coordinator is responsible for everything relating to the usage, repair, modification, and movement of vehicles on the set. They are also responsible for ensuring that the cars are always kept in good shape, so that unforeseen accidents will not interrupt the rigid schedule of movie production.
Production Sound Mixer
A production sound mixer typically works with audio engineers and directors to ensure that the soundtrack of a film production is in sync and properly balanced.
Depending on the type of film being made, this could involve working with sound engineers on location, working with a studio to produce the sounds in post-production, or any combination thereof.
Boom operators are usually used in the context of television and film productions to create sound effects. If you’ve ever been on a movie set, you may have noticed that there was someone on the sidelines yelling “Action!” to cue the actors.
This is where a boom operator comes in. The boom operator holds a microphone on a pole and yells into it to create the effect of the sound.
The sound utility assists the sound department and acts as a liaison between the department and set to problem-solve any issues that arise in the production that could jeopardize sound quality.
They supports the production sound mixer and boom operators by setting up and maintaining audio hardware, keeping the set quiet for capture, and helping resolve any audio problems that might come up.
A script supervisor is the glue between the writer and the director of the film. The script supervisor is the one who works closely with the director to ensure that what is written down on paper is being communicated effectively on screen.
They are in charge of the continuity of the motion picture including wardrobe, props, set dressing, hair, makeup and the actions of the actors during a scene.
Director of Photography
A director of photography (Cinematographer, DP, DOP) is responsible for establishing the visual look of the movie. They are typically the one who will be in charge of the camera, and will set the camera’s lighting, as well as use different lenses to capture the images, film stock (if you are shooting film), camera selection, shot selection, camera operation and other elements.
Generally they tell production the cost of the camera and lighting packages that will be needed to shoot the screenplay.
1st Assistant Camera
The first assistant camera (also called the 1st assistant camera, 1st AC, first AC, or focus puller) has one main job: to keep the right subject in focus throughout each scene.
2nd Assistant Camera
The second assistant camera (2nd AC) or clapper loader is a member of a film crew whose main function is to load film magazines (if you are shooting on film), loading hard drive or cards for recording on digital film cameras, operate the slate, creating camera reports, and keep records and paperwork. 2nd ACs are needed in every production; they are essential to every single project.
A Steadicam operator, is responsible for setting up and operating a Steadicam camera system for recording a live-action video or animation sequence. This includes:
- Setting up the camera equipment
- Testing and calibrating the camera systems
- Recording the footage
Steadicam operators are responsible for monitoring the cameras during filming and making sure they remain in working order, while also helping the director achieve his or her vision. The job requires strong communication skills and the ability to multitask, as well as the ability to make quick decisions and work in a dynamic environment. A comfortable pair of shoes is also a must.
They answer directly to the director of photography.
A Digital Imaging Technician or DIT is the person on the camera department crew who works with the director of photography to make sure that the camera settings, signal integrity, on-set color correction and other image manipulation are perfect.
A DIT is the liaison between production and post production teams on feature films, handling data management from set to editorial suite.
The still photographer contributes daily to the filming process by creating set stills, while the on set still photographer creates photographs for the promotion of a film. All the details of the cast wardrobe, appearance and background are recorded by the photographer with these.
The key grip is the person in charge of the grip crew on a film or television production. The men and women are in charge of positioning the production's cameras and equipment. The people who position this equipment are also under their supervision.
Best Boy Grip
The day-to-day operations of the electrical or grip departments are maintained by the best boy. Creating work schedules is one of the responsibilities of the best boy. In the absence of their department head, the film crew and equipment trucks can be managed.
The dolly grip is used to operate the camera dolly. This technician places, levels, and moves the dolly track, then pushes and pulls the dolly while the camera operator and camera assistant ride.
Rigging Grips (aka Riggers), are a type of Grip. They assist with sets up, production moves, and setting up and dismantling sets, equipment, and scenery.
A Gaffer is in charge of running the crew and overseeing all the lighting equipment. The Chief Lighting Technician, also known as the Gaffer, works directly with the cinematographer to provide the lights and electricity needed for a given set-up.
To execute the lighting plan for a production, the gaffer has to run a team of lighting technicians.
Best Boy Electric
The day-to-day operations of the electrical or grip departments are run by the best boy. The responsibilities of a best boy include creating work schedules. In the absence of a department head, the film crew or equipment trucks are being managed.
The second-in-command on a film set is the chief lighting technician and head electrician. Handling lighting inventory and unloading electrical equipment is one of the tasks done by the best boy electric.
On a film set, the Film Electrician lays cable and sets up lights. An on-set electric and a rigging electric are the two types. The Rigging Electric is used on the set of the camera itself, while the On-Set Electric is used to light the actors, props, and other things that need lighting.
Generator Operators (aka: Genny Operator) are responsible for loading the generator, transporting it to the location of the film shoot, and ensuring that it is operational before production begins.
A production designer is responsible for the art direction, design and execution of visual elements on a film production. A Production Designer's primary job is to create environments and props that help tell the story and advance the plot in the most cinematic way possible.
He or she needs to work closely with other departments to ensure that the visual elements they've created are consistent with the rest of the film.
A production designer must be organized and detail oriented, as well as able to multi-task in a fast paced world of film production. They must also be a creative problem solver, able to think outside of the box.
Responsibilities: Collaborate with the Director and Producer to determine what type of sets and props will be needed. Work with the Art Director and Set Decorator to decide how to best design the set and make sure it is completed in time for filming. Create and oversee the construction of sets and props that are part of the story being told.
Art Directors are responsible for a movie’s overall look and feel. This person helps set the tone for each shot and scene. She is in charge of the visual palette (color palette, lighting, etc.) and shapes the shots in such a way that they fit into the overall flow of the story and the overall feel of the film.
The director may assign specific tasks to the art director, but it’s ultimately up to her to interpret those instructions and create something unique. She also has to balance her style with that of other departments, like costume designers, sound editors, and production designers.
Art Department Coordinator
The art department coordinator is a position on the production crew that is in charge of overseeing the entire art department. They are concerned with the execution of visual artistry on set. They monitor the budget for the department, keep everything in order, and make sure information flows smoothly between fields.
Construction Managers are in charge of the construction of sets and stages for film productions. From initial planning through to the final coat of paint on the finished sets, they coordinate the entire process of set building.
The Production Carpenter builds, installs, and removes wooden structures on the film set and location. The design and creative vision of the producer and the director are carried out by several members of the construction team.
The key scenic is an artist, supervisor, and organizer who are responsible for making the surroundings and sets of a film look realistic within the world that's being established on screen.
The scenic artist is in charge of laying out, painting, sculpting, priming, detailing, and the rest of backdrops and hard scenic items.
Set decorators add interest to the drama by creating the background of the action and explaining the context. While prop masters deal with the placing of objects an actor holds, set decorators are concerned with the walls, floors, vehicles, and furniture.
Set decoration is a multi-disciplinary art form. A set decorator must be well versed in the technical aspects of production, lighting, camera movement, sound, special effects, costuming, props, makeup, and hair. The art of set decoration began as far back as ancient times in Greece, where sets were used to portray stories for the stage.
A leadman is a set decoration department member who is in charge of the props and swing gang. The set dressing and removal is done by the swing gang.
Before rolling the camera, the set dressers arranged objects on the film set. They are working under the direction of a Production Designer and the Set Decorator. Placing furniture, hanging pictures, and putting out decorative items are done by the set dressers.
A greensman (aka: greensperson, nurseryman, greenskeeper) is responsible for taking care of anything “green” or natural used in the production of the film. Plants, bushes, trees, flowers, etc.
Art Department Production Assistants
The assistant to the art director helps the entire art department. In a studio, they help dress the set and manage the props, ensuring they are in working order and available when needed.
On a film set the art department assistant is generally responsible for making sure that props and sets are properly lit, arranged and in the right place when shooting is taking place.
Property Masters are responsible for all props in the production, including acquiring them, keeping them organized and making sure they're used safely. The production designer reports to the props master who leads a team of prop makers or props-department runners.
Assistant Property Master
The assistant property masters help the prop masters with anything on set. Once a scene is wrapped, they make sure the correct props are prepared, are on hand for the shoot, and are archives.
Any props that aren't bought in, or hired, are made by prop makers in the properties department of feature films. A wide variety of materials, techniques and tools is used by prop makers.
The prop assistant is in charge of all the props in the production. An outside props person may be assigned to purchase props and an inside props person may be assigned to oversee the use and maintenance of props. They report to the prop master.
A food stylist is a person who prepares food for photography, video, film and even live events. The best promotional pictures and video of a dish can be achieved with the help of a food stylist, who has an artistic and technical background.
The animal wrangler ensures that animals or other hazardous animals don’t interfere with filming. He or she may handle and train animals for on-screen roles in movies or television shows.
Costume designers create the wardrobe, both in terms of style and functionality, which gives the actors the outfits they wear on screen. Costume designers have different responsibilities in film and television.
For movies, they are in charge of dressing the characters and the set design, including the props. For television shows, they design the clothes and the decor of the set. On TV, they are also responsible for the wardrobes of the actors.
The main responsibility of a costume designer is to create the look of a character, whether it is a superhero, an action hero or a villain, a princess, a pirate, a cowboy, a police officer or a nurse.
He or she can dress a character in any color, and they can be of any ethnicity. The designer's goal is to create a look that reflects the character's personality. The designer is also responsible for the overall look of the set, including furniture, décor, props, and costumes.
A costume designer usually designs a character's wardrobe by matching colors, patterns and fabrics with the actor's skin tone.
Assistant Costume Designer
The assistant costume designers help the costume designers with looks for actors They plan, create, organize, and help maintain clothing.
If show demands do not require a separate buyer, the duties are does basic shopping, buying, and returns, assists with research and phoning, can do costume breakdown and aging, can do laundry, ironing, sewing skills and costume maintenance, may assist with fittings and alterations.
The wardrobe supervisor is responsible for all the costumes. In consultation with the production manager, costume designer, and sometimes the director, the wardrobe supervisor can help coordinate and assign dressers to specific performers.
In addition to supporting the filmmaker's vision through their work, seamstresses, tailors, stitchers, and sewers help actors move around comfortably in their clothes. Alterations to outfits are one of their responsibilities.
Hair Department Head
A hair department head designs all of the hairstyles for the show and manages a team of hairdressers that help with the implementation and maintenance of the design vision for the principal cast, background actors, stunt performers, photo doubles, and any other hairstyle that will appear on camera.
The hair designer works with the director to discuss the story and characters' needs. The hair designer is also responsible for creating all of the wigs that appear in the show, and their design is closely tied to the hairstyles that are being worn.
This can be seen in the fact that it takes the longest amount of time for a hairstyle to be designed, and that the hairstyles are very detailed and unique to each character.
Makeup Department Head
The head of the makeup department is the key makeup artist who oversees the makeup design for the entire production and ensures continuity throughout filming. For special or hard to produce looks, they will often apply makeup to lead and other principal actors.
As a general rule, lead actors have the most extensive makeup, as they will be in front of the camera for the most time. Lead actors often have more than one makeup artist working on them at a time.
In some cases, an actor may have a specific look that is repeated throughout the shoot, such as the character's costume, makeup, hair color, or style.
Special Effects Makeup
Makeup and prosthetics are used by special effects makeup artists to recreate wounds, defects, and supernatural features. Basic film makeup can be combined with knowledge of advanced makeup techniques for more dramatic effects.
The SFX makeup artist usually works in conjunction with the costume designer, the hair stylist, the special effects coordinator, and other makeup artists. The SFX makeup artist's job is to ensure that the actor's skin is clean and healthy enough for the application of the makeup.
Stunt coordinators are responsible for making sure that actors perform their stunts safely and without injury. They work closely with the stunt team and the director to ensure that the stunt work looks good on screen.
The more stunts an actor has to do, the more likely it is for something to go wrong. Because of this, stunt coordinators must have excellent communication skills and knowledge of how to handle actors who get injured on set.
Stunts are often dangerous and require careful planning. They can be as simple as a person jumping from a moving car or as complicated as a person being shot by an arrow or sword.
It’s important for stunt coordinators to know what their actors can and cannot do, and how to safely work with them in order to keep the production going smoothly.
A stuntman performs stunts to be used in a film or television show. Car crashes, falls from great height, drags behind a horse, and explosions are some of the stunts that are seen in films and television.
Stunt performers are often referred to as stuntmen or stuntwomen although the gender-neutral term stunt performer may be used.
Visual Effects Supervisor
Afterward, they discuss the details of each shot and present the final VFX materials to the director, producer and other members of the filmmaking team. In a movie scene, VFX supervisors have the ability to tell the VFX artists what kind of effects to use for any given shot.
Special Effects Coordinator
The Director wants explosions, natural disasters, or general destruction on the set of a movie or television show, and that's where the Special Effects coordinators come in. Special effects can include everything from a gas explosion in a movie to a car crash in a movie. These are practical effects.
The special effects coordinator is responsible for coordinating the work of several other departments to create the desired result. This includes everything from hiring the right people to get the job done, to making sure the equipment and materials are in place when they need them to be.
Special effects coordinators are often hired as freelancers by production companies who hire them on an as-needed basis. This allows them to work at the production company for a few days, weeks, or months before they need to move on to another project.
Special Effects Foreman
The Special Effects Foreman (aka: SFX Forman) is the supervisor of the mechanical effects used to create non-digital optical illusions. He or she is responsible for overseeing the creation and execution of special effects on films.
The SFX Foreman is in charge of all special effects created in the visual effects industry. Their primary responsibility is to ensure that all aspects of the effects are well executed and delivered on time.
Special Effects Technicians
Special effects technicians create special effects or practical effects for movies, television shows, music videos, commercials, and other media. They can use their artistic and design skills, or use computer design software to perform tasks.
It is difficult to become a pyrotechnician, because you are responsible for designing and orchestrating all the explosions in the movies. The work that goes into setting off explosions that end up on the big screen is much more methodical than the explosions themselves.
The explosion of fireworks is a delicate process, requiring precision, skill and a lot of practice. And while there are plenty of ways to create explosions, there are very few ways to create the explosions that we’re seeing on the big screen.
They need to know how to design your own pyrotechnics, but they also need to know how to design them safely.
The production caterer is responsible for providing the crew with healthy foods in order to keep them happy and satisfied so they can do their job without interruption. Otherwise, if the production crew has to work very long hours, they will not be able to eat or have to leave the set to go to restaurants or to get food brought to the set.
In order to deliver the right food for the shoot, the production caterer needs to have a deep understanding of the shooting schedule, as well as a good working knowledge of the production budget.
The production caterer should be knowledgeable about the film's script, production team, production schedule, and other logistical details that are critical to the success of the shoot.
Key Craft Services
A set medic is someone who provides emergency medical assistance to people on TV or film productions. You work as a set medic on set. You have responsibilities for waiting on medical issues during shooting.
Advising the production team on safety issues is one of the other duties. When working as a set medic, you travel a lot. They work in water, at heights, in studios, or anywhere a production takes place.
The well-being of actors who participate in sex scenes or other intimate scenes in theater, film and television production is ensured by an Intimacy Coordinator. When nudity/hyper exposed work, simulating sex acts, and intimate physical contact are needed on set the Intimacy Coordinator acts as an liaison between the actors or performers and the production.
Covid Compliance Officer (CCO)
A Covid Compliance Officer works directly with the production to make sure the protocols and guidelines are followed. A CCO is either a stand alone position or supported by a covid compliance supervisor on longer productions of 1-2 weeks when more planning is needed.
Enforcement of Covid Compliance is served by these individuals. The Health and Safety Department usually supports CCO's on longer shoots. Covid Compliance Officers (CCO’s) will work with Production/Production Management (PM), Production Assistant (PA), and Production Supervisor (PS) to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are followed by the cast and crew.
CCO’s will be in constant contact with Production during the shoot to make sure that COVID-19 protocols are being followed and enforced.