Film Crew Hierarchy: A List of Film Crew Positions & Roles
Film crew production teams are large, coordinated groups that consist of several different film crew members responsible for various roles on and off the set.
When working anywhere in video production, one of the most challenging tasks early on is understanding the film crew hierarchy and related film crew positions and roles each member on set is responsible for.
Who is in charge?
How can you possibly know who is in charge of who, or what film crew position is responsible for what, if you don’t thoroughly understand the film crew hierarchy and how it works?
While film crew roles can vary slightly based on the size of the crew and the individual needs of the production, it’s important to have at least a starting knowledge of the entire film crew and what they’re responsible for while they are working on or off the film set.
Below is a breakdown of the film crew hierarchy including a list of roles and responsibilities that each member is in charge of.
Above the Line Film Crew Positions
Several film crew positions are considered above the line. This means that they are highly important positions that, without them, the film could not be produced.
Basically, above the line film crew roles are included on a separate budget as these individuals have major authority on the set.
Often behind the financing of the film, the EP takes a step back when it comes to the day-to-day creative activities related to the production. For business videos, the Executive Producer is often the CEO of the business.
Brought into the film crew by the EP, this individual make sure the film is produced correctly and to the standards of the EP. The producer is responsible for the film budget and much of the logistics pertaining to production similar to a project manager.
This is the film crew role that is responsible for telling the story through the film. The director writes the shot list, defines the look and feel of the film, and is fully responsible for setting the overall creative guidelines of the film production.
Of all film crew positions and responsibilities, the screenwriter role is one of the most talented upfront. Screenwriters work with the production team to write the script or narration for a film. In interviews or smaller videos, the screenwriter may produce the questions that you ask of the talent.
These are the actors and actresses that make up the on-screen workers for the film. Talent can be as simple as your CEO or office worker that is being filmed for an interview about a business or as complex as a movie star such as Philip Seymour Hoffman. The talent you use can literally determine how memorable your film is.
Below the Line Film Crew Positions
Film crew positions that are expendable and could be changed or replaced without major changes or loss for the production are called below the line positions.
Below the line film crew positions are typically hired after a formal budget has been prepared for the film and production has been approved with a plan for moving forward.
Below the Line budgeting can vary greatly depending on the film itself. Below the line members of the film crew are often brought in only for brief periods to handle day-to-day responsibilities and may only work on a phase or two of the production before moving on.
These Below the Line members of the film crew hierarchy include:
● Line Producer
● Associated Producer
● Production Manager
● Assistant Director
● Director of Photography
● Camera Operator
● Camera Assistant
● Art Director
● Boom Operator
● Production Sound Mixer
These film crew hierarchy positions make up the crew that you see on movie sets, small studio based films and productions both large and small taking place worldwide.
Film crew positions that function to help handle budget or logging expenses are sometimes called Line Producers. The line producer may not be needed on small budget films but you can almost guarantee they are found on movies and feature film productions.
The associated producer works with the line producers to ensure financing, an actor or location is available in order for the production to take place. They work up the chain of command and are tasked with various responsibilities throughout the production process.
Production managers are responsible for physical aspects relative to the production with the exception of creative works.
Production managers make sure that logistics such as gear and equipment arrive on time and in working manner and that the production budget is properly distributed.
The film crew positions that focus on running the day-to-day management tasks associated with the film production include the Assistant Director and his or her crew.
Assistant Directors manage the shoot schedule and make sure that the crew is prepared to shoot on tack as well as that background actors are ready if talent is out sick or otherwise unscheduled for the day.
Director of Photography
The DP or Cinematographer are two other ways of referring to the director of photography role that works on the film set. These individuals handle lighting decisions and help with things like camera angles, shots and lens choice to make the production exactly what the director intends.
DPs work closely with others on the film set and help in providing insight into camera use, which camera systems are preferable for the film and what steps the team should take to capture the best shots.
Camera operators work with the DP on large productions to ensure the camera is set, moved, and operated properly to capture shots exactly how they are intended. In small budget productions there may not be a “camera operator” and a “director of photography.” In these cases, both the DP and camera operator are the same individual.
Film crew positions that are dedicated to helping the camera operator choose the right lens for the shot or make sure batteries are charged and the camera has plenty of storage are generally referred to as the camera assistant.
Camera assistants can also perform routine checks to ensure everything is in working order and that everything is put back when the shoot is over.
Responsible for the lighting on set, Gaffers will place lights, flags, nets, diffusion or a wide range of equipment on set to ensure perfect light coverage for the film. The gaffer works closely with Grips to ensure the production is exactly what the DP expects.
The electrician makes sure that everyone on the set has power to operate. Without power, there are no lights, cameras or action! Electricians are one of several film crew positions that can vary with the budget of the production.
Large scale productions will sometimes have several electricians working together whereas a smaller production may have one or none.
The Art Director works with the production designer as well as other members of the art department such as the set designer. This individual is responsible for making sure that the director’s creative vision is carried out in the props, set design and other elements of the film.
The individual holding the microphone on a pole to capture sound is the boom operator. This is one of many film crew positions that strives to get as close to the talent and actions on set as possible. Boom operators work for the sound department.
Production Sound Mixer
This individual is responsible for taking all of the different audio inputs from the film set and putting them together on flash media cards. The production sound mixer makes sure that mics are placed on actors or nearby props and that the audio levels are ideal for each.
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