CrewPRODUCERS AND THE PRODUCTION OFFICE
THE DIRECTOR AND TEAM
PRE-PRODUCTION: THE SCRIPT,
CASTING, AND LOCATIONS
CAMERA, LIGHTING, ELECTRICAL, AND PRODUCTION SOUND DEPARTMENTS
OTHER PRODUCTION CREW
EDITING, VISUAL EFFECTS,
ANIMATION, AND TITLING
CREW SIZE AND ONSCREEN CREDITS
The large crews that are associated with modern big budget Hollywood films reflect not only the scale and scope of the production but also a sophisticated division of labor. Early films were smaller and thus far simpler in this regard. It was not uncommon in early films for one individual to act as cameraman and director, performing all the necessary duties: selecting the subject, shooting, developing, printing, editing, and exhibiting the movie. As films became more complex and increasingly relied on staged rather than documentary subjects, a division of labor appeared between camera operator and director. This task specialization, which eventually gave rise to distinct occupational categories, set the stage for further specialization as production companies discovered the economic advantages of simultaneously producing a range of longer films. The key to realizing these advantages was the accumulation and management of personnel and resources on a large scale. However, making efficient use of resources and personnel on this scale depended on achieving labor economies. Influenced by Frederick W. Taylor's concept of "scientific management," producers sought and promoted greater efficiency by increasing task specialization in film production, which by its nature is the most labor intensive, and thus most costly, part of their business.
The rise of the studio system in the United States in the early twentieth century reinforced the link between economies of multipicture production and greater division of labor. The studios were instrumental in creating the system of labor division that has continued to characterize most feature productions. The hallmark of this system is the way that film crews are organized into departments, each of which has distinct responsibilities in the filmmaking process. Each of these departments employs a range of individuals with specialized expertise, who work as a team to create the finished product.
Technical innovations have altered filmmaking practice and led to the creation of new roles while reducing the need for others. For example, the introduction of synchronized sound in the late 1920s required a whole string of crew members to set up and operate recording equipment and to edit the sound during post-production. Conversely, the development of high-quality digital cameras means that a professional looking film can now be made without some of the crew previously required to handle the more wieldy 35mm camera and the substantial lighting it demands. The division of labor and occupational structure of modern film crews are therefore subject to changes in technology, expertise, and professional regulations.
The involvement of some members of the team may be confined to either the beginning or the end of the production process. For example, the involvement of scriptwriters often ends before filming starts, whereas the visual effects team is usually not involved until the shoot is over. In general, however, the stage at which specialists become involved varies from film to film. Title sequence designers, for instance, may work with the director from a very early stage in the production, as they did for Fight Club (1999), or may be brought in during postproduction, when a less ambitious title sequence may be one of the last elements to be added. There are some crew members, most notably the producer and usually the director, who tend to remain with the production throughout the process, largely because they are essential for the cohesion and continuity of the project.
The size and diversity of modern film crews has led to an extraordinary proliferation of job categories. Most of these categories are in any case variations on the basic division of labor that operates in a film crew. This division of labor is well accounted for in the job descriptions of department heads who are employed on most contemporary films, as well as some of the more prominent roles in each department. The following descriptions are arranged in an order roughly chronological to the film production process, beginning with the producers' team, and progressing through preproduction, production, and postproduction.
The producer initiates and supervises all the processes involved in making a film. Core responsibilities include selecting or commissioning the script, securing finance, hiring the director and other departmental heads, monitoring the expenditure and progress of the production to try to ensure that the film is completed on time and within budget, and negotiating the sale of the film to distribution companies. Films often have more than one producer, and the producers are sometimes given specific job titles according to the division of duties between them. An executive producer, in contrast to a producer, does not have a hands-on involvement in the production process. He or she focuses on business rather than creative issues, and often supervises other producers. An associate producer performs tasks delegated by a producer or executive producer. Coproducers work as a team so that between them they are involved in all the different producer functions, including both creative and managerial roles. A line producer is a manager who is intimately involved in the day-to-day production processes.
Various supervisory staff oversee the different stages of filmmaking to ensure that they are completed on time and budget. The production manager works in a similar way to the line producer to ensure the smooth running of the production process, supervising both staff and expenditure. The production accountant handles the finances for the film, dealing with invoices and financial reporting requirements. The postproduction supervisor is responsible for overseeing the tasks that need to be completed after the shoot has ended. A dedicated postproduction accountant may also be employed.
The publicity department is in charge of promoting the film. Although the most intensive marketing activity occurs in the immediate run-up to the film's release, gaining exposure for the film is an ongoing process that begins before production even starts. The publicity director designs and oversees the publicity campaign and is based at the studio or head office. If the production company is also distributing the film, they will take responsibility for commissioning and approving materials such as posters and trailers. The unit publicist is often present on the set and is responsible for arranging media interviews, collecting information for press notes, and selecting photographs to be issued to the press. The stills photographer is present on the set to take publicity pictures and may also take still pictures for use in the film, or photographs that act as records to assist continuity.
The director has the main creative responsibility for the film. He or she is normally involved in the project from an early stage and participates in hiring the heads of departments, the casting process, and working with one or more writers to perfect the script. During filming, directors direct the actors, supervise the activities of the crew, and decide which takes to print. Directors often remain involved after shooting ends, working with the editor and other postproduction personnel to ensure that the film is completed in accordance with their design.
Because the director's scope of responsibility is wide and diverse, he or she normally has several assistants, each with designated roles. During preproduction, the first assistant director breaks the script down into shots and prepares the shooting schedule. During production, he or she conveys the director's instructions to the cast and crew, coordinating their performance in order to keep pace with the schedule. The second assistant director is responsible to the first assistant director. His or her many duties may involve the preparation of call sheets and the distribution of scripts. The second second assistant director, or third assistant director, focuses on such floor duties as managing the movement of extras. This can be an enormous task, as in Gandhi (1982), which used an estimated 300,000 extras.
The script supervisor, or continuity girl, keeps track of the progress of filming and any deviations from the written script. He or she also helps the director remember the details of shots that have already been made, ensuring that details such as hair and makeup remain the same from one shot or scene to the next. In order to do this, a detailed continuity report is maintained.
Specialized crew members may be employed to assist the director in eliciting the desired performances from the actors. They include the choreographer, who designs any dance sequences, the dialogue coach, who trains the actors in the creation of appropriate accents or dialects, an animal trainer, who coaches the animal actors, and a wrangler, who handles babies, animals, or other participants, such as vehicles, that do not respond to verbal instruction. A stunt coordinator is responsible for designing stunt work and ensuring that it is conducted safely. An action vehicles coordinator or fight director may also be employed. A creative consultant or technical adviser may offer specialized advice about a range of topics.
Many films use a second unit, headed by a second unit director. This self-contained subsidiary crew comes complete with all the personnel required for filming. It is normally used for shooting such material as street scenes that do not feature the main actors.
The first draft of a script is produced by a screenwriter, who may create original material or adapt existing material, such as a novel or a play. A script invariably goes through many drafts before its final version, and other writers are often brought in to assist with this process. Additional writers are sometimes known as script editors, or script doctors, and may specialize in polishing a particular element of the script, such as the dialogue. A storyboard artist may work with the director to translate all or part of the script into a series of still pictures to be used as a template for shooting.
The casting director is responsible for auditioning and selecting the actors, as agreed with the director and producer, and for negotiating their contracts. Sometimes one casting director auditions major roles, while one or more local casting directors hire supporting actors for location filming. Extras casting may be performed by yet another person or agency.
If any parts of a film need to be shot outside the studio, sites are selected by a location manager, whose research is often aided by a location scout. The location manager obtains permission to film from authorities or private owners and negotiates any fees that must be paid. Throughout the shoot the location manager is responsible for liaison with area film councils or other relevant authorities.
The production designer deals with one of the most important jobs in a film. He or she is responsible for planning its entire look, from individual sets to overall color schemes. Normally one of the first to be involved in the production, the designer delegates specific tasks to other members of the crew, who are in turn responsible for creating designs on a more detailed level or for supervising or executing the work needed to transform the designs into reality.
Set building is the responsibility of the construction department. Plans are produced by a draftsperson for the guidance of the construction manager. The construction department includes a range of workers, including carpenters, plasterers, painters, sculptors, drapers, and sign writers, who all work with materials purchased by the construction buyer. Standby painters and standby carpenters remain after the set has been built to handle any alterations required during filming.
Once the basic sets are constructed, the art department takes over. Supervisory responsibility is normally assumed by the art director, although sometimes the roles of production designer and art director are combined. A set designer has the duty of planning in detail the sets suggested by the head of the department. A production buyer is responsible for purchasing the required materials.
If large, two-dimensional pictures are used at the rear of the set to create the illusion of a space that does not exist, they are the responsibility of the scenic artist. Sometimes the background paintings are not physically incorporated into the set but are combined through optical effects. These images are created by a matte artist; they were traditionally painted on glass, but techniques are changing with the growing sophistication of digital effects.
The set decorator is responsible for transforming a basic set into the illusion of a complete environment, with all the details needed to make it look convincing. He or she is normally assisted by a lead person, who is in charge of the swing gang, which comprises miscellaneous personnel handling set dressing and props, who ready the set for the next day's filming, often by working overnight. The set dresser physically places the set dressing items, such as chairs and tables. A greensperson places and maintains any necessary foliage. The property master provides mobile objects, such as books or kitchenware, which may be handled by actors. These are maintained by a property assistant. Certain types of props that call for more detailed knowledge may be supplied or supervised by a specialist such as an armorer, who is responsible for weaponry.
The wardrobe department is headed by the costume designer, who works with the director and the production designer to ensure the film has the desired "look." The role of the wardrobe supervisor is to ensure that the outfits specified by the costume designer are created, hired, or purchased within the budget. If costumes must be made, they are created by a seamstress and cutter/fitter. The wardrobe master or mistress and wardrobe assistants maintain the costumes during production, supervising washing and mending as well as ensuring that the costumes are available when and where they are required. A dresser may be employed to help the performers get in and out of their outfits.
The hairstylist is responsible for designing and maintaining hair and wigs. Makeup artists design and create the facial and body makeup effects required for the performers (sometimes animal as well as human). The special makeup effects credit belongs to artists who create major alterations in appearance. These may include the simulation of serious injuries or disfigurements, or the transformation of an actor into a monster. Prosthetic makeup is a specialized task that generates radical transformations by attaching latex or other materials to an actor's skin, using prosthetic appliances created by a foam technician.
The camera crew is headed by the director of photography, who works closely with the director. Together they select the camera(s) and film stock and plan the camera angles and movements. The director of photography also takes responsibility for selecting camera lenses and designing the lighting.
The director of photography may also operate the camera, but normally this task is delegated to a camera operator. For multicamera shooting, several operators are needed, and these may be credited with such titles as "B camera" or "additional camera." The camera operator may be supported by an assistant cameraman, who is responsible for the care of the equipment, as well as preparing the camera report, or dope sheet. The clapper loader has various duties, including loading the camera with film and operating the clapperboard at the start of each take. This board displays the film title, scene number, and take number. The clapper loader stands before the camera and reads these details out loud before closing the hinged clapsticks. This device allows the sound and image tracks to be accurately synchronized during postproduction while identifying the contents of a filmstrip or sound recording. Although the traditional board is still in use, more sophisticated electronic versions are now available. The focus puller ensures that the image remains in focus, making adjustments when either the camera or the actors move. To allow instant evaluation of takes, video footage may be recorded and played back by the video assist operator.
If a camera is required to move during the take, additional crew members are needed. The dolly grip takes responsibility for the camera dolly, a wheeled support that allows the camera to be moved along tracks. A 1973 invention now allows a Steadicam operator to move the camera in a special device attached to his or her body, which minimizes the shakiness of the operator's movements. A crane operator may be employed when a camera (and sometimes its operator) needs to be elevated for very high angled shots.
The electrical department is headed by the gaffer, who is responsible for delivering the lighting effects required by the director of photography. The gaffer's first assistant is the best boy electric (a title used irrespective of actual gender), and the department also employs electricians, or "sparks." A generator operator may be needed when extra power is required, especially common when shooting on location.
Since the demands of lighting placement are often complex, the gaffer relies heavily on the grips, physical laborers who handle and maintain a range of equipment used on the set, and who are particularly associated with the lighting and camera departments. The key grip works closely with the director of photography, the camera operator, and the gaffer in order to plan ways to meet the physical requirements of lighting and camera movement. The key grip's first assistant is known as the best boy grip. Construction grips, or riggers, erect any scaffolding required for the camera or lighting and help to disassemble and reassemble sets.
Some sound is normally recorded during filming, although much of the soundtrack is created during postproduction. On set, the production sound mixer is responsible for selecting microphones and supervising their placement. Several different types may be used. These include microphones concealed around the set—behind furniture, for instance—and radio microphones worn under the performers' clothing. A boom, or long rod, is often used to suspend a microphone above the action and out of the camera's range. This is handled by the boom operator. The cable puller handles the masses of wiring that the microphones require. The sound recordist operates the tape recording equipment on the set.
The stars and supporting actors are rarely the only performers in a film. Most films also use extras, who perform small non-speaking roles, often as part of a crowd. Many films also require stunt performers to execute potentially dangerous physical actions, such as catching fire. Some performers work as doubles, imitating an actor who is unavailable, and are often filmed in long shot or from a rear view. Stunt doubles can be used to create the illusion that an actor is performing his or her own stunts. Body doubles are used when an actor does not possess the required physical attributes or when a star refuses to appear naked. Other performers are not seen physically but are featured on the soundtrack. They include voice-over artists, who are used for spoken narration, and voice actors, who create the character voices in cartoons. Sometimes the voice of a live actor is replaced, a practice especially common when singing is required. The Hollywood star Rita Hayworth (1918–1987) had her "singing voice" recorded by other artists, including Nan Wynn (1915–1971), Martha Mears (1908–1986), Anita Ellis (b. 1920), and Jo Ann Greer (d. 2001).
Stand-ins do not appear in the final film, but have a very important function. During the preparation of a shot, when lighting is set up and camera movements are rehearsed, they replace the actors in order to allow the actors time for other preparations, such as makeup.
Most films require some special effects. This term normally refers to illusions created on the film set, rather than in postproduction. (Digital effects and other effects created off-set are discussed in depth below.) The department is headed by the special effects supervisor, and its members may include such crew as a pyrotechnician, who is an expert in creating fires and explosions, a model maker, a puppeteer, and a projectionist, who operates the equipment needed for back projection. The special effects crew normally works closely with other departments, such as makeup or stunts, so there may be no clear division between them.
Some other crew members commonly employed include runners or production assistants, security guards, a maintenance engineer, a health and safety adviser, and a unit nurse. Additional services are required for location work. The transportation captain organizes the movement of actors, crew members, and equipment between sets and locations. A transport coordinator may also be employed to supervise the availability of drivers and vehicles. Catering, a crucial service during a shoot is provided by a company or group of individuals who supply the main meals to cast and crew. The craft service maintains the availability of drinks and snacks throughout the day.
Music, sound effects, and even some of the dialogue are recorded as well as edited during postproduction. The musical score is designed by a composer, who writes the main themes but may not provide detailed designs for each moment of the film. A music arranger or orchestrator may also be employed to adapt the composition for each part of the film for which music needs to be recorded. If the score includes songs, then a lyricist and one or more singers may be required. A conductor may be employed during the process of recording the musicians. If the soundtrack uses nonoriginal music, then the duty of obtaining rights clearance falls to the music supervisor.
Sound effects are created by a Foley artist, who recreates noises such as slamming doors and jangling keys, using a variety of everyday items that are often quite different from the objects they mimic. Dialogue re-recording is known as ADR, or automatic dialogue replacement. An ADR editor is responsible for recording the dialogue and matching it to the filmed lip movements.
Synthesizing these different tracks normally involves an array of specialized editors. These may include a dialogue editor, a sound effects editor, and a music editor, who are all responsible to the supervising sound editor. The sound re-recording mixer combines the dialogue, sound effects, and music to create the final soundtrack.
Processing and printing of the film is performed by laboratories, rather than members of the film crew. The editor is responsible for selecting shots from the raw footage and arranging them into the order specified in the shooting script. Further reworking is often supervised by the director. The editing process may be done by physically cutting sections of the printed filmstrip, or may now be done on a computer, using systems such as Final Cut Pro or Avid (a high proportion of editing work is now done digitally). Much of the technical and administrative work is performed by an assistant film editor.
The photographed images may still require additions or modifications. Whereas special effects are created in front of the camera, visual effects are added in postproduction under the direction of the visual effects supervisor. Alterations to the image may include erasing a boom or a light that has accidentally got into the frame, integrating digitally created characters with live action, or changing the color of the sky so that shots filmed at different times match up when edited together. Most visual effects work is now done using computer technology. Some common crew members include modelers and animators, who create the components that need to be integrated with live footage, and digital compositors, who combine various visual elements.
An animator creates a series of individual frames that produce the illusion of movement when filmed sequentially. Animation may sometimes be incorporated into live action films, but is often designed not to be noticed as such. This kind of work normally falls to the visual effects department. Some of the main roles include the key animator, who creates strategic frames, such as the poses a character takes at the start and end of a movement, and "in-betweeners," who create the intermediate frames, guided by the "dope sheet" on which the appointed timings are detailed. In cel animation, an opaquer colors in the outlines drawn onto each frame. Now that much animation is done digitally, new roles have emerged, such as rendering, which involves applying texture, color, and detail to the three-dimensional "wire-frame" contour of a character or object, and that of software engineer, who designs and programs the computer systems.
The title designer is responsible for the placement of cast and crew credits and may also design the title sequence in its entirety. Much of the work is now done digitally, as motion graphics have eroded the separation between pictures and text. Sometimes an entire department is needed to create the title sequence, if live action footage needs to be shot, animation must be created, or complex visual effects are required. For this reason, the work is often outsourced to dedicated title houses.
Most films require a wide range of expertise and thus call for fairly extensive crews. The size of a film crew varies according to the budget, just as its composition depends on the requirements of the specific film. For example, an action thriller may require a large number of stuntmen, whereas an intimate drama would need few if any. Historical blockbusters depend on sizable camera crews and extensive wardrobe departments. For instance, the historical saga Ben-Hur (1925) called for forty-eight cameras to shoot its sea battle scene, and the wardrobe department of Quo Vadis? (1951) had to prepare and manage 32,000 costumes.
The crews of low budget and short films are likely to be far smaller than those of major Hollywood productions, with people often doubling up to perform more than one task. Such labor-saving practices are usually not possible on big-budget productions, which tend to employ unionized film crews. To protect the interests of their members, unions insist that the crew members work within the strict limits of their job descriptions and that an appropriately qualified union member is hired to perform each duty. This restriction may extend all the way to the director. For instance, when the British director Ridley Scott (b. 1937) went to Hollywood to make Blade Runner (1982), he was not allowed to act as his own camera operator and had to work through the director of photography Jordan Cronenweth (1935–1996) and his unionized team instead.
Some short films and experimental films, as well as certain types of documentary such as direct cinema, are made with incredibly tiny crews. There are even films that have been made entirely by one person, which has normally happened when the film is composed of animation or found footage. One of the most impressive single-handed achievements is surely José Antonio Sistiaga's feature length abstract animation, Ere erera baleibu icik subua aruaren (1970), for which he painted each frame directly onto the film stock. Because he did not use a camera, he did not need a cameraman, lighting crew, actors, or anyone else to create this film. Similarly, Bruce Conner's (b. 1933) compilation films, such as A Movie (1957), relied on the re-editing of "found footage," thereby eliminating the need for a conventional filmmaking crew. Even films entailing purpose-shot cinematography have sometimes been made single-handedly. For Notebook (1963), Marie Menken (1909–1970) took her camera out into the street to film interesting images, such as reflections in a puddle, and cut them together to create a short non-narrative film.
Although the occupational categories described above have remained relatively stable since the advent of synchronized sound in the late 1920s, a cursory comparison of twenty-first century films, based on onscreen credits, compared to those of the late 1920s or even the early 1970s would suggest that crews are not only becoming larger but also more diversified. One recent example will suffice to illustrate this trend: The Matrix Revolutions (2003) credits over 700 participants. This observation, however, may not accurately reflect reality. Screen credits may provide a guide to the main participants in creating a film, but they are not necessarily a reliable guide to the exact makeup of film crews. In particular, they are a poor index of the way in which crews have changed over time. A lengthening credit list does not necessarily mean that films now employ larger crews than before, but rather that a higher proportion of workers are named, whereas in earlier years many remained anonymous. Unions have been a powerful force in this regard, working hard to ensure that their members receive onscreen credit. In an era in which most film workers freelance, rather than work under studio contract, it is especially important for their career that they receive credit, since this may affect their remuneration as well as their future employment prospects.
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crew1 / kroō/ • n. [treated as sing. or pl.] a group of people who work on and operate a ship, boat, aircraft, spacecraft, or train. ∎ such a group other than the officers. ∎ the group that rows a racing shell. ∎ the sport of rowing a racing shell. ∎ a group of people who work closely together, in a job that is technically difficult or dangerous: an ambulance crew. ∎ inf., often derog. a group of people associated in some way: a crew of computer geeks. ∎ inf. a group of rappers, breakdancers, or graffiti artists performing or operating together. ∎ inf. a criminal gang. • v. [tr.] (often be crewed) provide (a craft or vehicle) with a group of people to operate it. ∎ [intr.] act as a member of a crew, subordinate to a captain: I've never crewed for a world-famous yachtsman before. DERIVATIVES: crew·man / ˈkroōmən/ n. (pl. -men) . crew2 • chiefly Brit. past of crow2 .
a company, squad, gang, or complement, 1694; a body of soldiers, 1455.
Examples: crew of airmen; atoms, 1674; of banditti, 1768; of critics; of foxes, 1607; of gipsies, 1832; courtly crew of gentle-women, 1579; crew of jobbers and promoters, 1884; of painters, 1581; of pirates, 1608; of sailors, 1694; of soldiers, 1455.