Whos Who on the Film Set Crew: A Quick-Reference Guide – SyncOnSet
by: jessica cates
This handy quick reference guide will introduce you to the unsung heroes of any successful production: the film crew.
A note from the editor: It’s important to remember that roles, titles, and lists of responsibilities can vary depending on the type of production, the project budget, the number of team members, and the amount of logistics involved on a day-to-day basis. this list will give you a general understanding of the various roles in larger productions, although roles and responsibilities may vary.
It’s amazing how many things have to come together to make a stellar production, and every member of the team plays a critical role in making it happen. Whether you’re new to the scene on set or curious about getting into the business, it can be overwhelming to learn and keep track of the many positions that make up the film crew. We’ve put together this handy quick reference guide to help you figure out who’s who.
In some cases, executive producers are only involved at a high level and focus exclusively on fundraising, attracting investors, and handling legal and marketing efforts. however, some prefer to be hands-on and active in a supervisory role on set. there are often multiple producers, both executive and standard, credited per film.
The line producer is essentially the accountant for the production team. This role reports to and works closely with the Production Manager, and is responsible for managing and overseeing the entire film budget on a daily basis. They do this by monitoring all costs, including actor salaries, daily location fees, and equipment rentals, etc. this person can also manage the film crew.
This is the dreamer and brains behind the look of the film. The production designer speaks with all of the film’s stakeholders, providing guidance on locations, themes, set design, lighting, props, and costumes to ensure a cohesive final product.
The production office coordinator (or poc) acts as the operations manager for behind-the-scenes logistics. Responsible for hiring team members, coordinating talent, renting equipment, and managing paperwork, the production coordinator has a lot to do when it comes to making sure production goals are met.
“pa” for short, this is a general position designed to provide general support to the crew. On any given day, this might mean making coffee, setting up a prep area for a quick wardrobe change, or handing out walkie talkies. Many people start their film careers as production assistants.
key creative team
Usually hired by the producer, the director makes the creative decisions on set. this role is the primary decision maker when it comes to casting, script revisions, shot composition, and post-production edits.
deputy directors (first announcement and second announcement)
Working closely with the production manager and director, assistant directors focus on efficiency. Responsible for creating shooting schedules and coordinating talent, crew members, and crew, these roles often help direct scene extras as well.
Having a good storyboard artist is essential, because they are responsible for capturing the director’s vision and translating it into something visual. Each sketch provided helps guide various departments, from props to costumes to hair and makeup, in your design process.
The Prop Master is responsible for acquiring, organizing, maintaining, and accounting for all props needed during production. a prop is any easily movable item needed to set a scene. if a pre-made prop doesn’t exist, the prop master brings in a prop maker, an artist who uses various materials, machines, and sculpting methods to build unique props.
construction coordinator or set builder
Similar to a home builder, this role coordinates the fabrication of structures. Established responsibilities of the construction coordinator or builder include budgeting drafts, ordering materials, building structures, and ensuring safety best practices are followed.
scenic artist / painter
A performing artist is responsible for creating the look of the set by treating various surfaces. this can be achieved by using paint, applying texture, using special treatments to mimic the look of metal and other materials, and more.
decorator / vanity set
A set decorator is similar to an interior designer, but for a movie set. this person focuses on adding small details; things like paintings, lamps, and rugs, to create a compelling scene.
photo source: magazine around the world
director of photography
The Director of Photography (DP) manages the camera and lighting crews and is in charge of the overall visual appearance of the film, as seen through the camera. Responsible for deciding which cameras and lenses to use during production, the dp works with the director to determine how to lay out and frame shots and determine how camera movements will be handled.
Two camera assistants (first and second ac) support the announcement. They also handle camera and film setup logistics, including cleaning lenses, metering and focusing, loading, threading, and unloading film into magazines, and filling out camera reports. the 2nd ac also usually runs the clapper and is responsible for keeping scenes labeled and organized.
Depending on the cinematographer, cameramen are responsible for physically controlling the cameras during filming. the main operator frames the shot and performs the movements according to the instructions of the dp. Specialized operators are sometimes hired to capture aerial shots or to film jib crane scenes, used when elevation and smooth movement are needed to film a large area.
fixed camera operator
A steadicam is a camera mounting device comprised of a mechanical arm attached to a body harness that provides extremely smooth handheld shots. steadicam operators take on the physically backbreaking job of handling steadicam setup and operation during production.
The cameraman on set is tasked with documenting the action behind the scenes. A photographer is also usually on set to capture production stills, often used for marketing and DVD case art.
We eat with our eyes and you may notice that the food in the movie always looks delicious. you can thank the on-set food stylist and the assistant food stylist for this. Typically highly trained in the culinary arts, food stylists are responsible for making sure food looks its best, often accomplished through tricks like adding aerosol condensation to a glass of “cold” beverage .
Production is a continuous job. craft services is tasked with making sure the crew doesn’t go hungry or dehydrated. this group provides snacks and beverages to the film crew throughout the day by maintaining a well-stocked station on set.
lighting and amplifier; grip department
The best guy is the main electrician on the set. Responsible for properly routing electrical wiring to power lights and for operating, adjusting and balancing the electrical load on the generator. the set can literally go dark if the best man is having a bad day.
The gaffer is the chief lighting technician on set and is responsible for developing a lighting plan that optimizes the shot frame. This is done by determining which lights need to be placed where and working with the best guy and key grab to make this happen.
Overseeing proper camera mounting and light blocking and diffusion, the main handle, supported by additional handles, “shapes the light” provided by the electricians to create the vision dreamed by the director of photography and the gaffer. this is achieved by using light blocking techniques and incorporating colored light, diffused light, shadows or patterns.
This job consists of looking for various filming locations that fit the vision that the director and producer have for the film. During the research phase, the location scout typically presents photos of various possible filming locations to the production leads and works to narrow down the options.
Once the locations are chosen, the location manager gets to work paying fees, setting up contracts, processing permits, obtaining clearances, and coordinating the necessary permits to film on location. in some cases, they also help coordinate parking on the day of the shoot.
Using fabrics, accessories, and lots of creativity, the costume designer works closely with stylists and makeup artists to bring the characters to life. Tasked with turning costume sketches into wearable garments, the costume designers will also be aided by assistants, who organize, disperse and maintain the costumes worn by the cast. this is a backstage role played on set by the wardrobe supervisor.
Considered the costume designer’s most trusted counterpart, the costume supervisor is tasked with maintaining the integrity of the designer’s vision from start to finish. Before filming, this means cataloging the necessary costume items by character and scene number. once principal photography begins, the wardrobe supervisor is responsible for maintaining inventory, focusing on day-to-day continuity and ensuring all pieces are worn as intended. during posting, this feature coordinates returns of rental items with the help of costume buyers and other staff.
This role is responsible for handling logistics for the costume designer. During pre-production planning, you’ll find the costume designer conducting costume-related research, sourcing materials, and working with clothing designers to create one-of-a-kind costumes. this person is also responsible for ensuring that all orders are delivered on time and that each garment and accessory meets production and quality standards.
hair & makeup
The hairdresser on set is an artist who uses hair as his medium. Led by the advertising and costume designer, the hairstylists on the film crew must be able to create a wide variety of looks. For the sake of continuity, this person must also be able to accurately repeat hairstyles.
Like the hairdresser, the on-set makeup artist (or mua) is tasked with creating looks that range from perfect to terrifying. when prosthetics and latex come into play to create burns, sores or other blood, a special makeup artist joins in on the fun
dash & vtr department
Often, shooting days are broken down based on the availability of a part of a set or location, so things are often shot out of sequence. it’s up to the script supervisor to keep track of what has been shot, what needs to be shot, and to ensure seamless continuity from shot to shot. this person also makes notes on the best shots for the post-production team.
The cameras have front-mounted teleprompters that scroll the lines for the actors. The teleprompter operator is tasked with entering the script into the teleprompter text program before arriving on set and setting up the device on camera.
video support operator
Often referred to as a vtr (video tape recorder) operator, this role is responsible for setting up video recording equipment to record and play back tapes in real time, allowing the director to confirm they got the shot. this person is also responsible for labeling the tape with roll numbers and time codes and providing technical support if problems arise with equipment operation, conversions, transfers, digitization, or duplication.
This role is the main head of the sound department. Responsible for monitoring, recording, and leveling audio during production, the sound mixer determines which microphones to use and where to place them to capture the best audio. As a highly trained audio engineer, the sound mixer is also capable of mixing various sounds and tracks in real time.
boom operator (aka sound utility)
Responsible for properly positioning the microphone boom during filming, a critical step in capturing clean audio, this sound mixer assistant takes on a physically demanding job every session. the boom operator performs a delicate dance as he works to keep the boom pole steady and clear of cameras and lights as the actors move.
acrobatics & effects department
special effects coordinator
Responsible for designing and supervising various effects needed throughout the film, this person is a master of mechanical manipulation and optical illusions. On any given day, the special effects coordinator can be found staging the scene of a raging storm or helping to create props that smoke or explode. this role is supported by a special effects technician, and a specially trained pyrotechnician can be hired to handle weapons, fire, and explosives.
The stunt coordinator is incredibly important in action movies because he is responsible for enforcing safety regulations while coordinating the stunt stunt sequences. These types of stunts can include, but are not limited to, underwater action, car accident scenes, free falls, and anything that involves heights, flying through the air, or stunts.
captain or gang boss
There are a lot of logistics involved in moving the entire production cast, crew, and all of their necessary equipment to a new location. That’s where the captain, also known as the boss of the gang, comes into play. This role is responsible for managing transportation schedules, obtaining the appropriate parking permits, and providing vehicles to get everyone to various filming locations on time. transport drivers help by physically driving production vehicles to and from filming locations and getting everyone to safety.
Now that you know who’s who, the next time you’re tasked with sending a message to the gang leader or second ac, you’ll know who to deliver it to.