I’m pretty sure most of you sometimes hear a strange movie job title and you’re anxious to know what exactly this department is responsible for… So here's an easy guide to film jobs like key grip, best boy, and gaffer, as well what they actually do, and the origins of those titles.
1. FOLEY ARTIST
Is the “manipulator” of sound effects.
The FOLEY ARTIST is the one who creates the amazing sound effects you are able to hear in every post-production. The real art of the Foley expert is to eliminate the extraneous noises and also to add more convincing sounds. For instance, they clap their palms to match clapping on the screen. And as we all know already, fistfights in the movies are faked. Here comes the Foley artist to “punch up” the sound.
Origin: The job takes its name from Jack Donovan Foley, who sought employees with experience in radio sound effects to help Universal Studios survive the transition to sound in 1927.
Is the “Lord” of the electrical department.
In the motion picture industry and on a television crew, a GAFFER is the head electrician, and he is totally responsible for the execution as well as for - most of the time - the design of the lighting plan of a production. He manages the lighting but always under the direction of the cinematographer (Director of Photography).
Origin: The term gaffer has been used for chief electrician since 1936, but a book in 1929 refers to the chief electrician as the Gaffer. Searching deeper, you find this term in English theatre for the men who adjusted lighting on stage but also for men who tended street lamps, after the “gaff” they used, a pole with a hook on its end.
Is the “protector” of the equipment that supports the cameras.
GRIP is what we call a member of a camera crew that is responsible for building and maintaining all the equipment that supports cameras such as tripods, dollies, tracks, jibs, cranes and more. Grips also position and set up the equipment. Constructed of the very delicate (but heavy) parts, the job requires a very experienced person to operate and move the gear.
These can be pretty basic jobs, such as standing a tripod on a floor, to a dangerous and delicate action like hanging a camera from a helicopter above a mountain range!
Also you can find the DOLLY GRIP, who mostly moves cameras, cranes, and wheeled platforms with cameras and their operators, and KEY GRIP, who usually we call the supervisor of the team grips.
Origin: The term goes back to the very early dates of a circus. The name comes from the early 1930s and is slang for a tool bag or “grip” that technicians used to carry their tools to work. But a different theory states that grip men were constantly being instructed to “keep a good grip on the tripod”.
4. BEST BOY (GRIP/GAFFER)
Are the key assistant and the second-in-command.
We have two different kinds of best boy. The BEST BOY ELECTRIC and BEST BOY GRIP. Both assist the Gaffer and Key Grip in their respective departments, and act as the foreman. Also, they are responsible for daily routine and operation of the lighting or grip departments. They have serious responsibilities, including the hiring, scheduling, and management of the crew, renting and ordering, inventory and returning all the equipment. They have to complete timecards and paperwork, stock the expendables, load and unload production trucks, and basically almost everything a “best boy” does! Keep in mind that female chief assistants are also called “Best Boys”.
Origin: The term predates the film business. In England, the “best boy” was the master’s most experienced apprentice. Today he or she is known as a best boy grip or best boy electrician carrying out the key grip’s or gaffer’s instructions.
5. CHILD AND ANIMAL WRANGLER
Is the person responsible for keeping track of any young children in the film, or all animals participating in the production.
The CHILD WRANGLER needs to manage and keep safe and happy (and most of the time silent) all the children and young actors. They must keep them entertained and quiet when they are not in the scene being filmed. Also they assist in coaching the young actors in order to make their performances professional and believable.
ANIMAL WRANGLERS manage horses and control all live animals used in filming.
Origin: Wrangler, derived from old German, is the name of cattle and horse handlers traditionally given to cowboys.
6. PYTHON WRANGLER
Is the “cable boy”.
THE PYTHON WRANGLER usually performs a variety of tasks in the sound department, mostly pulling cables. He or she is known as the utility sound technician and/or the “cable boy”. The main job is pulling cables out of the way during filming and may also step in as a boom operator on as as-needed basis.
Is the logistical support coordinator for filming overseas.
We also call them the “local fixers”. Basically, a FIXER in film arranges location permits, transport, hotel, meals, talent, and everything that out-of-town crew needs to shoot a film. Alternatively, a fixer is a production coordinator or a local producer and needs to have the "magic solution" or "fix" to get things done.
8. FOCUS PULLERS
Is the key role of assistant cameramen that keeps cameras in focus when filming moving objects or moving people.
Usually in film production FOCUS PULLERS are first assistant cameramen placing marks around the set or location and changing the camera focus anytime an object or an extra crosses them. They have to be very precise to be sure the marks are accurate and they need to be experienced as runners.
9. CONCEPT ARTIST
An individual who creates a visual design.
The CONCEPT ARTIST creates something from scratch. This could be a character, an item, an area or location, or even a whole city that does not exist. This is something that will allow the production designer to determine a vision of how the character or the location or the scene will look.
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