The Filmmaker’s Army: Crash Course Film Production #3

The Filmmaker’s Army: Crash Course Film Production #3


Making a film can seem… daunting. After you have a screenplay and have done
your pre-production, you still have to film the thing. And you’re gonna need help. Orson Welles once said, “A writer needs
a pen, an artist needs a brush, but a filmmaker needs an army.” But he also co-wrote, produced, directed,
and starred in Citizen Kane. So which is it? Do you need hundreds of people, or a couple
of disciplined artists doing everything? Well, It depends on your movie. Every successful film production has the same
kinds of jobs, but the scale can vary a lot. Every story has different needs. And maybe the best place to start sizing up
the needs of your project is in the inner workings of a film set, where the actual filming
takes place. And then of course there are the people – the
crew that work on and off set during principal photography, when most of the movie is being
filmed. I’m Lily Gladstone, and this is Crash Course Film Production. [Intro Music Plays] Some people refer to different positions in
a film crew as “above the line” or “below the line.” This idea is a holdover from the studio days,
when budgets on paper had a literal line between different jobs. The people “above the line,” like writers,
directors, producers, and certain actors, negotiated payment before shooting began. And those “below the line” were paid a
rate for every day they worked. If we’re sticking with Orson Welles’ analogy,
everyone “below the line” is a filmmaker’s army. The General of that army is the Unit Production
Manager, or UPM. Usually, the director picks key creative roles
to support the vision of the film, like the production designer and cinematographer But the UPM is responsible for hiring everyone
else and managing all the moving parts of a production. They oversee pre-production, from picking
locations to planning out the shooting schedule. And sometimes they’re on set when a scene
is being filmed. But not always. They might be checking in with the Art Department
to make sure sets are ready for the next day’s shoot, or visiting the Production Office to
work with someone like the production accountant, who makes sure everyone gets paid. The UPM is also the point of contact for any
local authorities and companies the production is working with. Now, the person running a film set is the
head of the Production Department: the 1st Assistant Director, or 1st AD. They work with the director to schedule the
details of each day’s shoot and communicate what every department needs to do. Plus, they’re responsible for keeping everyone
safe. If you’ve ever visited a film set and saw
someone you thought was the director, it was probably the 1st AD. They’re the ones “calling the roll”
to tell people to do specific things at specific moments – shouting things like “roll sound,”
“roll camera,” and sometimes even “Action!” While the 1st AD is always on set, the 2nd
Assistant Director, or 2nd AD, is usually at base camp, which is just off set. Base camp is the behind-the-scenes of the
behind-the-scenes. It’s usually where the crew eats lunch,
where the bathrooms are, and where the department and actor trailers are. The 2nd AD is the main point of contact between
the set and the actors when they’re not acting. They make the daily call sheet, which is the
document that tells everyone in the cast and crew where they need to be, when, and who
they report to the next day. When a scene has extras, or background talent,
the 2nd AD may go on set to work with these actors. They also oversee the rest of the production
hierarchy – any other ADs, and Production Assistants. We call them P.A.s. PAs are the lowest rung on this ladder, but
they’re still super important. There’s a pretty good chance that everyone
on a set has been a PA at some point. Their main job is anticipating needs and communicating
between departments, like by making sure everyone hears all the 1st AD’s calls. So, the production team is the glue that holds
the film set and all the crew together. And there are a bunch of departments. Let’s start with the Camera Department. The person responsible for the look of the
film is the Director of Photography, or DP, also called the cinematographer. They work with the director to translate the
script into a shot list, which is a plan for how to visually convey every single scene. The 1st AD uses the shot list to plan the
daily schedule. On an independent film, the cinematographer
might also be the camera operator. But, usually, the cinematographer directs
the camera crew, which includes operators and camera assistants, or ACs. While ACs aren’t actually framing shots
and operating the camera, the First AC helps focus the camera, so they’re sometimes
known as the Focus Puller. ACs also maintain equipment and keep camera
notes for continuity. Cinematographers need to understand story,
cameras, and lighting to pack a visual punch. So they work with the Gaffer, also known as
the Chief Lighting Technician. They’re the head of the Electric Department,
and design and implement the lighting of each scene. The Gaffer’s second-in-command is called
the Best Boy or Best Boy Electric – no matter their gender. Both the titles “Gaffer” and “Best Boy”
have been around since at least the 1930s, but it’s unclear how the names came to mean
“head electricians.” On smaller crews, the Electric Department
might be just a Gaffer and a Best Boy. But on larger crews, these two might organize
dozens of electricians and lots of equipment. And you can’t talk about Electric without
talking about the Grip Department. These departments are close buddies, and are
sometimes called G&E. While Electric oversees lighting and getting
power to the set, Grip oversees all the rigging for lights. That includes all stands for lights as well
as flags, silks, and nets, which are fabric used to control or block light. Grip also handles specialized rigging for
other departments too, like cranes, dollies, and dolly track, which help with specific
camera movements.The Key Grip leads the team, and their number two is the Best Boy Grip,
who carries out the Key Grip’s plans for rigging. G&E is often the largest department on set
during filming. But the smallest department is only one person:
the Script Supervisor, or “scripty,” who’s in charge of – you guessed it – the script. Here at Crash Course, we call them “Supes.” They make sure the actors stay true to the
writer’s dialogue. So if you ever hear an actor call “line,”
they probably forgot what to say and are asking the Script Supervisor for help. This department is also called Continuity
because the “scripty” is responsible for thinking ahead to how the editor will cut
everything together. To hear all the words being said, the script
supervisor needs to work with the Sound Department. The head is the Sound Recordist, or Sound
Mixer, whose job is to hear everything. They’re usually just off-set, monitoring
sound in a slightly quieter place. They manage the boom operator, who’s on
set and trying to get the microphone as close as possible to the actors’ mouths without
being in the shot. Now, all the departments we’ve talked about
so far are involved in capturing the film. But there are a bunch that work both on and
off set to create the world that’s being captured. The Art Department, for instance, designs,
builds, or transforms sets, finds and creates props, and dresses each location to match
the director’s vision for each scene. Their fearless leader is the Production Designer,
who works with the director in pre-production to create the look of the world. Then, the Art Director organizes everyone
else and makes the Production Designer’s plans real. Everything in the mise-en-scène is found
or made by the Art Department. So the more complex a film is, the larger
the team tends to be. Similarly, the Wardrobe Department is responsible
for channeling the themes of the film, time period, setting, and character traits into
the clothing of each character in each scene. Even if it looks like someone doesn’t have
any costume changes, they probably have different versions of the same outfit – like a bloody
shirt, or ripped pants – depending on what happens in the film. The Costume Designer is responsible for pre-production
planning. While everything on set and in the wardrobe
trailer is overseen by the Costume Supervisor. Set costumers dress and undress actors before
and after shooting, paying close attention to continuity between scenes. And to complement Wardrobe, there’s Hair
and MakeUp, or HMU, which tend to get lumped together as one department. Of all the crew, Wardrobe and HMU spend the
most one-on-one time with actors, and play an important role in making them feel safe
and confident while doing their work. A film with a very small cast might have one
person who does all the makeup and hair styling, while larger casts might have an HMU artist
for each lead actor. Most makeup artists can make people look really
good or bad or rough, depending on what a scene calls for. And if a film needs a lot of specialized makeup,
like scars for a war or full-on monster faces, then you call a Special Effects MakeUp Artist. They’re the bridge between HMU and the Special
Effects Department, which is led by the Special Effects Supervisor. Special Effects is in charge of every on-set
effect, from creating artificial snow or rain, to orchestrating a car crash or an epic explosion. I’ve mentioned safety before, but it’s
worth repeating over and over again. Especially when we’re talking about special
effects or stunts, which are cast and choreographed by the Stunt Coordinator. Before potentially-dangerous scenes, the 1st AD will repeat all the general safety instructions on set. Then, either the Special Effects Supervisor
or Stunt Coordinator will talk through what should happen, and what everyone should
do if something goes wrong. Most crews will have at least one trained
Set Medic, like an EMT. Or a special team might be brought in, if
a potentially dangerous scene is being filmed. Now, we’ve talked about almost everyone
you might find on a set. But where the set is changes throughout
a film – thanks to the Locations Department. In pre-production, the scout will search for
places to film, based on the script and practicality. Once the director and producers approve of
the locations, the department keys will go on a “tech scout” to make sure they can
do their work, too. What we see on-screen is actually just one
small part of the location! The location manager and location assistants
plan where everything will go, from the set that will appear on camera to all the trailers
in base camp. They’re first to arrive and last to leave. The second people to arrive are usually drivers
in the Transportation Department, which is overseen by the Transportation Manager. They get all the large equipment and trailers
to the set, and shuttle cast and crew back and forth. Obviously, the more people you have, the bigger
the team you’ll need. And, speaking of big teams, the one job that
should never be forgotten, is actually two jobs. And it’s feeding all these people!
Catering companies are contracted by the UPM to cook 1 to 3 meals per day. And the Craft Service person is the crew member
that manages a station of snacks and drinks on set. Both the person and station can be affectionately
called “Crafty.” During a difficult day of shooting, “Crafty”
might be the only thing keeping you going. The power of a granola bar and a friendly
face should never be underestimated! Like, ever. Seriously, feed your cast and crew. And make sure you’re paying attention to allergy and dietary restrictions. No one is doing that to be high maintenance. Crewing a film set is demanding work, but
it’s work that attracts people who really love it. We could easily make a 90-minute video about
all these talented people… but, y’know, scale! Today we discussed scalability and how the
needs of a film dictate the size of a film crew. We learned about the different departments
and jobs on a set and how they interact. And next time, we’ll start diving into these
roles in more detail, starting with that piece of equipment at the center of every set: the
camera. Crash Course Film Production is produced in
association with PBS Digital Studios. You can head over to their channel to check
out a playlist of their latest shows, like PBS Infinite Series, Deep Look, and Brain
Craft. This episode of Crash Course was filmed in
the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio with the help of these nice people and our
amazing graphics team is Thought Cafe.

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