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So you wanna make a film?
Every industry has its own jargon, and the film industry is no different. And it's been around for a long time (a little over 100 years, but that's more than twice as long as the first (though now antiquated) personal computer.
In addition to sharing a list of the terms used by filmmakers I aim to collate the best links to the most informative and resourceful sites as well as a range of books which can help you in your quest to becoming a filmmaker.
The book Made To Stick (Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die) has little to do with filmmaking, but nonetheless a great read. I'll share an excerpt because it's a good lesson/illustration...
A good analogy can wield a lot of power. In fact, in Hollywood $100 million movies can be green-lights based largely on the strength of a one-sentence analogy.
The average Hollywood studio considers hundreds of pitches or screenplays for every movie it makes. It may be hard to muster sympathy for the life of studio execs, but let's try for a moment. Imagine the terrifying decisions they must make. When they invest in a movie, they are essentially betting millions of dollars - and their own reputation - on an intangible idea.
Contrast a movie pitch with the blueprint for a home. If an architect creates a nifty blueprint for a home, and someone puts up the money for construction, you can feel pretty confident that, nine months later, you'll have a home that realizes the architect's original vision.
A movie pitch, on the other hand, is destined to change. When a screenwriter is hired, the story will change. When a director is hired, the artistic feel of the movie will change. When stars are hired to play the parts, their personalities will change how we perceive the characters in the story. When producers are hired to play the parts, their personalities will change how we perceive the characters in the story. When producers are hired, the storytelling will become subject to financial and logistical constraints. And when the movie is completed, months or years later, the marketing team will need to find a way to explain the plot to the public in about thirty seconds - without giving away to much.
Imagine investing millions in an idea that will change as it is filtered through the consciousness of a succession of individuals with giant egos: directors, stars, producers, marketers. That idea had better be good.
Excerpt taken from...
Who's Who On The Set
- Art Director In charge of the art department with makes the production sets
- Assisting Director Handles filming schedule and miscellaneous tasks
- Best Boy Assistant to the gaffer
- Boom Operator Positions and operates the microphone
- Casting Director Auditions actors and chooses them according to the script
- Chief/key/head grip Moves the camera
- Choreographer Coordinates dance and movement
- Composer Creates music exclusively for the film
- Continuity Person (Script Supervisor) Ensures make-up, costumes etc don't change between scenes
- Director In charge of the actors and theme of the film
- Director of Audiography (DOA) Creates audio of the film
- Director of Photography (DOP) (cinematographer/first cameraman/lighting cameraman) Responsible for lighting, composition, choice of camera, lens and film - in fact, the 'look' of the film
- Fight Choreographer Coordinates fights and action
- First assistant cameraman (focus puller) Maintains camera, changes lenses and magazine, operates focus control
- Gaffer Chief electrician
- Grip Moves equipment on set
- Location manager Finds suitable locations and clears their use with owner
- Mixer (sound recordist) Person on set in overall charge of sound recording
- Production Designer Manages Visual Theme with costume and hair designers
- Production Manager (line producer) Person who controls day-to-day budget, schedules, talks to financiers of the film
- Property Master In charge of buying or making any props need for production
- Second assistant cameraman (clapper loader) Loads magazines, operates clapperboard, and performs other camera tasks
- Set decorator Finds props and decorates the set
- Set designer Designs the set using sketches and models
- Sound Designer Creates new sounds for the film
- Stills Photographer Takes still photographs of the production. For documentary, promotional or continuity purposes.
- Storyboard Artist Makes images for production designer to show to director
- Wardrobe Responsible for care and repair of costumes throughout the production
The Clapper Board
The clapper board, clapboard or slate is used in films to co-ordinate sounds with images. Sound and visuals are recorded separately and must be put together in editing.
The clapper gives the sound editors a reference point for synchronizing the sound and pictures. As the hinged arm is closed to make a clap sound it is also filmed.
By matching up both sound and image they can bring them together.
On the board are written or digitally displayed the number of the scene, the take, the name of the production and other useful information. Films now also use electronic synchronization.
What's What On Set
I'll be adding to this as I find appropriate and interesting descriptions.
Find your job on set
- Blocking Rehearsals. Blocking rehearsals are pretty straightforward. The actors figuratively walk through the dialogue and literally walk through the scene, figuring out where they're going to stand and when they're going to move so tha tthe director and DP (Director of Photography AKA Cinematographer) can plot where their cameras will go and how best they can capture the action. Source
Learn from the Pro's - These books will encourage, inspire and challenge. They are a worthwhile investment.
Films are often shot in sound stages, specially built studios insulated to reduce outside noise and changes in temperature. But they can also be shot "on location" meaning outside in a specific setting either in public places or on outdoor studio backlots where a set has been built. Often scenes are shot out of sequence to the way they will appear on the screen so that all of the scenes on one set or in one location can be done at the same time to minimize the need to move equipment around. Motion picture cameras do not record sound so the sound is recorded separately and added to the film along with sound effects and music in post production. Sometimes special effects are part of the same production schedule but often a separate film unit will create the special effects during or after the shooting of the rest of the film. At the end of each day's filming the director will look at raw versions of the footage called "rushes" to see if anything needs to be re-shot.
Informative Links For Aspiring Filmmakers
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