Transcript for Filmmaker IQ Video:
Have you ever watched the end credits and wondered what exactly do all those people do? Well, today we’ll break down the credits and explain who’s who on a major film production. First off, the jobs and titles we’re going to cover today may change from one movie to another, we’ll describe the jobs that are common, but know that each movie is its own beast and each filmmaker may have a preferred organizational structure. To begin, jobs are divided into two rough categories based on a movie’s budget top sheet, above the line and below the line. The jobs above the line are the people that get paid and negotiated set rate or percentage of gross regardless of how many shooting days or scenes are ultimately required for the film. Think of them as fixed costs. below the line are the jobs that are contracted out depending on the needs of the production, variable costs, depending on the script changes. above the line jobs include but are not limited to the producer, the director, writers and actors, while everyone else is below the line.
So let’s start with the top boss, the producer. People often think that the director is the top dog in production, but it’s the producer that hires the director. So what does a producer do? Well, that’s a big question that can be involved with selecting the script or the material to be adapted. Picking the director and the cast, raising the money organizing distribution, all of it or only some of it. The producer is basically the person that champions a film from the beginning to the end. And that’s the reason why the producer is the one who accepts the best picture Oscar at the Academy Awards. Now there are variations of producing credits.
For theatrical films, the executive producer is the person secured at least 25% of the financing, or played a significant role in the shaping of the story and the script. in television, the executive producer is more of a big upper boss like the creator of the show. associate producer is a title given at the discretion of the producer to anyone they feel has played a key role in any part of the production. A screenwriter is the person that writes the script, and that all scripts are created from scratch by a solitary writer. There are essentially two kinds of writing credits, there is a story credit, and a screenplay credit. The story is the plot characters and themes.
Whereas a screenplay is the execution of those ideas in actual screenplay with scenes dialogue and transitions. When you see a written by that means the person wrote both the story and the screenplay. When you see a story by it means a person either wrote a treatment that’s a prose version of the story of the movie, or wrote an original screenplay that was completely rewritten, only keeping the plot characters and theme. When the story is from a previously published work you’ll see a based on a novel or based on the play by credit. Sometimes you’ll see a based on the characters by in sequels or long standing characters like James Bond or Sherlock Holmes.
Now writing teams are designated with an ampersand, whereas writers working separately use the spelled out word. And there are lots of rules for from the Writers Guild regarding rewrites for determining who gets credit for the screenplay, and arbitration process for disagreements. But getting a name on the credits isn’t just vanity.
It’s also a matter of the author’s more rights and rights to residuals and that means money. Once you have a script, or sometimes even if the script isn’t totally done, a producer will choose a director. The director is responsible for all the film’s artistic and dramatic aspects, visualizing the script and guiding the crew and actors toward fulfilling that vision. Now, the director may also go back and bring in new writers and alter the script and even rewrite the script themselves. Now, DGA rules stipulate that there can only be one person serving as the director on a film At one time, which is why you see Joel Coen credited as the director on their older films, even though he always directs with his brother, Ethan Coen.
Now they have an exemption as a directing team. Although we may give all the credit to the director, thanks to our tour theory, the relationship between the director and the producer is probably the biggest influence over a movie as it could be where a lot of the creativity happens. When we think about credits and billing, we generally think of the names of the actors in the production of the rules for billing are not as clearly defined as they are for say, the director or screenwriter, so each film or television show can be negotiated in a different way depending on the stars contract.
But there are a few trends, a major star will get an above the title billing, that means their name comes before the opening title, the film, and above the title on the poster. Then the cast is listed usually by the importance of the character to the story, with the leads first and the supporting roles following in ensemble pieces alphabetically or by order of appearance.
Now, sometimes stars will negotiate to be the final listing and get a with credit or an and as credit. These credits go to parts that aren’t exactly leads, but maybe filled by an actor with some status, or a character that just has become a fan favorite if we’re dealing with a television show. Now these leads and supporting actors would be considered above the line, although at this point, the distinction may not be so clear. below the line actors include background actors and day performers. Background actors are what you imagine they’re there to fill the background of a scene. The most basic are general background actors for filling crowd shots. For the most part, they will go uncredited.
A background actors that have to perform a special skill stunts or speak a line of dialogue will get upgraded to a day performer. The sag AFTRA rules state that if a cast of entire production is under 50 performers than all 50 performers must be credited. If there are more than 50, then it’s up to the discretion of the producer, which 50 performers will get on screen credit. stunt performers acting as doubles do not need to have the name of the role they’re doubling identified.
From here on out, we will be discussing jobs that are considered below the line.
Of course, this distinction may change depending on the movie or production we’re talking about. The engine behind every film is the production office, the production office is in charge of making sure everything comes together. At the head of the production office is the line producer. The line producer is in charge of handling the budgetary needs he or she is responsible for every line on the budget as involved with the logistics of everything from production to post production, including hiring crew members are one of the first hires is the UPM, the unit production manager and sometimes created as production manager on independent films.
The UPM is in charge of overseeing the day to day operations, including timecards. Reviewing the production reports, and approving call sheets, the UPM can hire assistance, the production office coordinator or pboc. The pboc handles the details of the production staff. Some larger production studios have a permanent pocc position, who acts as a liaison between the individual production office and the big overall studio. Depending on the size of the production, the pboc can have assistance called assistant production office coordinators.
And of course in a small production, all of these separate roles may be combined into just one person. Now working in the production office can be a number of office production assistants office pa who answer phones, make copies do runs basically keep the office running smoothly. big part of the logistics of a film is transporting an entire company to and from different locations.
Here you’ll have a transportation office supervisor and coordinators who oversee drivers who move both people and equipment around. Because there’s a lot of money and paperwork. You’ll see accountants and lawyers in the credits as their key to handling accounts. payable and drafting contracts for the crew. Although those services are still needed after a film is complete to handle sales and licensing deals, as well as setting up royalties to those who have a profit sharing contract.
Before the cameras can roll, the producer, director and line producer or UPM must plan out the production in pre production. Now there are some specific roles to pre production. Now some directors like to pre visualize their script good idea what it will look like before actually shooting it. This is the job of the storyboard artist. If these storyboards are animated, they’re sometimes called animatics, or previous, and you can see credits for previous artists, and even previous supervisors and editors.
Depending on how complex those sequences get for the casting a production or rely on the work of a casting director. a casting director is responsible for finding the talent to fill the roles in a production. And this can include holding auditions and working with talent agencies, casting directors can have assistance called casting associates. To find locations and sound stages for the production, producers will use the services of a location manager, which is sometimes called a location scout.
Location managers must understand the producers needs and negotiate with locations, as well as making sure that the film has all the proper permits. When a production is in operation, the person in charge of running the set is the first assistant director or first ad. Now this can be confused with the assistant to the director of job, which is exactly like it sounds and assistant to the director. But first ad is more of a management role. They start working during pre production to figure out how to schedule a script.
During the production. The first ad is in charge of the day to day operations, running the floor, keeping things on schedule and safe, so that the director can focus on making creative decisions. The first ad is generally not everybody’s friend. The job requires an authoritative personality, and could deal with the major stresses of a big production. Beneath the first ad is the second ad. The second ad is usually in charge of handling the background actors and often directs background action. A second second ad may be needed for films with a lot of background people. beneath a second ad are the set production assistants or set pa is one of the key jobs of the assistant director team is to call the roll.
That is the call on a series of specific cues before it take to bring the cast and crew together including calling for Quiet on the set and roll sound and Roll camera. Big productions may have multiple units. The director may designate certain scenes often special effects, aerial shots or even small scenes to a second unit. Depending on what the needs are. A second unit can have the same director team structure with a second unit director and second unit ad.
The head of the camera department is the director of photography or dp.
The dp is in charge of crafting the look of the film in collaboration with the director using lenses, lighting and camera movement. A dp may or may not actually operate the camera so you may see a camera operator title as the person who actually works the camera. The first assistant camera or first AC pulls the focus and assists the operator and the DP. The second AC assists the first AC but also does the film clapper calls out the scene numbers and fills out the camera reports now productions will shoot with from more than one camera.
In this case you will have operators first and second ACS for a camera B camera and even see camera. If a celluloid film cameras being used, you will see the name of the film loader who has to make sure the exposed film is safely taken out and raw negative is loaded correctly into the camera. Digital productions are starting to use a digital version of that a digital imaging technician that makes sure all the footage is downloaded from the camera’s memory and safely backed up usually in triplicate. Now you will see some special camera credits including steady cam operator who, as you imagine, operates the steady cam or a similar device.
Motion Control Tech’s are for motion control Dolly systems. onset photographers can be listed in the credits as well from photographers who are shooting behind the scenes imagery to continuity photographers taking photos to ensure that a set or costume looks the same over a period of days. And the same vein you have on set videographers who are documenting the behind the scenes for the sound department. The production sound mixers serves as the department head as responsible for recording all the location sound in the production.
Under the sound mixer are the boom operators who are in charge of operating the microphone boom, and utility sound technicians who run cables and make sure everything is operating properly. The head of the lighting department is the gaffer now this position works closely with the director of photography to plan out the lighting of a film and in some productions is called the lighting designer. working under the gaffer is the best boy electric a non gendered term. Even when a woman fills a spot she can be called a best boy. The best boy handles the day to day management including the hiring, scheduling and management of lighting crew and the renting ordering inventory and returning of lighting equipment.
The under the best boy electric are the lighting technicians who set up and operate the lights. The grip department which is the Department for non electrical components of lighting setups such as stands, flags, rigging and bounces as well as camera moving equipment is structured similarly to the lighting department. The head is the key grip and below that is the best boy grip who manages the day to day operation and oversees the rest of the grips. If the grips are operating the camera Dolly than they will be credited as Dolly grips.
The origin of the term best boy may come from the studio days where the line between lighting and grip was not so rigid. When one department needed a temporary worker, the department head of one would just go to the other and asked for their best boy essentially the second in command. A best boy may also have its roots in early sailing and whaling crews as sailors would often work on the rigging in theatres when they weren’t at sea.
With actors cameras sound and lights and place now we just have to figure out what to put in front of the camera and that is the job of the art department. The Art Department is headed by the production designer who worked with the director and the director of photography to figure out the look of the production from the sets, the costumes and the props. Under the general art department is a sub Department called the art department headed by the art director.
The art director oversees artists and crafts people such as the set designers, graphic artists and illustrators who work on the look of a film and its marketing. Once the art department designs the set, it is the role of the construction department headed by the construction coordinator who manages all the construction needed to build those sets. Reporting to the construction coordinator is the head carpenter who leads a gang of carpenters and laborers.
This may also include crafting custom props, construction is also responsible for breaking down a set after the production is over. Once the set is created, it needs to be filled in. This is the job of the sets department headed by the set decorator working under the set decorator are the buyers who purchase or rent pieces for the set leads Minh or leads person who oversees the set dressing crew, often referred to as the swing gang.
This swing gang is made up of set dressers who fill in all the stuff you would normally see on a set of a set needs plants, you will see a greens man who handles all the plant material, sometimes real and sometimes artificial. If a film has a significant amount of greens, this may be its own sub department with its own organizational heirarchy. The items that the actors interact with that are not part of the scenery are called properties or props and are under the jurisdiction of the property master who may have assistance below him or her as some projects will have a weapons matter which will work specifically with guns, swords and other weapons, both in procuring for the set and in training in their proper safe use. not technically part of the art department, but related are the costume and hair and makeup.
The head of the costume department is the costume designer. Under that position is the costume supervisor who works on the day to day management of the costumes as well as overseeing the customers, buyers and renters who work in that department. The head of the hair and makeup departments are the key makeup artists and key hair. Both positions will work on hair and makeup for the leads and oversee assistant makeup artists who work on the other actors. special effects makeup artists may be brought in as necessary. an offshoot of the art department is the special effects department.
Now special effects are the effects that happen in the camera, the practical effects team, a special effects team can have a similar eriko structure to the art department. And that’s headed by a special effects supervisor, with a gang boss or construction foreman under him or her overseeing all kinds of technicians from pyrotechnicians to sculptors to model and miniature technicians backing up the art department and actually all other departments as well is the continuity supervisor sometimes called script supervisor. The role of the continuity supervisor is to make sure that things that need to look the same look the same from day to day that the sets the costume hair and makeup stay consistent over a long shoot.
How before we wrap up the production crew let’s not forget the craft services and catering positions. Napoleon said that an army marches on its stomach and a film crew is no different. Craft services or crafty is small snacks, drinks and coffee that is delivered to the different departments to have while they’re working to keep them happy. A catering is a more formal meal where the cast and crew take a break and sit down and eat. Union films are contractually obligated to have a meal every so many hours even on the smallest budget non union film, it’s best not to skip that meal because this is where the cast and crew can bond creating a better working environment.
Once the production is done, and all the shots captured, the post production team comes in and a film is overseen by the post production supervisor. The editorial department is headed by the editor who will be assisted by several assistant editors who do a lot of the logging and organizing of the footage with the help of the camera reports generated by the second a seat. The sound department is headed by the supervising sound designer. Under the sound designer are the dialogue editor who works on cleaning up the dialogue tracks and ADR editor who works on replacing noisy audio that was recorded on set with clean dialogue recorded in the studio.
Foley artists who create sound effects for the film music supervisors who work with composers to score the film orchestra contractors who bring in musicians to perform the score recording engineers who record the soundtrack and then sound mixers who bring everything all back together again. in post production we also have the visual effects department which can be a beast of its own. The visual effects are effects not done in camera Think Green Screen compositing or CGI. Now the organizational chart of a VFX department can look a lot like the production crew with a visual effects producer at the top working with the film’s director and DP and deciding how shots will be done. Under the VFX producer is the creative director who controls the creative decisions. And beneath that is the visual effects supervisor who organizes and coordinates a team of digital artists, painters, animators, programmers, riggers rotoscope artists as a job where they have to cut up the plates frame by frame and compositors the person who brings different visual elements together into a single frame.
Now film will often use several different visual effects companies for different shots. So you’ll see many of these different positions listed over and over again. Once the picture is edited, and the visual effects added, the last touch is to color correct and color grade. Everything else is done by the colorist working in collaboration with the director and sometimes the Director of photography.
Wow. So you can see why a big budget movie can cost millions and millions of dollars. So hopefully now you have a better understanding of who does what on a film. Some of these positions will be different from picture to picture. But the next time you’re at the theater, stick around and watch the end credits, and then assemble your own team and go out there and make something great.