So, you’ve just returned from the theater where you saw Iron Man III or Avatar II or Rocky XIV, and you’ve decided you want to work in the movies. Well, sir (or ma’am), you’re no Spielberg or J.J. Abrams or John Woo or Michael Bay. But if you wanted to move to Hollywood (or, increasingly, places like Vancouver and Santa Fe), where do you get started? Well, I don’t know how you get to run in to George Lucas at Jerry’s Famous Deli, but I can tell you if you send out your résumés, you’re gonna have to start at the bottom.
But, you say, when I watch a movie, there are, like, hundreds of people in the credits. With hundreds of people in hundreds of movies, surely I can be one. But what do all those people do? Good question. Here’s a list of some of the less glamorous jobs on a film crew, ones you've probably seen in movie credits and wondered what they do, and if maybe you can do them too.
The person who creates the everyday sound effects for a film, like people walking or glass breaking or the sound of the wind. These are the sounds that you, if done well, won’t notice. These ambient sounds aren’t picked up in location shooting and must be added later, or 'sweetened'.
The operator of the Steadicam camera stabilization rig, which is usually a camera with gyro-stabilization that is moving or being walked. The rig makes the shot look smooth and steady, ergo the name.
Another name for the Second Assistant Camera. Operates the clapper board before each take and yells “take twelve!”. Also loads the film into the camera, guards the crucial notebooks that mark and record when each roll of film stock is used and processed, and is usually in charge of the use and transport of camera equipment.
Sound engineer responsible for the placement and movement of microphones during shooting. The name comes from the of the boom pole mic positioned out of the camera frame, but is usually responsible for all the non-lavalier (lapel) mics on set.
The head of the electrical department, and is responsible for the design and implementation of the lighting plan for a production.
Lighting and rigging technicians who set up the lights, scaffolding, and set pieces based on schematics from the electrical and set departments and the Gaffer. The Key Grip is the grip in charge on a set.
The grip in charge of operating the movable camera dollies and cranes, pushing and pulling the mobile camera setups (and the camera operator sitting on top).
The chief assistant to the Key Grip. Also usually responsible for organizing and maintaining the grip truck.
The person who places and removes the furniture, shades and blinds, carpeting, bedding, knick-knacks, etc., on the set. In charge of the realism of every detail you’d find in a real location like light switches, working faucets, and wall sockets.
A set dresser that specializes in outdoor locations that require landscaping, trees, plants, bushes, weeds, crops, etc.
Locates sellers of set items needed by the set dressers, and buys or rents them.
A prop technician who specializes in guns, munitions, and armory equipment.
Those are just some of the hundreds of jobs available on a Hollywood movie set. Ready to make the big move to California now?
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Michael is a Copywriter, Creative Marketer, and Broadcaster with 15 years in Programming, Marketing, Promotions, and New Media at television and radio stations in markets like Philadelphia, Syracuse, Albany, Wichita, and Kansas City, as an advertising writer in marketing departments and at ad agencies, and as a freelance copywriter. A Philly native and graduate of Syracuse University's Newhouse School, Michael is available for freelance work, full-time writing, and wedding receptions.
"Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright." - Aaron Sorkin, "The West Wing"