Behind The Scenes: Film Crew Roles Explained
The era of ubiquitous video content is upon us; wherever you look, someone is trying to hypnotize you with some moving images. This fact could leave one with the impression that all you need to shoot a video is an iPhone and some fantasy. That’s partly true – if you want to get some random stock-footage of a sunrise. However, this strategy won’t get you far in case you need something professional – like an ad for your company.
Producing a successful video involves considerable effort: you’ll need equipment, some specialist expertise, and – last but not least – a competent crew to make good use of it all. The actual number of people on your team can vary, but just to give you a scope of all the different tasks that need getting done, we decided to put together a handy guide of the various roles the members of your film crew have to be ready for.
The next few paragraphs will brief you on who’s who in the film crew and production team. Some of those jobs get a lot of credit, and you’ll most likely be familiar with them. Others – like the gaffers – may stay out of the spotlight, but those are the folks who really get down to the nitty-gritty of the film, altogether making sure it’s professional down to the tiniest detail.
Executive Producer (EP)
Even if the EP isn’t present on set every day, he or she is the one who really pulls the strings in any practical sense, supervising the creation of the movie and, most importantly, bringing in the dough.
There could be a whole bunch of producers involved in any major film. They are hired by the executive producer to oversee the production’s logistics, ensure the movie is made correctly and that everything goes smoothly in general. Producers usually create the initial budget and run the logistics during production – in a sense, these crew members are the equivalent of project managers in a modern company.
Also known as the main visionary! It is the director’s job to visualize whatever plot is presented in the script, tell the story and bring it to life on screen. He or she has to meet the impossible task of finding the most appropriate methods to set the right mood – and stay within the budget at the same time. He or she works with the actors, defines the locations, writes shot lists and decides on the film’s overall look and composition. The director is responsible for the look, feel and mood of the film and works with all levels of creative talent and production members.
This one’s pretty straightforward – a screenwriter is that master of language who ensures the plot keeps you hooked and the dialogues sound natural. This role will differ from one production to another; for example, for a commercial, you’ll need a script that’s not necessarily too elaborate, but surprising, captivating and straight to the point.
This broad term includes any actor whose performance will enhance your video. No matter how cool your concept is, you need people who are passionate about what they’re doing and are able to quickly adjust to the director’s guidelines. There are a few factors to look out for when you’re hiring actors, like acting experience, modeling and on-camera performance.
The assistant director basically keeps track of everything that’s happening in connection to the film production. He or she has to stay on top of some of the most mundane duties on the set, like logistics, daily call sheets, and literally taking care of every cast and crew member. This role is not to be confused with assistant TO the director!
This challenging task requires the unique talent of translating moods, messages, concepts and ideas into visual representations. Art director makes sure that the film’s actual imagery matches the vision of its creators.
Have you ever wondered what to professionally call the guy who’s holding that huge furry mic over someone’s head? That would be the production sound mixer’s assistant: the boom operator!
The camera operator obviously fulfills a role crucial to the success of the movie. As the name suggests, he or she operates the camera and constantly focuses on getting the right angles. In smaller productions, this task can be carried out by the director of photography and supported by the camera assistant, whose main responsibility is taking care of all the valuable equipment.
Alternatively referred to as the director of photography (DP), the cinematographer is the boss for all camera and light-related things on the set. That’s the one who operates the camera him or herself on low budget productions and is an absolute guru to the gaffer!
Also known as the Chief Lightning Technician, this person knows all about the electricity on the set. The gaffer's main task is setting up the appropriate lighting following the director of photography's instructions.
A DIT is short for digital imaging technician – a role that truly is a sign of the time, namely the digital cinema era. The DIT makes sure that all the filming data is saved on external hard drives and cooperates closely with the cinematographer in order to obtain the highest quality of material.
Probably not a common sight on low budget productions, this skilled technician’s role is dedicated to operating the camera dolly – a wheeled cart that enables the camera to move smoothly during horizontal shoots.
Although they don’t necessarily have to be on the set during the production phase, we just have to include a short description of their job – the film editors make all the difference! They enter the game when the raw footage is ready; they transform the disorderly shots into an aesthetically pleasing sequence ready for the audience!
This kind of producer is really bound to the set – managing Human Resources, controlling all expenses, and handling any difficulty that might occur.
Production Sound Mixer
As one might have guessed, this member of the crew has to see to it that all audio content gets recorded! It might sound easy, but it can get pretty complex when you consider the choice and deployment of microphones and mixing the audio signals in real time.
How do we get it done at Denim Video?
The number of crew members on set varies for each individual Denim Video production – usually it’s between 3 and 15 people. Just to give you a rough idea, here’s a bunch of examples:
During this video shoot for Shift, we had four team members on set: Executive Producer, Producer, DP/Camera Operator and Camera Assistant.
For the series of videos for Sharp, we worked with 20 people on set throughout 4 days of shooting.
Every single video requires a different approach. Contact me to discuss your goals and we'll make it happen!