Who Do I Work For?

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.

Camera

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

Lighting

Key            Gaffer

2nd            Best Boy Electric

3rd             Lighting Technicians

Grip

Key            Key Grip

2nd            Best Boy Grip                                                 Dolly Grip

3rd             Company Grips

Physical FX

Key            FX Coordinator

2nd            FX Supervisor

3rd             FX Technicians

Hair Styling

Key            Head Hair Stylist

2nd            Hair Stylist

3rd             Additional Hair Stylists

Makeup

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.

Art Department

Head          Production Designer

Key            Art Director                                              Set Designer

2nd            Assistant Art Director

3rd             Set/Scenic Artists

Construction

Key            Construction Coordinator

2nd            Construction Foreman

3rd             Construction Labor

Set Decoration

Key            Set Decorator

2nd            Lead Person                                         Key Greens

3rd             On Set Dresser(s)                                Set Painter(s)

Property

Key            Prop Master

2nd            Assistant Prop Master                          Prop Maker Foreman

3rd             Additional Property Handlers                Prop Maker

Picture Vehicles

Key            Picture Vehicle Coordinator

2nd            Assistant Picture Vehicle Coordinator

3rd             Picture Vehicle Driver(s)

Costumes

Head          Costume Designer

Key            Key Costumer/Wardrobe Supervisor

2nd            First Set Costumer

3rd             Costumer

Addt’l        Costume Construction

Other departments critical to filmmaking include Production Sound, Transportation, Locations, Animal Wranglers and Catering & Craft Service.

Production Sound

Key            Production Sound Mixer

2nd            Boom Operator(s)

3rd             Utility Sound Technicians

Transportation

Key            Transportation Coordinator

2nd            Transportation Captain

3rd             Drivers                                                   Transportation Maintenance

Locations

Key            Location Manager

2nd            Assistant Location Manager

3rd             Location Scouts

Addt’l        Location P.A.s

Wranglers/Animal Handlers

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.

Categories: Career Building,Production

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