above-the-line costs: Fees for things like script cost, producer, director, and cast salaries that are negotiated prior to production and won't alter during the course of the production.
adaptations: Screenplays that are written from an existing piece of literature, including books, articles, and short stories.
agent: A licensed individual who represents someone in the entertainment industry.
ambient noise: Continuous sounds common to our everyday environment (e.g., humming refrigerators, chirping birds, traffic).
analog tape: The tape used for recording sound on a film production. Digital audiotape (DAT) is a smaller analog tape that is also used.
animal handler: Also known as animal wrangler, these individuals are in charge of any animals used on a film set.
antagonist: The opposing character to your protagonist, usually a villain.
art director: The individual responsible for seeing that the production designer's vision is carried out.
assistant camera operator: An individual who assists the camera operator by setting up the camera, maintaining proper lens focus, and changing lenses for various effects.
assistant director (AD): The individual who monitors the balance between filming and the production schedule. Often aided by first, second, and third assistant directors.
associate producer: An individual who performs certain tasks, depending on the production, delegated by the producer or production manager.
automated dialogue replacement (ADR): See redubbing.
back light: Lighting placed behind a subject and aimed toward its front in order to generate depth and emphasis.
backstory: The history of a character that allows an audience to better understand that character.
barneys: Also called blimps. Specialized camera covers used to muffle camera noise.
below-the-line costs: Costs covering virtually every item a production will require in regard to crew, set production, equipment rentals, location fees, props, office space, and so on.
best boy: An individual who serves as first assistant to the gaffer, and is in charge of additional electrical crew members and all of the electrical equipment.
blue screens: A monochromatic background (not necessarily blue) used in filming so that images can be easily replaced behind an actor during a scene.
boom operator: A member of the sound crew who operates the boom microphone.
bounce light: A method of pointing light at something on-set and allowing the light to “bounce” back onto the subject.
breakdown sheets: Individual pages with header space for filling in the scene number, script page, set or location, daytime or nighttime shoot, exterior or interior shots, and scene synopses.
budget top sheet: Also called top sheet. The first sheet of a filmmaker's final budget estimate.
callback: An invitation from a casting director or director to an actor to return for a second audition.
camera operators: An individual, sometimes the cinematographer, who operates the camera during filming.
casting director (CD): The individual who finds and auditions potential cast members.
character development: The process of creating a character's background, physicality, appearance, and personality.
cinematographer: Also called the director of photography or DP. The individual responsible for bringing a director's vision to fruition.
clapper: Also called a loader or second assistant cameraman. An individual who loads film into the camera, operates the clapper slate for each film take, and keeps records of the scenes and shots.
closing credits: A list that scrolls at the end of a film showing the names of everyone involved in the production.
composer: An individual who creates the musical score that relates directly to the conceptual element of a film.
compositing: Bringing together layers of imagery to complete a full image.
comprehensive liability insurance: Protection against claims of property damage or personal injury when filming on public property.
computer graphics imagery (CGI): Creation of visual effects involving three-dimensional (3-D) computer graphics that are created entirely in the “virtual” world using specialized 3-D software.
contingencies: Unexpected cost overages that are typically unavoidable during the course of filming.
co-producer: Title used when two or more producers split the job of producer.
costume supervisor: See wardrobe supervisor.
coverage: A script summary created by a script reader that lists comments and opinions about the script and its writer.
dailies: Also called rushes. Unedited film footage that a director and film editor view after a day's shooting schedule has ended.
diffusion filter: Used to reduce harshness and hard lines to create a soft, dream-like quality.
digital editor: An individual who provides digital enhancement by electronically editing digital images.
digital image technician (DIT): An individual who works with a digital camera in regard to image manipulation, continuity, color correction, and quality control.
directional microphone: A microphone that picks up sounds from a limited area.
director: The individual who provides the vision of a film, directs the actors, and oversees production.
director of photography (DP): See cinematographer.
dolly grip: The individual who operates the camera dolly.
double: An actor who stands in for the “official” actor while lighting is being set up. She may appear in the final cut of a film where the actor would be unrecognizable. (See stand-in.)
entertainment attorney: An attorney who specializes in entertainment law, often hired to prepare and negotiate contractual arrangements.
errors and omissions insurance: Insurance for protection against civil actions brought against a production for plagiarism, unauthorized use of branded items or locations, and defamation of character.
executive producer: Typically an individual focused on the financial and business dealings of a film.
extras: Hired individuals or volunteers who appear in the background of certain scenes.
fill light: A nondirectional, softer light, often placed in a position opposite the key light in relation to the camera.
film editor: An individual who follows the script to assemble the filmed footage into logical sequences that tell a story.
film score: The background music of any film.
film speed: A film's emulsion and its sensitivity to light exposure.
flat reflector: Reflector used in broad light that produces a diffuse beam.
focal length: The length, in millimeters, by which camera lenses are identified.
focus group: The audience that attends a test screening of a film and comments on it.
foley artist: An individual who creates sound effects that enhance key visual scenes and that are added to the soundtrack during film and sound editing.
Foley, Jack: Innovator of many of the sound-effect techniques used in films. Foley artists are named for him.
footcandles (fc): A measure of intensity of light being given off by a particular source.
four walling: Renting theaters to screen your own film.
gaffer: The chief lighting technician who works directly with the cinematographer to create the proper lighting for each scene.
genre: A distinctive style or film format.
gofer: Another name for a production assistant.
gross returns: All of the income a film generates (see net returns).
hero's journey: A typical storyline where a hero and his or her journey is central to the plot.
Hot Head camera: A camera that is controlled remotely, like those that would be mounted on the front of a speeding car.
image package: Also known as identity package. Part of a production package given to financiers and producers. It includes business cards, letterheads, and envelopes.
independent film: Also called an indie. A film funded and produced outside the auspices of a studio.
key grip: The individual in charge of the crew who moves lighting gear, camera equipment, and all other production equipment.
key light: The primary source of light when lighting a set. It mimics the motivating light in both intensity and direction.
Lavalier: A fingertip-sized microphone that can be clipped to an actor's clothes or taped to the skin.
leadman: Individual in charge of the swing gang.
linear editing: Film cut into long strips divided by scene and take, and then glued or taped back together to create a film in logical sequence.
lining a script: Color-coding screenplay elements to represent a single category of the screenplay (e.g., sets, locations, wardrobe).
loader: See clapper.
location: An existing place for filming, distinct from a constructed set. Locations are differentiated as “close,” meaning within thirty miles of the home base of production, and “distant,” which are any farther than thirty miles.
location manager: The individual who works with property owners, companies, or authorities to secure permits, negotiate fees, and coordinate location availability and shooting dates.
location scout: An individual who searches for filming locations and deals with fees, permits, and all related paperwork.
logline: A one-sentence synopsis of a script.
looping: See redubbing.
makeup artist: The individual responsible for an actor's makeup and prosthetic devices.
manager: An artist's representative. Similar to an agent, but a manager receives a higher percentage as a fee and focuses more on career strategies and getting her clients work.
master use license: A license from the owner of the rights to a specific recording, usually a record producer, permitting its use.
miscellaneous equipment insurance: Insurance for damage to camera equipment, lighting and sound gear, and related equipment that the production owns, rents, or borrows.
music supervisor: The individual who oversees and works with the sound editors, mixer, and composer.
natural density filter: Used when shooting outdoor scenes with too much natural light.
needle drops: Pre-existing songs, often well-known or currently popular music, that is “dropped” into a film to highlight a story point or character moment.
net returns: All the funds that are left after the distributor deducts its share and expenses and other profits from the total gross.
nonlinear editing: Digital editing systems that allows users to access any given frame, scene, or groups of scenes. Film can be edited in any sequence.
omnidirectional microphone: A microphone that picks up sound in a nearly 360 degree sphere.
one-sheet: A single page listing the logline and short summary of your script.
open-face housing: The structure of a lighting instrument in which a light bulb is placed in front of a reflector.
opening credits: The titles that run at the beginning of a film.
option deal: A small amount of money given to a writer in exchange for exclusive rights to the script for a specified length of time.
overcranking: The process of increasing the camera speed so that more frames pass by the lens each second, resulting in slow-motion playback on screen.
parabolic reflector: A reflector that surrounds a bulb to create a highly directional, highly intense beam of light.
peak program meter (PPM): A meter on a sound recorder used to measure peak signal levels.
per diem pay: An agreed-upon daily amount paid to cast and crew for each day they are required to be away from their homes.
pitch: A sales pitch used to promote your film to potential investors and producers.
plot points: Apex moments in your script that signal a shift from one act to another.
polarizing filters: Used on camera lenses to selectively remove excess light.
producer: The individual in charge of the overall production of a film.
production assistants (PAs) Also known as gofers. Individuals who perform all types of tasks ranging from traffic control to office work to food service.
production designer: The individual who creates the overall visual appearance of a film including sets, props, makeup, and wardrobe.
production manager: The individual hired to keep the shooting schedule on track and the film on budget.
production package: A business plan that includes a cover letter, script synopsis, budget breakdown, and resume, presented to prospective financiers or producers.
production strip boards: An oversize panel that utilizes vertical slots for holding individual strips of production information taken from corresponding breakdown sheets.
prop: Any object an actor will touch, pick up, or interact with.
property damage insurance: Protection against damage to rented or leased properties used for filming.
prop master: Also known as property master. The individual in charge of prop acquisitions, prop maintenance, and the distribution of props to the film production as needed.
protagonist: The main character of your screenplay, usually the hero.
proximate pyrotechnics: Professionally done non-fireworks-type effects that can be done onstage, in front of the camera (e.g., smoke, flames, flashes, and explosions).
publicist: Also known as publicity director. An individual hired to generate publicity for a film.
radio microphone: A small radio transmitter with its own frequency.
It can fit in an actor's pocket or be clipped to their clothing.
raw film stock: Unshot motion picture film.
rear screen projection: Previously shot footage that is projected from behind onto an opaque screen with a high transmission factor.
recordist: An audio engineer who records dialogue and all other necessary sounds during film production.
redubbing: Also known as looping or automated dialogue replacement (ADR). The process of recording or replacing voices during editing, long after a film is done.
resume reel: Several of your best film clips together on a DVD, Web site, or VHS video tape.
room tone: Background ambiance unique to a specific room or location.
rushes: See dailies.
Screen Actors Guild (SAG): The union that represents many of Hollywood's actors and entertainment professionals.
screen test: An audition by an actor that is filmed or video recorded for later reference.
script reader: An individual who is paid to read scripts by an agency or production company.
script supervisor: The individual who monitors the script and filming in regard to continuity.
script synopsis: A single page that describes a film so that anyone can easily understand it.
set decorator: The individual who designs and oversees the setting up and maintenance of the appearance of sets. Most often the department head in charge of a team of set dressers.
set designer: An individual who creates working drawings and blueprints for set construction. Works closely with the production designer.
set dresser: The individual responsible for setting up and maintaining the appearance of sets.
shot list: A list of every single shot that will be made from each camera position in every scene.
skylight filter: Used to counteract or eliminate haze.
solarization: A blinding white effect created by purposely overexposing film.
sound designer: The individual responsible for the overall soundtrack of a film.
sound editor: An audio engineer who synchronizes the audio recordings of the film production to the screen images in the postproduction editing process by using a mixing board.
soundstage: A building used for filming that provides the best possible acoustic atmosphere.
special effects: Effects done on-set that can include smoke, fire, fog, and fake blood. Commonly called practical effects.
spec script: An original screenplay that was written or a script that was written for an existing sitcom or drama. In either case, the writer was never paid to write it.
squibs: Exploding bullet hits.
standard screenplay format: The industry-wide universal format for a screen-play: double-spaced twelve-point Courier typeface with margins set at one and one-half inches on the left and right.
stand-in: An individual who fills in for an actor during lighting and scene setups. Is rarely on-set when shooting begins.
Steadicam: A camera rig with an inflexible harness worn by an operator with a mounting arm attached to the camera.
step deal: When a producer and writer agree to develop a project together, but do so in “steps.”
still photographer: The individual who maintains a photographic record of significant production scenes that are often used for publicity purposes.
stock music: Music controlled and copyrighted by libraries that sell the use of that music for predetermined rights and fees.
stop motion animation: A painstaking method of filmmaking in which miniatures are positioned and then photographed one frame at a time before being moved.
storyboard: Drawings rendered by a storyboard artist that portray each scene and all its elements as written in a script.
storyline: The consistent aspect of your story that holds the entire story together.
stunt coordinator: Individual who plans and helps execute the physical stunts for a film production.
stunt doubles: Stunt performers who take the place of specific actors in a film production during potentially dangerous scenes.
stunt performers: Specialized athletes and actors who perform stunts for a film.
subtext: The underlying content of the screenplay.
swing gang: The crew that assembles and disassembles sets. Members, called swings, are overseen by a leadman.
synchronization license: A license issued by the copyright owner of music to permit the synchronizing of their music to the visual image of a film.
synopsis: A condensed version of your script used as a tool for selling your story.
system noise: Sound that results from the imperfections in sound-recording equipment.
telephoto lens: A camera lens that moves past unwanted foreground images, focusing on background imagery, and shortening the distances between them.
test screening: A showing of a film prior to its being released. Generally shown to a focus group audience.
three-act structure: The beginning, middle, and end of your script. Commonly referred to as acts one, two, and three.
top sheet: See budget top sheet.
transportation manager: Also known as transportation captain, this individual coordinates all of a production's transportation requirements and oversees all drivers.
treatment: An outline of a script.
undercranking: A process that slows film through the camera so the resulting action is accelerated.
visual effect: A trick of the eye that forces the audience to see only what they are supposed to see.
volume unit (VU) meter Used in sound recording. A meter that measures signal amplitude as an approximate average.
wardrobe supervisor: Also called costume supervisor. An individual in charge of the wardrobe department who oversees a staff of costume designers. Works closely with the art director.
wide-angle lens: A camera lens used to capture broad areas of imagery from left to right in camera perspective, while increasing the difference between objects in the foreground and background.