Saluting Lesser-known Film Roles During Oscar Season

Have you ever watched film credits roll and wondered what a gaffer is? What kind of art a Foley artist creates? Hint: They won't be walking to the podium at the 84th Academy Awards this weekend.


There are two types of moviegoers: those who stand up, brush the popcorn off their laps, and leave the theater immediately after “the end,” and the lingerers, those less eager to shake off the mood, who stay through the last line of the rolling credits.

At least some viewers see the names of the non-celebrities involved in bringing a film to the screen — the grunts who won’t be at the podium wearing sequins at the Academy Awards (Feb. 26 this year).

Do the movie lingerers know what all those movie-set job descriptions mean? In honor of Oscar month, here’s a roster of cinematic job descriptions.

Gaffer: To Brits, gaffer means an older man or boss. In the film industry, the title refers to the head of the electrical department. They’re responsible for the production’s lighting plan.

Grip: They often perform a variety of smaller tasks, such as moving set pieces and scenery. More important, they handle many aspects of
lighting. They arrange rigging points for lights, set up filters in front of lights, and incorporate sun blocks to prevent natural light from ruining a scene.

Best Boy (or Girl): There are two kinds of best boys: electric and grip — both assistant positions are charged with helping run their respective department.

Director of Photography: Working with the movie director, this person decides on the lighting and framing of scenes. The director explains his/her vision and the “DoP” makes it happen by choosing the appropriate aperture, filter, and lighting needed to create desired effects.

Key Grip: As head grip, this person typically assists the gaffer or the director of photography.

Dolly Grip: This specific grip is in charge of operating the movie-camera dolly. This person must also place, level, and move the dolly track.

Boom Operator: The boom operator ensures that the boom microphone never enters the camera’s frame. The microphone is attached to a boom pole, which allows exact positioning above or below actors.

Foley Artist: This tedious job entails replacing and creating sound effects in scenes that were not picked up by the microphones. They employ various methods to produce the sounds, such as using frozen romaine lettuce to help mimic bone or head-injury noises.

Key Scenic: This person oversees the painting department, which uses various techniques to simulate the appearance of wood, stone, brick, metal, or stained glass, for example, as designated by the production designer.

Set Dresser: These workers place and remove every detail of a set — from furniture, drapery, and carpets to paintings on the wall, doorknobs, and wall sockets.

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