How a Film Crew Works

02.05.2016 |

Episode #8 of the course A brief history of cinema by Ryan McCarvill

 

We’re going to take a quick break from cinema history to discuss how a movie is made and break down the roles and responsibilities of a film crew.

Making a movie is a truly collaborative and intense process. A film is made in three phases: pre-production (assembling cast/crew, budgeting, planning), production (the actual shooting of the film), and post-production (editing, visual effects, and mixing sound and music).

Small indie film crew

Small indie film crew

If you think of a film as a business, the producer is the CEO. The movie is his or her baby. This person initiates, coordinates, and supervises all the activities involved in creating a film, from planning to well after the movie is finally released. The producer is responsible for hiring many of the key members of the cast and crew.

On any given movie, you may see credits (or many credits) for executive producer. Think of executive producers like the company’s board of directors. The exec producers represent the film’s financiers and distributors, which are often the big movie studios. Whereas the producer is in charge of “running” the film, the execs are the ones who invest the necessary cash.

The writer pens the screenplay, which serves as the blueprint for the entire production. He or she may be hired out by the producer, who already has a story in mind, or the writer may have completed a spec (speculative) script submitted to a producer.

The director is the lead creative decision-maker on set. He or she visualizes the film as a whole and then communicates these ideas to the actors and crew. The director is often assisted by a 1st or 2nd assistant director who helps to manage the set and keep track of the production’s many moving parts.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

The director of photography (DP, or cinematographer) is in charge of the camera department. In conjunction with the director, he or she operates the camera and coordinates the camera setup, angles, and lighting. The DP is assisted by a camera operator, 1st assistant camera (AC), and 2nd AC.

Actors, or “talent” as they’re called in industry lingo, are the reason people watch films. They perform the scenes from the script as the story’s characters. They work closely with the director, who guides the actors through each scene and provides feedback.

 

Other key crew roles include:

Location Manager: Scouts and secures the various locations where production will take place, such as a busy coffee shop or a remote rainforest.

Unit Production Manager: Coordinates the production’s day-to-day logistics and keeps track of the film’s budget.

Production Designer: Designs the film sets and supervises the work of construction crews, art decorators, and prop designers.

Costume Designer: Designs or obtains costumes for the actors.

Gaffer: The chief electrician who supervises the lighting setup along with the DP.

Sound Recordist: Records the diegetic (in-scene) sounds, often with a small crew to help operate various pieces of equipment.

Key Grip: Works closely with the gaffer and DP to supervise light changes and camera moves.

Editor: Assembles and enhances raw footage and sound to create the finished film.

Composer: Writes and performs the film’s score.

Foley Artist: Records subtle sounds (such as footsteps) in sync with the action of each scene to make the film sound more realistic.

 

Recommended book

“Making Movies” by Sidney Lumet

 

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