Word Of The Month: Hollywood

Summer is the time for big-budget, American film releases. This year we have, among others, Star Wars: Episode Two, Minority Report, and another Austin Powers movie. So in honor of summer days spent in dark, air-conditioned theaters, the word of the month for August is:

Hollywood, n. and adj., the American film industry. Named after the district in Los Angeles, California that is home to several major film studios. Generalized use dates to 1926. In 1886, Kansas prohibitionist Horace Wilcox carved out an area of what was then known as Rancho La Brea to found a community based on strict religious principles and strong moral underpinnings. His wife, Daeida, named the community Hollywood, after a friend’s Chicago home. The first film studio opened there in 1911 and the moral underpinnings of the community went downhill from there.

If you are one of those people who sit in the theater long after the movie is over watching the seemingly interminable credits roll by, you will see many strange titles and terms. What exactly does a gaffer do? Why does a best boy deserve that superlative? The following is a collection of terms that you will typically see in movie credits, plus a few others thrown in because they are interesting.

Above The Line, adj., budgetary term denoting expenses incurred before production starts, usually associated with creative talent, such as the director, writer, producer, and actor salaries (costs other than technical crew and equipment). See below the line.

Additional Photography, n., reshooting of individual scenes once principal photography is complete, usually because the scene didn’t turn out well.

ADR, n., abbrev. for automatic dialogue replacement, the re-recording of dialogue by actors in a sound studio during post-production. Also known as dubbing.

Art Director, title, also production designer, the designer of a film set, often having a major hand in the overall look and presentation of a film.

Assistant Director, title, also A.D., the person responsible for logistics, order, and discipline on the set and for keeping the production on schedule.

Associate Producer, title, nominally a producer’s second-in-command, sometimes serves as the de facto producer of a film with the credited producer functioning only as a figurehead.

Below The Line, adj., physical costs of production, including technical crew, music rights, publicity.

Best Boy, title, the chief assistant or second-in-command of a technical crew, originally the chief assistant to the gaffer, but more recently used for other crews as well. 

Billing, n., the size and position of actors’ names in the credits and promotional material for a film. An actor whose name appears first or higher than the others has top billing. If actors’ names appear at the same time or at the same height they have equal billing. Sometimes actors are given diagonal billing, where precedence varies depending on whether you read the names from top to bottom or from left to right.

Body Double, title, an actor whose body is used in place of another’s in a particular shot, especially in nude scenes or where a greater degree of physical fitness is required. Cf. stand-in, stunt double.

Boom Mike, n., a long pole with a microphone on the end.

Boom Operator, title, member of the sound crew, places and maneuvers the boom mike.

Box Office, n., also gross, the total amount of money paid by the public to see a film during its first run. The term does not include money from video release, associated merchandising, or television. For US films, it often does not include foreign box office receipts.

Cableman, title, member of the sound crew, runs and maintains cables for the sound equipment.

Cameo, n. & adj., a bit part played by a famous actor.

Camera Operator, title, also second cameraman, the technician who operates the camera during production. 

Casting Director, title, assists the director and producer in auditioning and selecting actors and negotiating actor’s contracts.

Cinemascope, trade name, a type of widescreen projection.

Cinematographer, title, also director of photography, first cameraman, and lighting cameraman, in charge of lighting the set and photographing the film, with the director chooses the camera angles and movement for each shot and then selects the appropriate lens, filters, exposure, and lighting required to capture the shot.

Clapboard, n., also clapper or slate; a board that holds identifying information about a take, such as movie title and scene and take numbers, filmed at the start of each take; on top is a hinged stick that is “clapped” to provide the editors with a cue for audio-visual synchronization.

Continuity, n., internal self-consistency within a film, such as no change in costume or location of props or positions of actors between shots.

Co-Producer, title, a producer who performs a substantial creative role.

Cut, n., 1. an abrupt change in camera angle/view made in editing; 2. the final, edited version of a movie; 3. a command shouted on set to indicate the end of a take.

Dailies, n., also rushes, the first prints of film made on a daily basis during production. Used by the director and producers to gauge how the film will look.

DGA, n., abbrev. for Director’s Guild of America, a union of directors and other film and video personnel.

Director, title, the person responsible for the artistic aspects of the production of a film and usually the person with final artistic control of the film.

Director’s Cut, n., the director’s initial edited version of the film, completed without studio interference. Has a synchronized soundtrack but often lacks score and special effects. More recently, used as a marketing term for a completely polished version made under the director’s complete artistic control.

Dolby, trade name, any number of audio formats and systems produced by Dolby Laboratories.

Editor, title, the person responsible for assembling the completed takes into a final version of the film.

Executive Producer, title, in charge of business and legal aspects of a production, typically not involved with the creative aspects of production. In television, however, executive producers are often the chief creative minds behind a series.

Extra, title, an actor with a non-specific, non-speaking role, usually in crowds or as part of the background of a scene.

Fake Shemp, title, also shemp, a double whose face is not seen, usually used when the principal actor is not available. Supposedly from the use of a double in Three Stooges films to complete scenes after the death of Shemp.

Foley, n. and adj., incidental sound effects, such as footsteps, slaps, etc. created during post-production.

Gaffer, title, the chief electrician of a film unit. Responsible for supervising the positioning of lights before and during shooting.

Grip, title, a general-purpose handyman. Duties include erection of sets, carpentry, moving equipment and props, and other physical tasks.

Key Grip, title, the head grip.

Leadman, title, supervisor of the swing gang.

Lined Script, n., version of the shooting script annotated by the script supervisor during production with the details of what was actually filmed.

Location Manager, title, person who manages logistics and permission for location shooting.

Location, n. and adj., filming done outside of a studio.

Martini Shot, n., the last shot in a day’s filming.

Outtake, n. a take not used in the final version of a film.

Post-Production, n. and adj., work done after principal photography is complete, usually includes editing, musical score, and visual effects.

Pre-Production, n. and adj., work performed before principal photography begins, includes script editing, casting, location scouting, and set construction.

Principal Photography, n., also production, the filming of the primary scenes of a movie, especially those involving actors.

Producer, title, the person in charge of a production, except in creative matters which are the province of the director. Responsible for financing, hiring key personnel, and arranging for distribution.

Production Assistant, title, also P.A., person responsible for odd tasks on a set, gopher, courier, etc. Often assigned to assist an individual actor, producer, or director.

Prop Man, title, also property man or props, the person responsible for the availability, maintenance, and placement of all props on a set. 

Reverse Shot, n., a shot 180 degrees out from the previous shot, often used in dialogue scenes.

Scene, n., a unit of storytelling set in a single location or following a single actor or group of actors.

Score, n. and v., the musical component of a movie. Cf. soundtrack.

Screen Test, n. and v., a filmed audition.

Screenplay, n., a script; sometimes teleplay in television.

Screenwriter, title, the writer of a script.

Script Supervisor, title, the person in charge of recording what scenes have been filmed and how the filmed version deviates from the script, often responsible for continuity.

SDDS, abbrev., Sony Dynamic Digital Sound, trade name for a digital audio system.

Second Assistant, title, or second, assists the assistant director.

Second Unit, n., a small crew responsible for filming less important shots, e.g., scenery and crowd shots.

Set Decorator, title, responsible for furnishing the set with appropriate decorative furnishings—furniture, rugs, draperies, paintings, etc. 

Set Designer, title, plans the construction the set based on the orders of the art director.

Set Dresser, title, responsible for physically placing decorative furnishings on the set.

Set, n., 1. place where filming occurs; 2. artificially constructed background/location, usually in a studio, for filming.

Shooting Script, n., the version of the script from which a movie is filmed, contains technical notes on how it is to be filmed.

Shot, n., a continuous, unedited block of footage.

Slug Line, n. a header before each scene in a script that describes the location, time, and date the action is supposed to occur.

SMPTE, n., abbrev. for Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, an industry trade group.

Sound Man, title, in small productions, the single person responsible for all sound recording.

Sound Mixer, title, has overall responsibility for recording sound and acoustics on the set, supervises the sound crew.

Sound Recorder, title, member of the sound crew, operates recording equipment.

Soundtrack, n., 1. the audio component of a movie; 2. collection of songs used in the movie, often released as an album. Cf. score.

Special Effects, n., also SFX, artificial effects created on set to produce an illusion on film. Cf. visual effects.

Stand-In, title, a person who takes the place of an actor during lengthy technical set-up of a scene. A stand-in is not actually filmed. Cf. body double, stunt double.

Stock Footage, n., footage taken from a film library or from another movie, usually for time and budgetary reasons.

Stunt, n. and adj., a physically demanding or dangerous task required of an actor, often actually performed by a stunt double.

Stunt-Double, title, a performer who takes the place of an actor during a stunt or physically rigorous scene. Cf. body double, stand-in.

Swing Gang, title, crew of carpenters that construct and take down sets.

Take, n., a single recorded performance of a scene. Usually, multiple takes of each scene will be filmed.

Talent, n., the actors.

Technical Advisor, title, an expert who provides advice on a particular subject to make the film more realistic, e.g., a retired military officer advising about military matters in a war movie.

THX, trade name, a proprietary standard for theatrical sound systems. A number of different sound systems meet the THX standard.

Title Designer, title, the person who designs and creates the title and credit sequences.

Tracking Shot, n., a shot where the camera moves to keep a moving actor or object in frame; famous tracking shots include the opening scene of Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil and the entrance into the Copacabana in Scorsese’s Goodfellas.

Trailer, n., advertisement for a movie shown in theaters; originally added on to the final reel of a film by the theater.

Treatment, n., an abridged script containing descriptions of the characters and major scenes with only snippets of dialogue.

Unit Production Manager, title, coordinates and supervises all the administrative, budgetary, and scheduling details of the production.

Visual Effects, n., artificial effects introduced into the film during post-production.

Voice-over, n., also V.O., dialogue on the soundtrack but where the actor does not appear on screen; often used in transitions between scenes or in narration.

Walk-on, title, a minor role, usually without speaking lines.

Working Title, n., the tentative title during production; often changed for release.

Wrangler, title, the person responsible for handling animals on the set.

Wrap, n., the conclusion of shooting, either for a day or for the entire production.

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