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Roles in a Film Production

Roles in a Film Production

Posted by: San Francisco Film Society

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Director: interprets the script and unifies the components of the film into something that bears his or her signature. The Director must be able to lead and collaborate with others in many different capacities. While in production, the Director oversees actors, but also advises the Director of Photography, instructs the lead technicians, consults on budgets and helps organize the shooting schedule. 

Producer: is given control over the entire production of a motion picture and is ultimately held responsible for the success or failure of the motion picture project. The Producer’s task is to organize and guide the project from beginning to end. Logistical and financial decision-making is usuallly the Producer’s responsibility. 

Screenwriter: creates a screenplay either based on previously written material, such as a book or a play, or as an original work. A Screenwriter may write a screenplay on speculation, then try to sell it, or the Screenwriter may be hired by a Producer or studio to write a screenplay to given specifications. Screenplays are often rewritten, and it’s not uncommon for more than one Screenwriter to work on a script. 

Director of Photography (also DP or Cinematographer): is responsible for the quality of the photography and the cinematic look of the film. The DP transforms the Screenwriter’s and Director’s concepts into visual images. Using his or her knowledge of lighting, lenses, cameras and film emulsions, the DP creates the appropriate mood, atmosphere and visual style of each shot to evoke the emotions that the Director desires. Working closely with the Director, the Director of Photography executes the camera angles, shot compositions and camera movements determined by the storyboards. The DP then decides upon the lighting equipment and the type and number of cameras that will be required for shooting and orders the lights and cameras to be set up in such a way to attain the desired effect. 

Editor: works closely with the Director throughout post-production to assemble all the footage into a coherent, entertaining story. The editing process involves the selection and combining of shots into sequences, ultimately yielding a finished film. The Editor is key to storytelling, as they take shots, dialogue, b-roll, coverage and all of the other component parts of a film and make them into a unified whole. 

Assistant Director (also AD or First AD): controls the shooting schedule and is responsible for keeping the production on schedule. By assuming responsibility for the routine tasks, such as the call (summoning the actors, crew and logistical support to the right place at the right time), the AD allows the Director to focus on the creative aspects of the film. The AD maintains order on the set and often has assistants of his/her own. 

Line Producer: runs the day-to-day operations. This person makes the deals for locations and transportation, secures extras for scenes, orders equipment, gets accommodations for the cast and crew when they’re on location and is on the set every day to ensure the production runs smoothly. The Line Producer is generally employed from pre-production through post-production and reports to the Producer. 

Production Designer (or Art Director): heads the Art Department and is responsible for creating the overall visual appearance of the film, including sets, props and costumes. 

Script Supervisor (or Continuity Person): writes down very specific notes on every scene during filming and tracks the filmed action relative to the script. The Script Supervisor also tracks continuity, making sure elements within the frame are the same for different shots of the same action. 

Set Designer: is often a draftsman with architectural training, who sketches plans and lists specifications for building sets based on the verbal descriptions or rough sketches provided by the Art Director. A set is any scenery or environment built indoors or outdoors for use in a motion picture. The Set Designer is often the leader of a team of carpenters. 

Costume Designer: conceives and draws designs for the costumes to be worn by the actors in the film. 

Sound Recordist: operates the sound-recording equipment on a set. 

Boom Operator: operates the boom—a long, adjustable bar used to position a microphone during filming. On the boom, the microphone can be positioned above the actor’s head, picking up dialogue while remaining out of the camera’s field of view. The Boom Operator must correctly position the boom microphone to record all the actors, which means pointing the mic at the actor who is talking, anticipating when the next actor will speak and swiveling the microphone over to them. 

Gaffer (or Chief Lighting Technician): heads up the crew responsible for lighting and other electrical matters during filming. The Gaffer reports to the Director of Photography and orders all necessary lighting equipment and oversees the lighting crews. The Best Boy is the lead assistant to the Gaffer. 

Grip: is an on-set technician responsible for camera support (dollys, cranes, tripods, etc.) and lighting equipment. Grips prepare camera mounts so a scene can be filmed from whichever vantage point the Director of Photography desires. This might require organizing and securing the equipment needed to film from a moving car. Or this might necessitate erecting scaffolding for a high point of view. On most sets, grips also function as the lighting crew. 

Set Photographer: takes the still photographs that are used for publicizing the movie. Stills and instant photos are also used to help maintain continuity.

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