Gaffer, grip, best boy, executive producer? Who are those guys?

June 17, 1991|By Jim Emerson | Jim Emerson,Orange County Register

They are the people you turn your back on -- those white names on the black screen at the end of the movie that provide you barely enough reflective light to find your way up the aisle to the theater exit.

Just about everybody has some idea of what an editor does, or a makeup artist, or a stunt man or a costumer.

But a gaffer? A best boy? And just who is this important-sounding executive producer who gets his/her name in bigger letters during the opening credits?

Here's an alphabetical glossary of some key movie personnel and the functions they are hired to perform. So the next time you see a picture, you still may not recognize their names, but at least you'll know what they did to get their monikers up there on the big screen.

ADR EDITOR -- ADR stands for "automatic dialogue replacement." Although the actors' dialogue is recorded on the set, much of it is later replaced -- or "looped" -- during post-production (i.e., after shooting is completed) in an ADR recording studio. The actors lip-sync to their own on-screen performances, and ADR personnel make sure that everything matches. Looping can be used to replace dialogue that has been marred by on-set noise or even to change line readings.

ART DIRECTOR -- The person in charge of set design, construction and every aspect of decor on a film, from creating sets to acquiring props. It's an amorphous title, though, and on any given picture could be substituted for anything from the currently more popular "production designer" to "set decorator" (see below).

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR -- The AD, as this person is known on the set, takes over many of the director's more menial or routine (but still essential) tasks, such as calling for quiet on the set, rounding up necessary personnel for a take and generally maintaining an efficient working atmosphere. There may be several on any movie.

ASSISTANT TO . . . -- This could be anyone, from a technician's helper to a director's or star's personal secretary to a lover (or both). Duties are variable.

BEST BOY -- An assistant or an apprentice, usually to a grip or a gaffer (see below).

BOOM OPERATOR -- The person who handles the boom microphone, the mike-on-a-long-stick that records the actors' dialogue and sounds on a set.

CONTINUITY -- The continuity person's job is to make sure that everything in a scene matches from shot to shot -- from the actors' hair, makeup and costume to the arrangement of props on the set. Scenes may take hours, days, even weeks to shoot, often over many repeated takes, and somebody has to see that continuity is maintained so that when the editor assembles the sequence, misplaced objects or hairdos aren't bouncing all over the place. The continuity person usually takes a Polaroid shot of the actors and the set before any break and makes sure everything is restored to that state before shooting resumes. Most of the boo-boos spotted by Premiere magazine's Gaffe Squad are continuity errors, such as drinks that go from full to empty and back again.

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY -- Formerly known as the cinematographer, the DP collaborates with the director and production designer on the overall look of the film,

from the lighting to the camera movements. A DP may have his own distinctive style, but usually adapts it to the vision of the director.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER -- Another one of those amorphous titles, this one is often bestowed as a courtesy or a sign of gratitude. It could be anyone from a studio or distribution company executive who had nothing to do with the making of the film but wants a screen credit for having the good sense to distribute it, to someone who worked extensively on the development, hiring or re-writing of the film.

FOLEY ARTIST -- Most of the sounds you hear in movies -- footsteps, doors, gunshots, breaking glass, background noises -- are not those recorded on the set, but effects created and synchronized by the Foley artists in a recording studio during post production.

GAFFER -- This is an exotic name for the chief electrician on a set, responsible for implementing the lighting decided upon by the director and director of photography.

GRIP -- The all-purpose handyman on a set, equivalent to a stagehand on a theatrical production. Duties include anything from minor carpentry to moving and arranging set flats or equipment. Key grip, of course, is the main or chief grip.

NB LINE PRODUCER -- The executive, usually hired by the studio or

production company, in charge of item-by-item budgeting -- and making sure that budget is met.

MATTE ARTIST -- That impossibly beautiful scenery that takes your breath away in so many movies often doesn't really exist in nature. It's been painted on glass by a matte artist and optically printed -- or matted in -- later, so that it looks like the actors are in the same frame with it. The valley vista near the end of the new "City Slickers" is mostly a matte painting.

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