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Movie Crews: From Grips to Gaffers
To help decode the many, many names that fill a movie’s credits, check out Groupon’s introduction to some of Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes jobs.
Most of us probably sort of know what a director does. The duties of a makeup artist or a set designer are self-explanatory. Maybe we even have an idea of what it means to be a producer. But then there are jobs like “cutter” and “gang boss,” which sound not just confusing but vaguely menacing. Below, meet a few of these important film folks.
Gaffer: The gaffer is the head of the electrical department, responsible for the design of the lighting plan. The name has nothing to do with making gaffes. Two theories are that it came from from gaffing hooks—long poles once used to close and open the panels covering a studio’s skylights—or from a kind of ship’s spar, since being a stagehand was once a natural second job for sailors on leave.
Key Grip: Grips are lighting and rigging technicians, and the key grip tells them all what to do. This team’s duties may also include operating scaffolding, cranes, dolly tracks, and camera cars.
Best Boy: Best boy is a title that communicates rank more than function—it simply means the second in command on a crew, possibly also adopted from sailing vernacular. In practice, most best boys assist the gaffer or key grip.
Line Producer: The liaison between the producer or studio and the production manager— a key link between the money and the hands-on makers.
Lead Man: The lead man acts as foreman of the set-dressing crew, which arranges the furniture, hangs the pictures, and jumps on the sofas to make a set look more lived-in. This team is also known as the swing gang.
Gang Boss: The lead man’s right hand, the gang boss typically plays the role of a project manager.
Greensman: The rare film worker whose name says something about his job, the greensman specializes in landscape design and plant placement on set.
Cutter: The cutter translates the costume-designer’s visions into cloth, from finding period-appropriate fabrics to creating patterns and fitting the costumes to the actors.
Foley Artist: A foley artist fills out the reality of a scene with ambient sounds, such as the clop-clop of horse hooves or the creak of a rusty hinge. People in this job are all named after Jack Foley, an innovative sound-effect editor at Universal Studios during the dawn of the talkies.
Negative Cutter: Under the direction of the film editor, the negative cutter ensures that the negative of the film matches the final edit and acts as arch-nemesis to the cutter.