A Guide to Film Crew Positions: Everything You Need to Know About Working on a Film Set
If you are going to work in the film industry, it is important to have an understanding of the different roles and positions within the production crew. This article will help you comprehend the different levels of hierarchy, and provide an overview of the essential jobs on set.
The terms “above the line” and “below the line” come from the budgeting process, where a line is used to separate crew members who are paid at a fixed rate (“above the line”) and those who are paid an hourly or daily rate (“below the line”). This line is intended to be the only difference between these two categories. In practice, however, it is the first main division in the film crew hierarchy.
The above the line crew positions are typically the highest ranking roles in the production hierarchy for a film. These crew members are responsible for the creative and financial aspects of the project, from pre-production to post. Here are some common examples of the above the line crew.
Above The Line Crew Positions
The director is the most important person on a film production. They are responsible for providing the creative vision and ensuring that the project follows that vision through the entire creative process. They are at the top of the hierarchy chart and have a great influence on the other film crew positions.
The Producer is a crucial role in the film set and is a key title among the many film crew job titles. Their main responsibilities include securing funding, initiating the project, and providing overall organization. Without a Producer, a movie would not be possible. On any film production hierarchy chart, the Producer is found at the top, just below the project financiers. It is common for Producers to hire crew members they have worked with before and can even build their own film crew list with the help of Wrapbook, which will do all the work for them. An executive producer is a title given to someone who has made a notable contribution to a feature film project. The exact nature of their contribution can vary, ranging from having a direct hand in financing the film to being credited for their name alone. Some executive producers are also involved in production crew duties, while others take on more general roles and responsibilities.
The Casting Director is responsible for finding the right performers for a project. This job is typically completed before physical production begins, and they are considered an essential part of the "above the line" film crew. The phrase "above the line" does not indicate superiority; rather, it emphasizes the fact that without the effort and creativity of the "below the line" film crew, the "above the line" positions would not be successful
The salaries of the principal cast members of a film or television show are one of the most typical costs in its budget. These are people who are SAG or SAG-eligible, meaning they are important roles that require professional acting. Even though they are not considered to be part of the film crew hierarchy, their roles are essential and they are held in high regard.
Below The Line Crew Positions
The many and varied below the line film crew job descriptions form a large part of the overall film crew hierarchy. When studying the structure of the crew, it can be broken down into departments that contain their own film crew hierarchy, headed by a department head and with increasingly specialized film crew job descriptions below. To get a better view of the collective below the line film crew hierarchy, let us take a close look at each department and its roles.
The Unit Production Manager or UPM
The Unit Production Manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the film production team and ensuring that the final footage meets expectations. On low-budget movies, this position is often combined with that of a line producer. The UPM will also ensure that safety rules are followed when filming, as it is extremely important that the safety of actors and crew is the top priority. This job requires great attention to detail.
The Production Coordinator
The Production Coordinator is an essential rolein lower-budget productions, as they are often combined with the duties of the UPM (Unit Production Manager). Their duties include keeping everything organized and in sync, making sure there is adequate food and drinks on set, checking in with various departments to avoid and/or solve problems, ensuring the actors are ready and managed, and making sure everyone is in the right place before filming each day.
The Set Accountant monitors the film production’s finances, making sure that he or she keeps track of expenses and that the production stays on budget. It requires specialized knowledge of how the various departments of a production function on their own, both physically and financially.
The Assistant Directing Department
The AD Department is a vital component of any production, linking all other departments together and facilitating communication between them. The AD Department plays a pivotal role for scheduling the production process, coordination and connecting all other departments and to ensure the vision and communication is realized.
The 1st Assistant Director or 1st AD
The First Assistant Director is an integral part of any film or video production. Their role requires them to assist the Director in achieving their creative vision while also handling a variety of tasks that are vital to keeping the production running on schedule and on budget. This includes crafting the shooting schedule, managing the set, ensuring that all other crew members are on time, and dealing with any issues that arise during a shoot.
The First Assistant Director must possess a unique combination of skills, as they must be able to stay present in the moment and anticipate any potential problems in the future. They are the ultimate problem solvers when it comes to film and video productions, but it is important to remember that they should not be approached directly with issues. Instead, it is best to bring any problems to the Second Assistant Director.
The 2nd Assistant Director or 2nd AD
The 2nd Assistant Director is the 1st Assistant Director's right-hand person. 2nd ADs are responsible for daily call sheets and making sure talent arrives on set on time. They must have a good understanding of the roles of the various departments and be able to quickly solve or prevent any issues that arise.
The Production Assistant (PA)
The Production Assistant assigned to the set is invaluable in the world of film production. Set PAs have a low position on the production hierarchy chart, yet they are often referred to as the lifeblood of film production. Their role is not restricted to any one department, but instead they can be called upon to carry out nearly any task that is needed. Set PAs are generally instructed by the professionals in the AD department, and their role is incredibly flexible and essential to the successful completion of a film.
The job of the location manager is to manage shooting locations for a film, which may include scouting for locations, getting permits, settling location contracts, coordinating with other departments, and making sure the production company, cast, and crew have a good experience on set. They must be well-prepared and knowledgeable in order to make sure the director's vision for the film is achieved.
The primary role of the location scout is to identify the ideal spot to film a production. This entails analyzing the area, reading the script, and ensuring that there are no major issues that would prevent a successful shoot. The scout must meet with the director and producers to verify that the location is suitable for their needs. Additionally, the location scout should be conscious of the cost, as they may be required to scout for free, and must find locations that fit within the production's budget. In some cases, this role may be filled by the producers on lower-budget productions.
The Camera Department
The Camera Department is the very heart of any film production. Without it, there would be no movie. Members of this department collaborate closely with both Grip and Electric Departments to bring the vision of the Director of Photography to life.
A Director of Photography or DP, DOP or Cinematographer
A Director of Photography is the professional responsible for creating the visual style of a movie. Their job involves deciding on camera and lighting packages, the type of film stock (if shooting on film), the camera and shot selection, operating cameras and other elements that contribute to the movie's look. Although their decisions hold a lot of weight, the director and producer(s) ultimately have the final say.
The camera operator is responsible for capturing all of the footage for a film, based on what is dictated by the script, director, and cinematographer. They are responsible for shooting the scenes that occur, as written in the script. Sometimes, on a lower-budget production, the cinematographer will also double as the camera operator. This individual is also referred to as the director of photography, as they are also responsible for creating the overall look of the film.
The First Assistant Camera or 1st AC, Focus Puller, or 1st Assistant Camera
The First Assistant Camera is responsible for keeping the desired subject in focus throughout each scene. This is only a small part of the job, however. A First AC must be constantly thinking several steps ahead to ensure that the camera department runs as smoothly as possible while simultaneously keeping the shot in focus.
Second Assistant Camera or a clapper loader
The second assistant camera plays an important role on a film set. Their main responsibilities include loading film magazines (or hard drives/cards if shooting on digital cameras), operating the slate, creating camera reports, and keeping records and paperwork. Without 2nd ACs, it would be difficult to complete any production.
A Steadicam operator is a key member of the film or video production crew. They are responsible for setting up and operating a Steadicam camera system to capture footage during a live-action or animation sequence. This includes assembling the Steadicam rig, testing and calibrating it, and monitoring the cameras during production. The first assistant camera (1st AC) ensures the camera is in working order and helps the director achieve his or her vision. Steadicam operators must possess strong communication skills, multitasking abilities, quick decision-making skills, and the ability to work in a dynamic environment. They are also required to wear comfortable shoes. Steadicam operators report directly to the director of photography.
A Drone Operator is someone who rents or owns a drone. If they also fly the drone they are both a Drone Operator and a Remote Pilot.
Digital Imaging Technician or DIT
A Digital Imaging Technician is responsible for working with the director of photography to make sure that the camera settings and image manipulation are suitable for the film. They usually work with the director to develop Look-Up Tables (LUTs), which provide the colorist with a baseline when they begin color grading the project. Additionally, a DIT serves as a bridge between production and post-production teams, overseeing the flow of data from the set to the editorial suite.
Good audio quality is an essential aspect of video production that is often overlooked. Poor sound can be more detrimental to the success of a video than a blurry or out of focus image because if the sound is not clear, it is hard to get engaged with what is being said. During an interview, 80% of the information is conveyed through the sound, and without this, it may be hard to effectively communicate the message to the audience.
Production Sound Mixer
The role of a Production Sound Mixer is to collaborate with audio engineers and directors to make sure the audio of a film project is synchronized and mixed properly. Depending on the type of movie being created, this may involve working with sound engineers on location, working in the studio to generate sounds for post-production, or a combination of both. Often times, on a low-budget production, the sound mixer is in charge of recording all sound on the set, as well as any real-time mixing that needs to be done in-person. Additionally, they typically manage any wireless personal microphones that are used.
A boom operator is responsible for recording audio such as the actors' voices and other on-set sounds. Depending on the scene, the boom operator might follow the actors with the boom microphone while staying out of frame, or use a boom stand to position the microphone in static filming scenarios. They may also utilize clip mics (or lav mics) and attach them to the actors’ clothing or body. The boom operator typically works under the production sound mixer, and in some cases, the same person may serve as both boom operator and production sound mixer (also known as a sound recordist).
The Sound Utility works to ensure sound quality and prevent any audio-related issues from disrupting production. This role is more common on larger-budget productions, where they provide support to the production sound mixer and boom operators. This involves setting up and maintaining audio hardware, keeping the set quiet for audio capture, and solving any audio-related issues that come up.
The Script Supervisor
The script supervisor is the person responsible for making sure the script dialog and shots are being followed, noting each take and any improvisations by the actors. The supervisor's log is used by the editor to help make the editing process easier. On a lower budget set, the supervisor is also responsible for the continuity of the motion picture, including wardrobe, props, set dressing, hair, makeup, and the actions of the actors during a scene. For medium and larger budget productions, these tasks are usually handled by a separate person.
The Grip Department
The grip department is responsible for all the rigging used for film production. This includes equipment to support and move the camera for different angles and equipment used to create different lighting effects.
The key grip is the person in charge of the grip crew on a film or television production. They oversee a team of men and women who are responsible for placing the production's non-electrical lighting gear.
Best Boy Grip
The Best Boy grip serves as the first assistant to the Grip crew or Lighting department, ensuring the smooth running of operations. As the point of contact for all departments, they handle payroll, timecards and other duties assigned to them by the Gaffer and Director of Photography. The Best Boy is an invaluable asset, making sure everyone is paid what they are due.
The dolly grip is a technician responsible for operating the camera dolly. This individual is responsible for expertly placing, leveling, and moving the dolly track, then for pushing and pulling the dolly while both the camera operator and camera assistant ride on it.
Rigging Grips, also known as Riggers, provide support with setting up, executing production moves, and constructing and taking apart sets, equipment, and scenery.
The Electric Department and Grip Department work together under the Director of Photography to develop and employ a plan for lighting each shot on the production. Collectively, they are known as G&E.
The Electric Department is responsible for supplying power to every item on the set, including but not limited to microwaves, talent trailers, video village, and lighting. As a result, this department forms the foundation of any production. Here is the core team of the Electric Department typically found on a set:
The Gaffer is responsible for managing the crew and taking charge of all the lighting equipment. The Chief Lighting Technician, also known as the Gaffer, works with the cinematographer to deliver the necessary lighting and electricity for the set-up. To put the lighting plan into action, the Gaffer must lead a team of lighting technicians.
Best Boy Electric
The Best Boy Electric is the lead assistant to the gaffer on set, and plays an important role in managing and scheduling the other electricians and lighting technicians. Furthermore, they are responsible for handling payroll and ensuring that everyone is receiving their due compensation. The Best Boy Electric is also the go-to person for other departments on set.
Rigging electricians are responsible for pre-rigging stages and locations with cable and lighting equipment before the shooting crew arrives, as well as wrapping up the locations and stages after the shooting crew is done. They work in advance of and after the shooting crew to ensure that the shooting crew has more time to shoot and less time waiting for lighting.
Electricians will prepare and adjust lighting for each scene of the filming day. They will also supply power to other teams where necessary throughout the day.
Electricians collaborate with the art and set decoration teams, as well as the construction staff, in order to wire up lighting and other equipment which are necessary components of the set. Furthermore, they provide work lights and portable generators for locations that are in the process of being readied.
Basecamp Electricians provide electricity to those that are working off site.
Genny Operators are responsible for loading a generator, taking it to the film shoot location and making sure that it works correctly prior to the start of the production.
The Art Department
The art department within a film production is often one of the most versatile and flexible departments. It consists of specialties ranging from Set Designers to Set Decorators to Assistant Art Directors. But the variety of roles in the art department go much further than that, and the list of positions is virtually limitless. From foremen of construction to concept artists to carpenters, every job that is necessary in the art department could be included as long as the budget and creativity allows.
The Production Designer
The Production Designer is the leader of the art department, responsible for creating and executing the overall look of a film. They collaborate with the director and director of photography to bring the vision to life. To be successful, it is essential for the Production Designer to possess excellent communication and delegation skills.
The Art Director
The Art Director is the production designer's right-hand person, acting as a field commander to organize and manage the art department film crew. Depending on the size of the production, Art Directors may need to take on multiple roles. As such, they must have a diverse range of expertise. The main focus of their job is usually on supervisory duties. For larger productions, Art Directors usually have Assistant Art Directors working under them.
The Set Dresser
The Set Dresser is a specialized role in the film production process responsible for organizing the stage by adding furniture, decorations, and other decorative elements. On major productions, this role works together with the Set Designer and Set Decorator in order to establish an aesthetic. On smaller productions, the duties are often divided among the art department, such as the Production Designer, Art Director, etc.
The Prop Master
The Prop Master is responsible for obtaining and organizing all non-weapon props used for a project. For smaller productions, the Prop Master may be a single person within the art department, with help from other workers as needed. On larger productions, the Prop Master is typically in charge of a Props Department, a subsection of art dedicated to the design, management, and fabrication of props.
The Prop Assistant assists the Assistant Props Master with necessary tasks. They may also hire an outside person to acquire the props, and an inside person to supervise their use and upkeep. All of these individuals report to the Prop Master.
Prop makers use materials such as wood, metal, fabric, foam, and plastic to make props. They use techniques like sculpting, painting, and upholstery to give the props a realistic look. Tools such as saws, screws, hammers, and wrenches are also used to assemble props.
Assistant Property Master
The assistant property masters assist prop masters with any tasks on set. After a scene has finished filming, they make sure that the required props are ready, available for use during filming, and stored properly.
A Leadman is a member of the set decoration department who is responsible for the props and a group of workers known as the Swing Gang. The Swing Gang is responsible for dressing and removing sets.
The Art Production Assistant or Art PA
The Art Production Assistant is an essential part of the art department. They have the unique ability to combine their knowledge and skill sets to provide support to the department. Art PAs are the stepping stone to other higher ranking crew positions within the art department. Working as an Art PA is the ideal way to gain more experience and understanding of the art department and its multiple functions.
The Transport Department can vary in size depending on the size of the production. On larger budget films, the department is run by the Transport Coordinator who is responsible for all of the transportation needs for the film. This includes hiring one or more Transport Managers to manage the support vehicles, as well as the trucks and vans used to move equipment. The Transport Coordinator also appoints Transport Captains to take charge of the travel arrangements for cast and crew. The Transport Captains make sure everyone gets to the right location on time and can arrange for private cars, mini-buses, or coaches to transport them. For smaller budget films, they may only need to hire a single Transport Captain to ensure that everyone arrives on time.
The Transport Captains
The Transport Captains in the film are responsible for ensuring that the cast and crew arrive to their various locations on time. Depending on the budget of the film, there may be only one Transport Captain who drives the crew in private cars, mini-buses, or coaches.
The Production's Transportation Coordinator will be the go-to person for all modes of travel! They'll be responsible for getting equipment and crew to the filming locations, or any other necessary areas related to the shoot. From cars to planes, they'll make sure everyone and everything makes it to the right place at the right time. Smooth sailing guaranteed!
Picture Car Coordinator
The picture car coordinator is an essential part of the filmmaking process for any large-budget film. They are tasked with overseeing vehicle usage, repair, modification, and movement on set. It is their job to ensure that all vehicles are in good condition and ready for filming, as any unforeseen accidents could derail a production’s strict schedule. In some cases, the head of the transportation department, a member of the art department, or a producer may take on the role of the picture car coordinator. No matter who is responsible, it is essential that they are knowledgeable and up-to-date on all aspects of the production’s vehicle needs.
Costume and Wardrobe
Working in the costume wardrobe department in the film industry can be an intense, thrilling experience. From dressing famous stars to finding the ideal jewelry and making haste modifications, the wardrobe supervisor, key costumer, and assistant costume designer all share the common goal of making the actors on-screen look amazing.
As a costume designer, it is your job to design and create the wardrobe that actors wear on screen. This includes components of both style and functionality. You will be responsible for creating the look of a character in any color, of any ethnicity, while being mindful of their particular role and personality. It may be necessary to collaborate with the make-up designer in order to create a seamless design.
Assistant Costume Designer
The assistant costume designers provide assistance to the costume designers in creating looks for actors. Their responsibilities include planning and creating clothes, organizing wardrobe items, and keeping clothing in good condition.
The key costumer is in charge of looking after personnel and activities on set. They must be aware of the requirements of each scene, as well as the changes that take place with the costumes, while ensuring that the costume designer's artistic vision is kept intact.
Costumers keep track of the costumes to ensure they don't get damaged or dirty when unloaded. After each use, they inspect the costumes for dirt, tears, and other issues. They also provide guidelines for actors to check their costumes and where to put them after use.
The wardrobe supervisor oversees the costumes for a production, working with the production manager, costume designer, and director. They help organize and assign dressers to performers.
Seamstresses, tailors, stitchers, and sewers help filmmakers realize their vision by creating outfits that allow actors to move around comfortably. They are also responsible for making necessary alterations to the garments.
Agers and Dyers
The technicians' job is to make newly-made costumes look more "lived in" by distressing and painting them. This can range from subtle changes such as creating chips on a button or adding a little wrinkling, to more extreme transformations, like adding dirt and sweat, tearing, and heavy fraying.
Duties for this position include basic shopping, buying, and returning items, researching, phoning, costume breakdown and aging, laundry, ironing, sewing, and costume maintenance, as well as assisting with fittings and alterations, if needed.
Hair and Makeup
Hair and make-up designers are integral to the creation of characters in film and television. They collaborate with directors to understand the style and look of the project, and create the desired looks for each character. This may involve using wigs, hair, prosthetics and make-up to transform an actor into the character.
Hair Department Head
The Hair Department Head is responsible for designing all hairstyles that appear in the show, both for the lead cast, background actors, stunt performers, and photo doubles. They collaborate with the director to create hairstyles that meet the story and character needs. The Hair Department Head also sources and creates wigs that fit in with the hairstyle vision. It often takes the longest to design a hairstyle because they are so unique and detailed to each character.
Makeup Department Head
The Key Makeup Artist is the second in command in the makeup department. They are in charge of developing the makeup design for the entire production and making sure that the look stays consistent throughout the filming process. Additionally, the Key Makeup Artist may be responsible for applying makeup to the lead and other principal actors for specific or difficult looks.
Special Makeup Effects
Makeup Effects Artists combine basic film makeup with advanced techniques to create special effects, such as wounds, defects, and supernatural features. To achieve this, they work collaboratively with hair stylists, regular makeup artists, special effects coordinators and costume designers. Additionally, they are responsible for taking care of the skin before and after the application and removal of special makeup and prosthetics.
The stunt department is responsible for hiring and training stunt performers and actors in pre-production, leading a team of fight coordinators, stunt doubles, stunt players, and stand-ins. They collaborate with and report to the director, ensuring all stunts are performed safely.
Stunt coordinators are responsible for the safety and well-being of actors while performing stunts. They collaborate closely with the stunt team and the director to make sure the stunts look great on-screen. The more stunts an actor is required to do, the higher the risk of something going wrong. Thus, stunt coordinators must be great communicators, and knowledgeable about how to handle any injuries that may arise.
Stunts can range from simple tasks such as jumping from a moving car, to more complex stunts such as being shot by an arrow or bullet, and each requires careful planning. Stunt coordinators must be aware of their actors' abilities and limitations and have the correct safety protocols in place.
Stunt performers are professionals who carry out dangerous stunts to be used in films or television shows. Examples of stunts include car crashes, falling from a great height, being dragged behind a horse, and explosions. These performers may be referred to as stuntmen, stuntwomen, or simply as stunt performers.
Stunt riggers are responsible for designing and implementing the ropes and pulleys that enable stunt doubles and actors to perform dangerous stunts without actually endangering their lives. This includes setting up hoists, scaffolding, lifts, and booms that are needed for films and television sets.
Visual Effects Supervisor
Visual Effects (VFX) Supervisors are responsible for overseeing all visual effects shots for a film project. They manage the VFX artists and collaborate to decide what is necessary for every shot. To help organize and prepare the shots, previsualization materials are created, which can range from specific VFX shots to digitally rendered creatures or backgrounds. Once these materials are finalized, VFX supervisors present them to the director, producer, and other members of the filmmaking team. Then, they direct the VFX artists on what type of effects to use for each shot.
The role of the VFX Coordinator is to arrange the production of all the visual effects for the show. They must be knowledgeable about the visual effects industry and the post-production process. It is their responsibility to arrange schedules and resources, coordinate shots, and assist with the post-production workflow.
Special Effects Practical
Special Effects Coordinator
The Special Effects Coordinator is responsible for creating realistic explosions, natural disasters, and other forms of destruction on a movie or television show set. This includes coordinating with departments such as makeup, stunts, costume, and art departments to achieve the desired effect. The Coordinator must also ensure that the right people and materials are in place when needed to get the job done.
Special Effects Foreman
The SFX Foreman is the supervisor of the mechanical effects used to create non-digital optical illusions for films. They are responsible for overseeing the creation and execution of these special effects, ensuring they are well executed and delivered on time.
Special Effects Technician
Special effects technicians help the SFX supervisor and foreman create wind, rain, explosions, fire, and other special effects.
The armorer is responsible for the transportation, storage, and safe use of all weapons and firearms on film sets. Unless a licensed armorer is present, it is not allowed to use firearms on set. The weapons master, also known as the armorer, weapons specialist, weapons handler, weapons wrangler, or weapons coordinator, is a member of a film crew who works with the property master, director, actors, stunt coordinators, and script supervisor. If you need a safe and realistic alternative to blank-firing movie guns, we suggest airsoft guns or digital VFX.
A Pyrotechnician is a specialist in the field of special effects who is responsible for the design and orchestration of all the explosions used in movies. Their work is highly precise, requiring skill and extensive practice to craft the explosions seen on the big screen. While there are various methods for creating explosions, there are only a few that can produce the effects seen in films.