October 31, 2019

What Exactly Is a 'Best Boy'?

Do you know what a best boy does on a film or TV set? We'll tell you!

There are probably lots of terms and job titles on film sets that are unfamiliar or odd to the general public. "Best boy" is a term so vague that it's usually one of them. Best what now? Rest assured, there aren't decidedly very exceptional children running around with film crews.

Best boys are adults with some of the most important duties on the set. They help everything run smoothly and safely. Let's find out how!

What is a "best boy"?

To put it simply, a best boy is the right-hand person to the gaffer or key grip.

The gaffer is the project's head electrician and the chief lighting technician. They light everything on the project.

The key grip is the head of the grip crew, which is part of the camera grip crew. They deal with a lot of the physical tasks on a set and serve as camera support. Need a dolly? The grips will set up the track.

Both the gaffer and key grip work closely with a project's director of photography to achieve the vision everyone wants on a project.

The types of best boy

Best boys come in two varieties: best boy electric (working with the gaffer) or best boy grip (working with the key grip). The best boy is second-in-command and foreman of their respective grip and electrician crews.

Gigniks provides a look at the world of the best boy electric role during an interview with Miguel Sanchez! Watch the video below.

Sanchez's extensive responsibilities include making budgets, scheduling, hiring and managing the team, maintaining inventory, unloading and loading equipment, overseeing safety, and more.

As he mentions, he's not often on the set itself, but works more in an office setting or is at the location before or after a shoot.

Where does the term come from?

As an older term, the origin of "best boy" is explained in a couple of different ways.

Some say that in the early days of filmmaking, members of the grip and electrical departments would regularly go to each other and ask for help "from your best boy." That would usually be the second-in-command, or best boy.

Others claim the name comes from sailing jargon or even the era of British apprenticeship.

Either way, the name has stuck.

A best boy's work on a film set
Credit: Ricardo Diaz

Is it always "best boy"?

Best boy has become a kind of antiquated catch-all term, and you will see the title applied to those crew members of various genders.

However, the term "best girl" has also been used for those that prefer it.

For example, Sierra Hurst is credited in films like 2012 and Rise of the Planet of the Apes as "rigging best girl."

What's next? Learn more about roles on film crews

Here are some of the unsung heroes of film and TV crews. You can also look at the members of the lighting department specifically. And if you're ready to start crewing up, you'd better know all the roles that go on a call sheet    

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