Filmmaking Terminology: 28 On-Set Phrases You Need to Know

Set Phrases

Here are 28 on-set phrases and words you should know before going to set!

There is a particular type of vocabulary that is only heard in the film industry. May it be “lingo” or slang, you do not want to be caught dead not knowing these terms on-set. It could be the one word that transitions you from a background acting role to a recurring role on your favorite television series.

So to eliminate any confusion here, our vocabulary list of on-set lingo.

Holding – If you are a background actor, this is where you will spend most of the day waiting.  This will be where you check-in, get your voucher, see wardrobe, see hair & make-up, and most likely eat lunch/dinner, etc.

Voucher – This is probably one of the most important documents. Vouchers are how you will get paid.  It’s like a receipt and time-card all in one.  You must hold on to this to get paid unless you are given wardrobe – then wardrobe will hold on to your voucher until you give your borrowed garbs back.

Crafty – Crafty is also known as craft services.  Crafty is where you can find snacks. Common items in crafty include pretzels, cheese balls, fruit, granola bars, and PB&J sandwiches. If you are a background actor, do not have high expectations, and many times you will have a separate crafty service.

Rolling – This means the camera is recording, and everyone should be ready to go. The only people that should be allowed to talk are the main actors themselves, and the director.

Sound Speed – This means they are recording audio.  EVERYTHING you say (even a whisper) will be caught on tape once ‘sound speeds.’

Background! – “Background!” is the extras version of “action!” For extras, Background is your cue to start moving. If it is your first time as a background actor, you may get lost like a deer in headlights. Just remember your acting cues.

Action! – Action is the cue for the actors to start performing

Banana – you sometimes will be asked to ‘do a banana’ across the floor.  Instead of walking a straight line, you will walk a line in the shape of a banana.

Cut – This is the cue for everyone to stop;  This includes actors, cameras, sound, and you.

Check the Gate – Check the gate means to check the shutter for film residue. Hundreds of feet of the film may have passed through the shutter during the filming of a scene. Over time, dust can get caught in the shutter. Or, while changing the lens, hair may get caught in the shutter. As a result, the camera operator needs to make sure this did not happen. If it has, the scene may need to be reshot.

Martini – This is the last shot of the night.  It’s derived because, after this shot, everyone is ready to get a martini (or drink of choice).

Pantomime – This is what you will typically do on set.  It is all of the action of acting, but without the sound.

Mark -A mark is where a person needs to stand or arrive at a particular time.  When an actor (or extra) stands in one spot, walks across the room, and then stops in another place – he walked from one mark to another mark.  They are the pieces of tape on the floor.

First Team – This team consists of the stars/actors of the film.

Second Team – This team consists of Stand-in for the actors.

Stand-in – An individual who stand-in for the actor while the director of photography organizes the camera angles. It is a good position, and it is not uncommon for directors to upgrade stand-ins to principal roles.

AD – Assistant Director.  The AD will call out actions for the Director, they will also instruct the cameramen and extras.

Gaffer – This is the head electrician.

Grip – They are the muscle on the set.  Grips will set up and break down various items, including but not limited to tracks, cameras, lights.

Best boy – This is the gaffers, right-hand man.  It’s a fancy name for the assistant gaffer.

Dolly – The Dolly allows for the camera to move around the scene.

Jib – This is the ‘long arm of the camera.’  Also referred to as ‘the crane.’

Wardrobe – This consists of the clothes you wear.

Back story – ever get bored on set?  Create your back story.  The back story is the history of your character and why you are doing what you are doing.  It’s your character’s history.

Points! – This is called when large items are being transported through where you may be standing.  It’s an easy way of saying, “Watch out, or you may lose your eye!”

Director – They are in charge of the set. He is responsible for getting the actors to where they need to be, making sure the camera has everyone adequately framed, and the overall outcome of the project.

PA – Production Assistant.  There are several positions of PAs.  The one background actors will most be in contact with is the ‘extras wrangler.’

Apple Box – These are small boxes used to make things higher.  Typically used as a seat ‘cushion’ so when one sits, they are raised a few inches, making them appear taller.

Casting Director – The casting director is the person in charge of casting.  Background actors will most likely only come in contact with the extras casting director.  His only duty is to hire enough people for the scene.  The ECD and the PA will be your main points of contact if an issue arises on set or in holding.

Casting Assistant – The casting assistant is the assistant to the Casting Director.  Sometimes they will be there instead of or with the actual Casting Director.

Set – Set is the filming location.

Blacklist – the blacklist is a list of people that will not be able to work for individual companies for whatever reasons.  Beware – sometimes, these lists are shared between companies.

‘It’s a Wrap’ – This means everyone is done filming for that day.  Get ready to either get checked out and go home or go back to the wardrobe and get your voucher, so then you can go to the back of the checkout line to go home.

Facetime – The amount of time your face shows up on the screen.  You never really know how much facetime you will get until the editing is complete.

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