What is the Best Boy on Film Sets?

Films are artistic endeavors and the result of many people working together to bring a vision to life. Many moviegoers stick around through the credits thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the credits reveal all of the hard work the teams. One role that always sparks a bit of curious interest? The best boy. This role is crucial in filmmaking and involves dedicated technical training.

What is a Best Boy?

The actual title of this essential position is still a source of debate. Many speculate that it comes from the early pre-union days of Hollywood as an offhand term to describe the top apprentice. The best boy’s role is to be the primary assistant to the gaffer or key grip. In contrast, a woman in this role is known as the best girl.

Do You Need Education to Become a Best Boy?

In the past some have been able to work as a best boy without education, however now there are video production courses. As on-set positions, the best boy and gaffer work directly under the director of photography. In pre-production, the best boy hires other technical personnel. In addition, the best boy cares for staff and schedules throughout the production.

Best Boy and Equipment Management

A best boy also rents and orders all of the needed equipment for the department and keeps a running inventory of each item. This includes writing up deal memos, as well as logistics for the entirety of the film shoot. It’s vital for the best boy to be in sync with the key grip to make the entire production smoother.

Organization as Best Boy

This will require anyone in the role to create a binder to keep all of the information they need. This binder includes the script, schedule and contact information and paperwork for any on-set situations.

What it Takes to be a Best Boy on Set

When it comes time to shoot, the best boy’s duties exponentially increase which will require one in this position to truly utilize all of the skills that they’ve acquired prior to gaining their digital media production degree in addition to being able to handle a highly physical workload.

Technical Skills as Best Boy

For starters, a best boy has to have a great amount of technical skills to handle any repairs that are needed for equipment as well as to help with the pre-lighting of the set. This task involves a combination of hiring lighting technicians and to oversee the process in conjunction with taking care of minor lighting issues that can arise.

Assorted Roles for Best Boys

On smaller sets, the best boy takes care of all the pre-lighting themselves. A best boy also has to operate as a sort of technical scout. Doing so means that one has to plot out the places on set where they’ll run cable, set up the staging area for equipment and (if needed) coordinate truck placement in close proximity to the set. The best boy also has to walk with a tool set for these duties, which will include Allen key sets for stands, levels, measuring tape and a clamp meter among other items.

Skills Needed to be a Best Boy

The most important asset a best boy is required to have for the job is a knack for direct and distinct communication. It’s vital as they’ll be in a prominent position to manage various technical elements as well as different crew members in the department, even to the extent of firing someone if they’re not pulling their weight consistently on set.

A best boy also has to contend with performing these tasks over a lengthy period of hours in the day, sometimes up to twelve hours. The position also requires one to have a proven ability to solve problems on the fly, and to have a high amount of attention to detail. As daunting as all of these duties can appear on paper, being a best boy on a movie set is one of the more fulfilling roles someone can have within the industry.

Want to Learn More?

Does being a best boy strike you as an intriguing career? Find out more about how to equip yourself with those skills through a media production degree with IPR’s Digital Video and Media Production program.