Whether you operate as a one-person production house or rely on a team of collaborators, it’s essential to know what people actually do on a film crew. Aside from your film’s budget and timeline, the type of project you’re working on will dictate the size of the crew you need. For an intimate documentary, for instance, you’d want the production team to be smaller than for a big commercial shoot.
We’ve assembled a glossary that identifies the essential crew members in any video shoot. Keep in mind that the smaller your crew, the more hats each person will wear.
Get to know them below.
Executive Producers are the money people. They’ve lined up the cash to finance the project. Usually, the number of executives involved is directly related to how much money is backing the film. The more money, the more executives. Lower budget, you might only need one. Sometimes brands or clients will provide the funding on projects as well and act in lieu of an Executive Producer.
The Director is in charge of, well, everything. From overseeing all creative elements of the film to coaching the actors to selecting the score, the Director is the point-person and visionary that is bringing this project to life.
Producers are the key coordinator for any level of film production, and for that reason, there countless types of producers. There are financial producers, marketing producers, creating producers, and on and on and on. Decide the most essential execution points of your project and begin filling the roles. On a small set, one or two Producers can get the job done.
Production Assistant (PA)
The Production Assistant is perhaps the most important role on the crew since they can help out in a myriad of ways — from sharing the call sheet to loading in props to making the ever-important coffee run.
The Line Producer manages the film’s budget and day-to-day needs on set. They keep the ship running and funded, and are one of the most important people to have on your team.
Production Manager (PM)
The Production Manager oversees daily production decisions, like budget, scheduling, and staffing. The PM generally reports to the Line Producer and supervises the production coordinator.
The Production Coordinator is in charge of the cast and crew logistics. One of their major functions is ensuring well as the timely delivery and set-up of equipment and gear.
1st Assistant Director (AD)
The 1st AD is just what it sounds like: an assistant to the Director. This person prepares the shooting schedule, organizes the crew, and ensures that the film comes together on-schedule.
The 2nd AD helps the 1st AD supervise the set. They manage and distribute important documents like updated scripts and call sheets. On a large-scale production, a 3rd AD is sometimes necessary.
The Script Supervisor keeps track of what has been shot and what changes have been made to the script. In addition to making notes of every scene and camera angle, they keep track of props, lighting, blocking, and even costumes to ensure the script’s integrity (as well as continuity in the film).
Director of Photography (DP)
The DP works closely with the Director to determine the look of the film. On a smaller production, the DP can serve as the Camera Operator. It’s the DP who, with the Director’s guidance, makes executive calls on lighting and framing.
Your Location Manager has the job of securing locations for the production, as well as the appropriate permits. On set, they will also be the representative for the crew if local officials inquire about your film’s permitting.
A Camera Operator shoots under the guidance of the DP or director.
1st Assistant Camera
Your 1st Assistant Camera is often the focus puller, ensuring every shot is clear and in perfect focus. On smaller productions, the DP or Camera Operator can handle this job.
2nd Assistant Camera
The 2nd Assistant Camera is the film’s more logistical side of shooting. They write all of the shot information on the slate and holds it in front of the camera before each shot. You know: Aaand Action!
Production Sound Mixer
The Production Sound Mixer makes sure the sound is properly recorded and mixed on set. The production sound mixer also selects mics, operates sound recording devices, and sometimes mixes audio signals.
Your Boom Operator holds the boom mic and is responsible for mic placement and movement during filming. They’re the ones who make sure the mic doesn’t show up in the shot. On smaller sets, the Production Sound Mixer might do this job.
Key Grip handles all things gear. They work closely with the DP and supervise camera cranes, dollies, lights, platforms, and all on-set equipment. In case you’re wondering what a ‘Best Boy’ is, they are the chief assistant to the key grip or the gaffer.
Gaffer or Chief Lighting Technician
Your Gaffer designs and executes the lighting plan on set. Like the Key Grip, they too work closely with the DP.
Special Effects Supervisor
The Special Effects Supervisor is concerned with executing all visual effects for your project. On set they’ll run point any creative and technical issues related to your film’s effects.
The Music Supervisor works in tandem with the Director to select what music will accompany the project. They are in charge of sourcing composers, appropriate tracks for various scenes, and they will handle any music licensing.
Art Directors are a common term in any creative industry, but on film they fill a specific oversight role throughout the entirety of the project. The Art Director is there to help determine the overall look of the production design as well as and the film’s overall aesthetic.
A Production Designer works closely with the DP and Director to help create the visual appearance of the film, including all sets, props, costumes, makeup, etc.
Props Master and Stylist
Your Props Master is in charge of sourcing, delivering, and keeping track of all the props that appear on screen. They will often work alongside Props Stylist to make sure that everything looks amazing on camera. On a smaller crew, the stylist and master role can be filled by one person.
The Make-up Artist has a range of responsibilities depending on the type of video. For a straightforward commercial or realistic film, they apply appropriate makeup so that the actors look right for their roles. If you’re shooting a film involving werewolves or woodland fairies: you might need a few different make-up artists on set.
The on-set Hairdresser styles all the actors’ hair in a time-appropriate way, and make sure it’s in line with the film’s location and setting. Throughout the production, they will touch up the talent, making sure everyone’s hair stays looking sharp and fresh, even after a long day of shooting.
The Costume Designer creates wondrous costumes in keeping with the characters and setting. Depending on their complexity, you may also want a Seamstress to execute some of these designs.
Image sourced from Staff Pick Premiere, Lunch Time.