Since sets are potentially dangerous environments, with heavy lights, many cords, and other hazardous set elements, every day should kick off with a safety meeting. It’s vital for everyone to be briefed on areas of caution for the day, especially the talent, who aren’t as familiar with the technical aspects of a set. After the safety meeting, it’s action time.
“The process gets repeated for however many shots the director needs. Sometimes it’s a big reset, like a location change. In these cases lighting, costume, lenses, and more all need to be reset while the director consults with the director of photography on how to capture the next scene,” says Hara. After the day wraps, the cast and crew is dismissed to get ready to do it all over again the next day.
On the last day of filming, it’s customary to throw a “wrap party” to celebrate the completion of the production phase.
Who’s who on set?
A smaller project won’t have as many people present as a feature film production, but knowing the roles of each crew member is something every aspiring filmmaker should be aware of. Once you know how it works on a big set you can scale down your crew for smaller projects.
The producer buys the script and secures the funding for the film. You can think of the producer as the director of logistics. The producer is in charge of hiring a production company, who then hires whole crews of people on the production team. This includes a line producer, who hires and sets crew salaries, and a unit production manager, who handles the day-to-day logistics on set.
The director is in charge of all creative aspects of the film and works with the cast and crew to bring the creative vision to life. In smaller productions the director is almost always the producer as well.
First assistant director
Reporting to the director is the first assistant director (AD), who helps the director plan the shooting schedule and shot list. Often this person, or the second AD, is responsible for sending out the call sheet the night before. A call sheet is a master schedule that outlines who needs to be where at what time. It’s common courtesy to send the call sheet out at least 24 hours before call time.
Director of photography
Also called the cinematographer, the director of photography (DP) is in charge of the camera team. In larger productions the DP doesn’t actually operate the camera but acts as a supervisor for the camera crew. The actual operation of the camera is left to the camera operator.
First assistant camera
The first assistant camera (AC) has one main job: pull the focus. This person is in charge of operating the focus ring on the camera to get each shot in focus and keep it in focus for the duration of the take.
Second assistant camera
The second AC operates the clapboard, which marks the start of each take. This person also takes notes during the filming to help the crew keep track of the positioning, gear, and settings used.
As the head of the electrical department, the gaffer is in charge of lighting. They consult with producers and the director to visualize and execute a lighting plan for each scene.
The grip is a technician in charge of setting up and supporting the camera. Working with rigging, light modifiers, and the dolly could all be part of their daily duties.
In charge of recording sound on set, this person oversees all audio on set. They collaborate in tandem with sound designers, Foley artists, and editors to determine how to approach each shot. Underneath the sound mixer is the boom operator, whose main responsibility is operating the overhead mic as the sound mixer monitors the recording.
Production design is determined largely by this head of the art department, from location scouting to determining color palettes and lighting. The set decorator, prop master, makeup artists, costume designers, and production assistants all work alongside the production designer to bring the film’s creative vision to life.