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Meet Your Crew

Previous chapters have introduced you to many of the technicians in the departments of Electrical Operations, Camera Operations, and Sound Operations. On a full-scale film-style production, there are lots more skilled people on a set. Here are some of their job descriptions and reporting relationships:

  • First assistant director (AD) is the director's primary assistant, responsible for supervising operations on the set. She has control over the shooting schedule and is responsible for keeping to it. At any point, if the crew isn't shooting, the AD's job is to know exactly what it's waiting for and how long it will take.

  • Second AD assists the First AD. He is usually responsible for some kinds of record keeping and for getting cast members to and from the set.

  • Production manager reports to a line producer and oversees the budget, hires crew, and approves payments. Although production manager responsibilities are often assumed by producers, this job is considered a below-the-line function. (See “Above the Line, Below the Line” later in this chapter.)

  • Location manager is responsible for securing locations as well as supervising the set construction. Location manager is usually a studio job, and even then a producer often does it. Or she may report to the producer or line producer. Although location manager responsibilities are often assumed by producers, this job is considered a below-the-line function.

  • Set construction crew reports to the line producer or production manager. Specific job categories may include supervisor, builder, and painter. The team that actually assembles a set is called the swing gang, not because of the timing of their shift but presumably because they flail away with hammers.

    SWING GANG: Team within a set construction crew that assembles a set.


  • Production designer works with the DP and designers in other creative departments. He's primarily responsible for the look of the movie. Sometimes known as art director.

  • Set decorator/designer and dressers are responsible for the interior decorating that makes a set look real. Their department reports to the production designer.

  • Costume designer/dressers belong to another creative department that reports to the production designer.

  • Makeup and hair is a creative department that reports to the production designer.

  • Special effects crew reports to the director or to the DP and devises and rigs all kinds of cinematic tricks done on the set, such as knife-throwing scenes and exploding squibs of red dye to simulate bullet wounds.

  • Production assistant (PA) is an all-around assistant (or go-fer) to various production crew members. Often an intern or apprentice.

  • Prop master is responsible for all props or objects used in on-screen actions. She reports to the production designer.

  • Prop technicians bring props to and from the set, rig them, and instruct actors in their use. They report to the prop master.

  • Transportation crew must be members of the Teamsters union, at least on a union set. These drivers handle anything with an engine and wheels: cars, vans, and limos for actors and crew; trucks for equipment; actors' trailers (mobile dressing rooms); portable restroom vehicles (called honey wagons), crane trucks, and trailers that carry electrical generators.


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