On a recent film shoot I overheard a crew member saying that she didn’t know who she worked for. I have to assume she meant she wasn’t quite sure who her department head was. After all, we all work for the Producers.
The question puts a sharper point on a concern I’ve had that more and more people in our industry are starting out on independent productions rather than “coming up” through the ranks in the Hollywood system and, therefore, are not getting a complete picture of the movie making hierarchy.
To be fair, I work in the independent production world but I got my training from a “Hollywood” UPM. She gave me a great overview that I’ve been able to refine in my years on set.
Filmmaking is both a business and an art form. Put over simply, the Producer runs the business and the Director creates the art. Ideally, they’ve spent a lot of time in the development stage of a film talking about the overall vision of the project how the budget will impact their vision.
The Producer’s primary representative on location is the Production Manager, or UPM. All department heads report to the UPM for anything that involves the business of filmmaking.
The Director’s primary representative on set is the 1st Assistant Director, or 1st AD. All department heads coordinate through the 1st AD for anything that involves the art of filmmaking once filming begins. In pre-production each department head should have met with the director to get the overall vision for the project but once filming starts they coordinate through the 1st AD.
Production – Office
Head Production Manager
Key Production Accountant
2nd Production Office Coordinator Assistant Accountant
3rd Assistant POC Additional Accountants
Addt’l Production Office P.A.s
Production – Set
Head First Assistant Director (1st AD)
Key Second Assistant Director (2nd AD) Script Supervisor Set Medic
2nd Second Second Assistant Director (2nd 2nd AD)
3rd Additional A.D.s Key Set P.A.
Addt’l Production Assistants
The Director of Photography, or DP, is one of the Director’s chief collaborators in making the film. Many Directors like to work closely with their DPs so they won’t coordinate through the 1st AD except when the Director is occupied with actors. The DP oversees multiple departments including Camera, Lighting, Grip, Physical Effects, Hair Styling and Makeup.
Head Camera Operator
Key First Assistant Camera (1st AC) Digital Imaging Technician (DIT)
2nd Second Assistant Camera (2nd AC) Digital Utility Technician (DUT or Media Handler)
3rd Additional ACs
Addt’l Camera Department P.A.s
2nd Best Boy Electric
3rd Lighting Technicians
Key Key Grip
2nd Best Boy Grip Dolly Grip
3rd Company Grips
Key FX Coordinator
2nd FX Supervisor
3rd FX Technicians
Key Head Hair Stylist
2nd Hair Stylist
3rd Additional Hair Stylists
Key Head Makeup Artist
2nd Makeup Artist Special Effects Makeup Artist
3rd Additional Makeup Artists
Another chief collaborator of the Director is the Production Designer. This person also oversees multiple departments including Art Department, Construction, Set Decoration, Props, the picture vehicle part of Transportation and Costumes.
Head Production Designer
Key Art Director Set Designer
2nd Assistant Art Director
3rd Set/Scenic Artists
Key Construction Coordinator
2nd Construction Foreman
3rd Construction Labor
Key Set Decorator
2nd Lead Person Key Greens
3rd On Set Dresser(s) Set Painter(s)
Key Prop Master
2nd Assistant Prop Master Prop Maker Foreman
3rd Additional Property Handlers Prop Maker
Key Picture Vehicle Coordinator
2nd Assistant Picture Vehicle Coordinator
3rd Picture Vehicle Driver(s)
Head Costume Designer
Key Key Costumer/Wardrobe Supervisor
2nd First Set Costumer
Addt’l Costume Construction
Other departments critical to filmmaking include Production Sound, Transportation, Locations, Animal Wranglers and Catering & Craft Service.
Key Production Sound Mixer
2nd Boom Operator(s)
3rd Utility Sound Technicians
Key Transportation Coordinator
2nd Transportation Captain
3rd Drivers Transportation Maintenance
Key Location Manager
2nd Assistant Location Manager
3rd Location Scouts
Addt’l Location P.A.s
Key Head Wrangler/Animal Handler
2nd Assistant Wrangler(s)/Animal Handler(s)
3rd Additional Wranglers/Animal Handlers
Catering & Craft Service
Key Head Chef
2nd Assistant Chef Craft Services (Crafty)
3rd Salad Chef Craft Utility
This overview is by no means complete. I haven’t even looked at post-production. Not every show will organize its departments as I’ve listed above and, depending on the budget of the picture, there may be much larger or much smaller departments.
We work in a highly collaborative industry where each department depends on the other to make the best picture possible. Knowing who traditionally works for whom and the responsibilities of each of your fellow crew members can only make you a better collaborator in the world of filmmaking.