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Watch This Nifty Animation to Learn the Major Film Crew Positions & Their On-Set Duties

08.12.13 @ 11:05AM Tags : , , , ,

Who is Who Movie Crew - Vimeo Video SchoolIf you’re just getting into filmmaking, the major positions are usually pretty obvious — like the Director, Writer, and Cinematographer. But you’ve probably seen a credit list once or twice and wondered just who all of those people are — and more importantly — do you need them on your small indie set? Thanks to Vimeo Video School, you can get a rundown of most of the major film crew positions and their duties in just a few minutes. Check out the video below:

With most sets now being tapeless, and more and more people shooting RAW video, the DIT and Data Wrangler (sometimes the same position) are incredibly important crew members. These are the people who handle the footage, create dailies, and make sure everything is working and backed up on set before the cards are erased. They also should be checking to make sure if there are any errors in the transfer, which can happen from time to time. Evan Luzi from The Black and Blue had a great video a while back about working as a Data Wrangler:

For a slightly more in-depth overview of film crew positions, here’s a great video we posted before (also thanks going to Evan for this one):

To read the full list from the animation above, head on over to the Vimeo Video School post.

Some of you more experienced guys and gals, what do you think? Anything to add to the above videos?

Link: Who’s Who on a Movie Crew? — Vimeo Video School


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • What funny, I didn’t know you don’t need a set dresser or an art director in your film.

    • penny stames on 08.2.14 @ 1:20PM

      Amen Brother! Seriously the way it really works is that all the AD’s, Grips and Gaffers bring in furniture from their home and the PA shoves it around. The UPM picks out the color of paint for the walls and their teen aged son who needs a job comes in and paints them. Finally actors just bring whatever they think is the right to wear, do their own makeup and hair and everyone lives happily ever after! Oh WAIT, this sounds like the stuff we did as students, before we became professionals. Kinda reminds me of this line. “lets hang some red velvet curtains and turn this place into a REAL Theater.”
      Oh yes they also forgot to mention Crafty but n oone cares about food on set because we all have plenty of time for lunch and only work short days anyway. Who did this thing?? It’s a joke BUT It is very NIFTY as promised ;-[]

  • I’m always amazed by 1st time low budget or student filmmakers who insist on crewing up with this list they think they should have on a set based on what is clearly the ancien regime of studio filmmaking.

    • Hi Dan, how would you characterize those mistakes and what would you consider to be a good skeleton crew ?

      • I think the more crew the better (of course, to what is needed and can be maintained);

        It’s always hard to spot a good performance, or random nuances in acting if your focusing on framing a shot on a dolly while pulling focus yourself, and if you only have one guy holding a boom and mixing the sound there can be issues with uncontrolled levels during shooting. Not to mention continuity, because when you’re behind the camera, directing, dressing and producing the thing the placement of paper and the fullness of cups is one of the last things you will think about.

        • “It’s always hard to spot a good performance, or random nuances in acting if your focusing on framing a shot on a dolly while pulling focus yourself”

          I disagree. A good director doesn’t have to “focus” on performances. They can tell if something doesn’t work immediately… from a mile away. If it’s really difficult for you to spot good performances… and you have to actively concentrate on it… then guess what? You’re not cut-out to be a director. Period. Good directors can visualize the actors in their head performing the lines before they set foot on the set. They know what they’re looking for. A good director will also “work” on the performances before the day of shooting, during table reads and such… or simply hire pick actors they can visualize in the part before hand.

          Further more, film is not live-theater… it’s just as much about the directing the story with visuals/sound as it is about the performances… maybe even more. Directors are not simply “actor coaches”. If a person wishes to only “work with actors” they should be looking towards live-theater… not film.

      • without sounding like a smart ass, based on experience, whoever you can fit in a van with the actors and gear.

    • +1

      I’m with Dan on this one. It’s great to learn why people worked like this in the past… but it’s really an ancient method that hasn’t been updated or innovated on since the 70′s.

      I think people need to ask themselves a simple question… are all the convoluted job divisions and arbitrary positions truly necessary? Or do they just line the pockets of the unions and execs? 8 people running a camera means more union-dues than 1. More legal/financial hurdles and arbitrary regulation/permits means jobs/money for the business and end. There really isn’t a logical reason for most of these jobs divisions anymore besides the fact that many people in the current industry profit from artificial problems they sell the solution to.

      The future is smaller production crews, multiple jobs per person (i.e. Director-Editor-DP as one job), and more individual accountability/responsibility. It’s really the only option for creating a new sustainable model that will encourage creative projects again and get people in the theaters for smaller ticket prices. Right now it’s more profitable to say “no” to a project… and raise prices on what they do make… regardless of quality. This isn’t good.

      • @bwhitz, if you hand-hold the camera then you don’t need a dolly grip. If you use available light ONLY you don’t need a lighting crew. The list goes on …

        BTW directing-through -the-lens (director/DP) has been common for many years. Many, if not most commercials in the 1970s had director/DPs. Steven Soderbergh. is his own camera operator and DP (21 films). The list goes on.

  • Martin Calvi on 08.12.13 @ 11:57AM

    This is not about this article, but I don’t know where to ask about it.
    A while ago you guys did an article about an “eye-candy” slow motion video featuring paint or chalk powder being thrown at some girls.
    Can you guys point me to that article/video? I’m not being able to find it.


  • Dan’s is an interesting thesis. My initial reaction was that wireless mics should eliminate the boom operator. Actors should theoretically be capable of doing their own make-up and hair. A daytime outdoor shoot eliminates the specific lighting related crew positions but there still may be a need for someone to hold a bounce/fill. Depending on the advances in the recording media, the footage can be offloaded and/or copied during the shooting or, at worst, lunch breaks by the director/cinematographer himself. Light rubber track dollies, body supports like EasyRig and Atlas, stabilizers like MoVi and lighter DSLR style camera allow a nearly continuous operation under almost any conditions. My hunch is that two-three people in addition to the director/cinematographer should do the trick … especially if they fit inside a VW Bug like a clown posse.

    • Sorry to break it to you guys, but this is not the case. Sure film sets will get smaller especially on indie films with low budgets but if you’ve ever been on a big film set you begin to understand how important an AD, UPM gaffers, grips etc. are to on set fluidity and why they’re still around.

      When you’ve got tens of millions of dollars riding on a production you don’t cheap out and have one person grip/gaff/AC/make up artist. It just doesn’t make sense.

      Yes actors are capable of hair and make up but that doesnt mean they should have that role. And no big name actor is going to do his or her make up, anything distracting an actor from what they’re there to do is unnecessary and should be done by someone dedicated to it, make up artists love their jobs just as much as we do, why eliminate that position?

      It may seem old school to indie guys but there’s a reason every major production uses some variation of standard film crew, it works. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Sure they’ll get smaller but that depends on the nature of the shoot and what the script calls for and what the budget allows for. Some productions no matter how sensitive to light cameras get or how small equipment gets etc will call for big sets, big crews.

      And this is coming from someone who loves small sets and loves to direct/DP/write/Edit/grade

      • Yup I’m going to second this. Only people who have never done anything serious would think an actor can do their own makeup. What about continuity? Every role exists for a reason. Some blur together but others do not. There is a line at which point you become a professional and thinking one person can be the DP/Gaffer/Grip and camera department is not that line. I really need to stop reading the comments… Flame away.

      • But I was told that if I bought a Canon 5D and a wireless mic, and maybe saved for a bounce card that I could do EVERYTHING….

        • Trust me you don’t want to do everything yourself, acting as your own DP is is one thing but trying to juggle an entire set on your own is going to be a nightmare.

      • Jack Marchetti on 08.1.14 @ 9:23PM

        In preo-pro on my first short film I have taken on the roles of: Writer, Director, Producer, Location Scout, Location Manager, Music Supervisor, Casting Director, and Clearances Supervisor. We have six locations, about 20 pieces of artwork that needed to be cleared, five songs on major labels that need to be properly licensed and about four roles that need to be cast.

        I do not advise this, at all. I couldn’t afford to hire a music sup or a clearances supervisor. A casting director would’ve sped up my casting but I felt the cost of a casting director would be better spent elsewhere. Time will tell on that, though I love the cast I have setup.

        Having a producer on board is immensely helpful. A lot of people claim to “produce” but having someone who actually knows how to produce is so helpful.

        But seriously, having to do all of that just makes the process suck.

    • Who takes care of the wireless mics?? Not getting clothing rustle is an art, does the director or someone else not on the non-existent sound know how to do it??

  • Well, obviously, I meant a low-no-micro budget production. The greater the budget, the more people one can hire. But folks like Ed Burns are able to get by with minimal costs – $10K production.

    I quote from the Filmmaker Magazine, “With a shooting budget of $9,000, Burns worked with a three-person crew, shot on the Canon 5D (which he owns), had the actors wear their own clothes and do their own hair and make up, and worked without lights (except an occasional china ball) and sound mixer (the actors wore lavs). … “Newlyweds shooting budget: 5k for actors, 2k insurance, 2k food and drink. 9k in the can. We only shot 12 days. That’s how to make an independent film.”

  • I love the fact that we watch the camera dolly being pushed back-and-forth during the video, but no mention is made of the Dolly Grip or any other grip 9-)

  • The experienced should refrain from belittling those trying to learn. Otherwise, Why read about On-set-duties in NFS?

  • I think the key here is to have a lean and mean crew. I’ve worked on Hollywood blockbusters, TVC’s and indi films, the most important factor for set efficiency is efficient people. There is nothing worse then having a UPM who feels comfort in numbers aka bloated sets.

    • +1

      It’s all about moderation, you want a platoon of like minded individuals not some hubris-induced egomaniac or an overcrowded game of telephone.

      • But don’t get me wrong a one man band is at times exactly what is needed, it’s just depends on the scene/project in question. I’m talking more in a general sense above.

  • You get the stripped down crew or not, it’s a head space thing. Nothing drives me crazier than driving past a student shoot or a commercial on location with obvious crew standing around doing nothing.
    Crew, gear, lighting slow you down.
    It’s called the New Wave. The French (and US doc makers) rebelled against the bloated studio system in the 60′s and revolutionized filmmaking.
    The best independent film of the year Slamdance Jury winner The Dirties seemed to have a crew of one, the DP as the director and lead actor was hooked up to lavs.

  • I think that for students, having a full crew is advantageous since the whole point of school is to learn. Sure, you can have a crew as little as 1 – 5 but how much learning would actually be happening when everyone is completely overwhelmed and in over their inexperienced heads with 5-10 duties assigned to them during their production? Probably not too much. It’s better to learn to swim than be dropped into the deep end and told to figure it out. Once you know the roles on set and what functions they’re supposed to serve, then you are able to make an educated decision that you only need x, y, and z for your crew on your project. Outside of school, it all depends on the production and budget. Can a 3 – 5 man crew make a high budget blockbuster feature? Maybe, but it probably wouldn’t be any fun and it would take forever.

  • No matter the size of the crew, More attention needs to be paid to storytelling. With out good content why bother. Much to often time is spent and money wasted on Garbage.

  • Not all movies are shot on an empty soundstage. A production designer should have been on that list.

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