In many ways, the PA is the glue that holds a production together. PAs assist wherever they are needed on a production, so duties often range across departments. Taking a gig as a PA is a great way to gain experience with a full array of production personnel, from the camera operators to the costume department, and is an excellent role for breaking into the film industry. PAs are in charge of the details of a production, and that can mean making sure that everyone gets lunch or tidying the set after a shoot, depending on where you are assigned. For example, a set PA typically maintains order on the set: relaying messages, distributing paperwork, and making sure actors and extras are exactly where they should be. An office PA, on the other hand, takes care of administrative duties related to the production: answering phones, making reservations, and assisting with information management and data entry. Working as a PA is perfect for organized, friendly individuals who are enthusiastic and willing to take on a variety of tasks each day.
Freelance videographers film and edit anything and everything: documentaries, commercials, online content, even weddings and plays. When working solo, videographers are typically responsible for all aspects of a shoot – recording, possible lighting and audio setups, and editing. They work closely with their clients to achieve the desired results during the filming process, and are often trusted to use their own creative eye during the editing process. Once freelancers establish themselves, they can enjoy complete autonomy in terms of what projects they take on, keeping in mind that generating clientele is key for those who are starting out. Freelance videographers must be self-motivated when it comes to marketing their services, and maintain a courteous and professional attitude to ensure return business and positive referrals as they build “their brand.” Freelancing can be highly rewarding, both personally and financially, and can help fund artists as they make their own projects.
An assistant editor is the editor’s right hand throughout the editing process, keeping the editor apprised of everything that’s going on with the production. Assistant editors do everything except cut the film itself, preparing footage for the editor to work on each day, checking for continuity and synchronization within the film, and maintaining a balanced and structured environment in the editing room. This job is a mix of administrative, practical, and creative duties in the name of supporting the editor and the story being created. The assistant editor also receives and interprets paperwork and communications from staff and crew so that the editor can focus on the job at hand, and keeps notes on all aspects of the editing process so that there are records of footage cut, dubbing and effects added, etc. Sometimes assistant editors are given the responsibility of making rough cuts, and even making creative decisions for the editor to speed the process along. Assistants may be asked to arrange workspace, ﬁx technical issues, or organize extra footage: anything that keeps the editor on-schedule! Assistant editors are team-players with great organizational skills and a keen creative eye.
Assistant camera operators take care of many of the practical elements involved in rendering the director’s vision with technical precision. While camera operators monitor the set, lighting, rigs, and camera settings, assistants work to prepare, set up, and position the equipment itself. Camera assistants fulfill a variety of roles: the 1st assistant camera or “focus puller” adjusts the camera focus as actors and objects move through a scene. 1 ACs also change lenses and filters according to the camera operator and DP’s directions. The 2nd assistant loads film as needed, claps the slate at the beginning of a take, and keeps notes on the equipment for the camera department. Sometimes these jobs are combined, depending on the size of the shoot. No matter your title, cleaning and maintenance of the equipment, as well as carefully packing it away at the end of the day, will most likely be your responsibility! This is a challenging and often exciting position in a film crew, and a great way to start out: most camera operators and cinematographers started out as camera assistants.
The Grips are integral technicians on a film set, building and maintaining all equipment that supports cameras, from tripods, dollies, and tracks to jibs, cranes, and static rigs. Grips help scout for locations, analyze the needs of a project, and depending upon their findings they will hire or create the equipment necessary to complete complex shots and camera movements. Grips must provide ways of securing the cameras so that everything is safe and sturdy and the shot can be achieved smoothly and successfully. There are different roles for Grips: the Key Grip supervises all grip crews and equipment, the Best Boy oversees administrative duties and keeps an eye on workplace safety standards and procedures, and the Dolly Grip operates the camera dolly, physically pushing and pulling camera rigs in concert with the camera operators. Grips are among the first to arrive at a shoot so they can set up the camera supports and plan out the order in which equipment must be put up and taken down during the day. Grip work is great for those with patience, dedication, and strong observation skills, and can provide highly satisfying and steady employment.
The boom operator’s main concern is the dialogue the performers speak during a shoot. They assist the production sound mixer by operating a boom microphone or placing radio and clip microphones in the correct spots around the set (and even on the performers’ clothing). Boom ops are usually responsible for the upkeep of sound equipment on set, making sure that it is in good working order and carrying out minor repairs as needed. Generally, the job requires strength and agility as well as patience and good communication skills. Boom ops can also act as the spokesperson for the sound department with the cast and crew, as production sound mixers often need to work elsewhere. The best boom ops have an understanding of lighting and framing, which helps them successfully place or hold the microphone out of shot. When operating the boom mic itself, operators get the chance to look over the dialogue of the scene beforehand so that they can anticipate how to move the microphone: it’s a skill that takes time to develop, but is highly prized by experienced directors!
Screenwriters map out a story, scene, or sequence before production begins. They develop and write scripts that set up scenarios for commercials, films, television, radio, and stage performances. Screenwriters are involved in all phases of pre-production, from idea generation and story development through to script production and rewriting as necessary. Early versions of a script will describe scenarios in detail, including physical environments and moods of characters, and final, shooting scripts will include lighting, camera, and shot instructions for the crew. Screenwriters are creative and dedicated, working with directors and performers to hone the images, actions, and dialog included in a script. Some professional screenwriters work simply on re-tooling other people’s scripts! Screenwriting is a competitive business, but it is also a wonderfully rewarding one.
Location managers are in charge of making arrangements to secure locations for filming. They are tasked with obtaining any permits and scouting for appropriate settings. This position usually oversees location scouts and assistant managers during the process. An important aspect of this role is public relations. The location manager is the main point of contact for all the locations used during the shoot. They also manage the logistics including contracts, parking, and travel. During and after the shoot, location managers maintain the site and keep track of time constraints.
All special effects done on set is run by the special effects coordinator. This role calls for a highly creative individual who has a background in film, animation, or computer science. Special effects coordinators oversee the manufacturing of special effects during pre-production, as well as the application of it on set. They are responsible for the safety protocols that may arise for certain types of effects. Setting up and operating the rigs is another duty for this position. Most special effects coordinators start off as assistants with hands-on experience in the film industry.
A gaffer is the head technician of a film crew. They maintain everything that has to do with lighting. Working closely with the lighting director, gaffers brainstorm lighting ideas that fit the production’s overall vision. They are directly in charge of electrical safety, the lighting crew, and executing the lighting plan. The gaffer is an essential part of the production crew, as they can completely influence a scene with the choice of lighting. An understanding of filmmaking along with technical knowledge is necessary in order to become a gaffer.
Video technicians are crucial when looking at live production as opposed to digital filmmaking. They are on site during live entertainment or theatre performances, maintaining and operating video production equipment under the supervision of a technical director. The equipment used may include video cameras, screens, projectors, media servers, and the grip kit.
Casting is one of the most important parts of film production, and casting assistants are invaluable help to casting directors in the task of filling dozens, even hundreds of parts. Casting assistants sometimes operate the cameras for auditioners or read scripts with actors. Other times, casting assistants may keep resumes in order and/or monitor the audition process. Casting assistants often work to create short-lists of actors for the casting director’s consideration in different roles.