It takes a village to make a movie. Films are complicated artworks. A big-budget Hollywood film will require hundreds, if not thousands of people to make the film.
This is a run-down of some of the major roles in film making. You will each be taking on some of these roles in our class. Some are only found in big Hollywood productions.
Producer: The big boss. The producer sets the conditions for film-making…this means that they initiate the project. They get funding, coordinate things, hire key people like the director, they select the script and ok it for production. They are involved throughout all the phases of the film-making process from pre-production to post, to make sure the film is getting made on time and and made on budget (and in-line with the vision of the movie studio). They are also responsible for coordinating distribution and marketing/merchandising.
Executive Producer: a producer who is not involved in the technical aspects of film-making, but plays more of a financial or creative role in ensuring the project goes into production.
Line Producer: Is the go-between for the producer and the production manager. He or she is responsible for managing the production budget.
Production Manager: Supervises the physical aspects of the production (not the creative aspects)…so they’re responsible for keeping track of personnel (actors and crew), technology, equipment, budget, and scheduling. They’re the ones that keep the production organized, and along with what the producer wants. They also manage the day-to-day budgeting, salaries, production costs, equipment rental costs. In big productions, production managers will have an assistant known as the Assistant Production Manager to help with all the tasks, because the bigger the production the more stuff to manage and coordinate. There is often also a Production Coordinator who is responsible for coordinating and organizing the logistics of everything…this is really important. For example, they’ll be the ones to coordinate transportation to get the crew and cast to the location…etc.
Director: If the producer is the big boss of the entire production, the director is the big boss of the film. He or she calls the shots (literally). The director controls the creative aspects of the film, the content and flow of the film’s plot, directs the performances of the actors, organizes and selections locations, manages technical details, like where cameras will be placed, coordinates with the cinematographer how the film will be shot, how the film’s lighting will be set up, what the soundtrack will be like….but with great power, comes great responsibility. The Director is the problem solver, the mentor and advisor to all of the crew. They are responsible for everyone and everything and that everyone is doing their very best and working together well. They are the leader, they answer to the producer and are responsible for the film getting done. Famous or established directors are sometimes also the producer. Think Wes Anderson or Woody Allen…these are people who are respected in the field and given a lot more control over their projects.
First Assistant Director: is known as 1st AD in big productions, in smaller productions, there might only be 1 AD. They are the director’s right hand…they keep everything organized and on schedule, they keep track of everything that has been shot, is being shot, what is needed at any given time. “This scene also needs a shot from above!” “Bob had the cup in his right hand before!” They are detail oriented and help to oversee the day-to-day film-making, scheduling, equipment, script and set. They also sometimes direct background action for major shots, at the director’s say-so.
Second Unit Director: Is the director of the second unit…this is often an editor in the case of scenes with a lot of special effects or CGI (so he or she will coordinate with the actors of how to act with the special effects…”the giant dragon will be here *points* so, drop to the floor there *points*) or the stunts coordinator (Ok, so stunt double, you’re going to jump through this glass window) . They oversee the unit specific to them.
Music Director: The director of the music. Is either the composer, or the person who coordinates with composers, musicians, etc to put together the score for a film.
Writer: the person who writes the film script. Either an original script or one adapted from another work, in which case the writer of the original work will also be credited. Example: in Harry Potter films, J.K. Rowling will get a writer credit (and a producer’s credit because she’s so famous and so involved in the film) as do the screenplay writers who adapt the book into a screenplay.
Production Accountant: manages the money and makes sure the production comes in on budget and everyone gets paid.
Locations Manager: Oversees the location’s department and staff, getting permissions of use of locations and coordinating things like where will the crew set up, etc. Location Scouts do the actual research to find locations to shoot in, and document the locations to report back to the director and locations manager.
Script Supervisor: is the continuity person. He or she keeps a close eye on the script keeping track of what has been filmed, if and how they’ve deviated from the script, and keep track of continuity, where is everyone located, what movements are they using? What props and costumes to make sure that the film is continuous/consistent. This is really important.
Casting Director: Is responsible for working with the director to choose actors for the characters of the film. They are super involved in the audition process.
Story Board Artists: work with the director and Director of Photography to create a story board of each of the shots in the film.
Director of Photography (DP): is sometimes also known as Cinematographer, especially when the DP is the one to operate the cameras as well. The DP is the chief director of the camera and lighting of the film. He or she works with the director to make decisions on lighting and framing. Usually, the director tells the DP how the show should look, and the DP chooses the correct lens, filter, lighting and composition to achieve the desired aesthetic effect. DP is the senior creative crew member after the director.
Camera Operator/s: Uses the camera/s at the direction of the cinematographer. First Assistant Camera is responsible for keeping the camera in focus as well as setting up the camera at the beginning of the day and taking taking at apart at the end. Second Assistant Camera is in charge of the clapperboard (clap board, clapper, sticks, slate, marker, etc.) and keeping the cameras stocked with film or whatever they need to shoot the footage. They also oversee the camera equipment and its transportation from one location to another. Camera PAs help the crew while learning the trade of camera assistant, operator and/or cinematographer.
Gaffer: is the head of the lighting department, he or she is responsible for the design of the lighting plan for a production. Sometimes they are called the chief lighting technician. The Best Boy is the chief assistant to the gaffer. They are not usually on set, but deal with the electric truck rentals, manpower and other logistics. Light Technicians or electrics are involved in setting up and controlling lighting equipment and temporary power distribution on set (so if you’re filming at the beach, they’re responsible for setting up generators.) Grips are trained lighting and rigging technicians. They work closely with the electrical department to set up flags, over-heads and bounces…key grip is the head grip on set. Best boy (grip) is the 2nd grip, responsible for the grip truck dolly grip is responsible for the dolly and camera cranes.
Production Assistant: PA’s assist in the production. Their tasks are varied. Sometimes they’ll fetch coffee for the director, other times they’ll be on the sidewalk holding a stop-sign trying to keep people from walking into the shot.
Production Sound Mixer: is the head of the sound department on location and responsible for the operation of the audio mixer and recorders which receive feeds from the microphones on set. They decide how to best record sound for each shot, which microphones to use, how to mix all the audio, and maintain sound logs for post-production. Boom Operators is responsible for using microphones on the end of boom poles. Second assistant sound is an assistant in the sound department who handles wires and wiring (makes sure no one trips) laying carpeting and other sound dampening materials.
Art Department is made up of a Production Designer who is responsible for coordinating and creating the visual appearance of the film…like the settings, costumes character makeup, etc. They work closely with the director and DP to achieve a look to the film. The Art Director reports to the production designer and directly oversees the artists and craftspeople such as set designers, graphic artists, etc.
Set Designers are draftsmen, often architects who, design the sets that have to be built. Illustrators are concept artists who create visual representations of what the production designer wants to create. Set Decorators are in charge of decorating a film set, which means getting the furniture, artwork, etc. that you see in a scene in a film. The Set Dressed is the one that actual sets up the set. If a set has plants and trees, they might use a greensman to set up plants. Construction coordinators manage the construction of sets, including the carpenters and propmakers. Key scenic artists are responsible for surface treatments on set, so for example if there is a wood floor that is meant to look old and weathered, the scenic artist is responsible for making it look that way. Propmasters are in charge of finding and managing all the props that appear in the film. This includes anything the actor holds that is not part of scenery or costume, and all edible food the actors consume in the scene. They are responsible to make sure all the props are time-accurate, and consistency for all the props. They have several assistants that help them. Weapons master or armorer is a prop technician who deals with any weapons in a movie.
Costume Designer is responsible for all the clothing worn by actors in the screen. They are responsible for designing, planning and organizing construction, or acquiring of the garments to the fabric color and size. The designers also work closely with the director the understand and interpret the characters. The Costume or Wardrobe Supervisor works closely with the designer, and manages the people that construct the costumes (seamstresses and tailors), buyers for pre-made costume items or fabrics, breakdown artists that make the costumes look old, dirty or worn if necessary, costume standbys who make sure the quality and continuity of the costumes and consistent before, during and between takes, and key costumer who manages the set costumes and handle star’s wardrobe needs. Hair and make-up artists answer director to the director and production designer, they are responsible for planning makeup designs for all leading and supporting cast. Their department include all the cosmetic make-up, body make up and special effects make up in the production.
Special Effects supervisors instruct the special effects crew to design moving set elements and props that will safely break, explode, burn, collapse or implode without destroying the film set or hurting people. They also are responsible for reproducing weather conditions and other “on-camera magic” Stunt coordinators manage and instruct stunt performers and work closely with the director and AD.
Post production Roles: Though we haven’t yet gotten to post-production in our films, these are some very important roles for a film to be a film, and not just a bunch of clips of actors talking.
Post-production supervisor: coordinates and supervises the post-production process, maintaining good channels of communication between the producer, director, editor, sound editor, and facilities like CFI studios and etc.
Editor: The film editor is the person who puts together the shots into a coherent film with the help of the director. Usually the editing is done by the editor and his or her team of assistant editors. Colorists adjust the color of the film, and make sure the film’s color/tone is consistent with the director’s vision. Visual Effects Producers (VFX PRODUCER) work with storyboard artists and advises the director on the best approach to filming certain things…so for example, in one scene, a space ship flies across the night sky. Should the space ship be physically build and shot live-action, should it be build in miniature and edited into the scene, or should it be entirely CGI? The Visual Effects Producer knows a lot about visual effects and could advise the director on the options and best route. The VFX director directs and supervises the visual effects.
Sound designers are in charge of post-production sound of a movie. Sound editors are responsible for mixing and assembling sounds, foley artists are responsible for creating sound effects for a film, composers create the music for a film.