Has this ever happened to you? You’ve just seen a great movie — so great you don’t want to leave the theater. You stay in your seat as the film production’s credits roll. You note the name of the director, the writers, maybe an actor you liked. And then all these strange words come up, like gaffer, best boy, and grip.
Who are these people? What to do they actually do? Are these jobs fun or are they boring jobs with fun-sounding names?
Here’s our guide to those incomprehensible film production job titles, so you’ll never wonder again. And maybe there’s a future career in it for you too.
Job Title #1: Gaffer
On a film or TV set, the gaffer is the chief lighting technician. He or she is the head electrician on set, the person responsible for executing the lighting plan, the lighting crew, lighting instruments and electrical equipment. The Gaffer executes what is conceived by the director of photography (DOP). The gaffer reads the script and notes the plan created by the director of photography. Then gives the lighting plan to the best boy, who works with the lighting technicians to set up the lighting plan. If any adjustments are needed during the filming, the gaffer tweaks the lighting to make sure it is perfect.
Since arguably the most important aspect of film production is lighting — how much of it, where to put it, and how to set it up safely — the gaffer is a very important job. Some say the term originated when workers used a gaff — a long pole with a hook on the end — to adjust lighting levels on film sets. But in the nineteenth century it was a term of respect for a foreman.
Job Title #2: Grip
There is a lot of lighting on a film production set, and obviously there is always a camera. Which means that there is a lot of rigging. Grips are the experts in this stuff — all the non-electrical equipment used to support cameras and lighting. So a grip might mount the lights needed for a particular shot, or assemble the tripod for the camera. This helps the director achieve the right camera angles and stabilize camera movements.
The person in charge of all the grips is called the key grip. The key grip coordinates the rigging on the film set similar to how the gaffer coordinates the lighting.
Job Title #3: Best Boy
There are actually two kinds of best boy: the best boy electric and the best boy grip. The former job name is the chief assistant to the gaffer, the latter to the key grip. Although the job title sounds a little patronizing, it’s actually a very important job. The best boy or best girl is a manager, overseeing the day-to-day work of the film production crew and keeping track of all the equipment.
A best boy electric deals with any electronic components on the film set, while the gaffer is responsible for the safety protocols on set. The job of a best boy electric requires many different skills. They will need stamina to move heavy equipment, the ability to lead and hire a crew and diplomacy as they are the go-between for many departments.
A best boy grip is responsible for the rigging behind the scenes. The best boy grip is the first assistant to the grip crew. They may create work schedules, delegate work to crew members, communicate between departments, track inventory and check whether equipment is working properly. If materials are broken or damaged, the best boy grip will replace them.
Job Title #4: Dolly Grip
You may already know that the dolly is a kind of camera cart. Its purpose is to allow for smooth shots when the camera is moving. The dolly grip is the person within the film production operating the dolly. It sounds pretty straightforward — how hard is pushing a dolly? But a dolly can be a very complex mechanism, and there is a real art to coordinating its movements with the camera operator. For these reasons, dolly grips are often highly trained — and highly paid!
Dolly grips also prepare a film set for camera motion and support the camera anytime it is moving. The dolly grip is a part of the camera crew and manages the camera in motion, even if it is not on a dolly or track.
Job #5: Foley Artist
Foley is a sound effect technique where a Foley artist creates sounds for films and television. They create these sounds in a recording studio during post-production. Foley is named after Jack Foley, the person that developed the technique. Most film scenes use a combination of field recording and Foley effects.
Unlike the other jobs, this is a post-production gig. The foley artist creates sound effects — a creaking door, a gunshot, a breaking glass. Even in our digital age, it’s a surprisingly physical job, with foley artists using props or their bodies — anything to get the sound right. The foley artist doesn’t actually place the sounds effects in the mix, though; he or she just figures out the best way to create them.
All the above can be fun, well-paying jobs. If you’re considering a career in film production, IPR’s digital video and media production associate and bachelor’s degree programs can help you get a start in the video and film production industry. With hands-on training in our state-of-the-art studios, we’ll help you build a strong visual portfolio for your career search. We’ll equip you with a toolbox that includes all aspects of film and video production, not just the ones with interesting names.
Contact us today to learn more about the audio and video production programs and starting a rewarding career.