What is a Film Loader, and what’s Their Job on Set?
The Film loader is also often referred to as the Clapper Loader or the 2nd Assistant Cameraman. This role is responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the camera department. They are referred to as the film loader because they work to ensure that loading and unloading film magazines takes place precisely when necessary for film production to continue uninterrupted.
These individuals must safely load and unload film several times a day during the production without risking interruption or danger to camera operators, themselves, or others on the set.
This is a big responsibility that also requires the safe monitoring and testing of pre production expendables such as camera tape, black bags, camera report sheets, etc.
These individual also work to prep the camera package under the close direction of the 1st assistant cameraman or focus puller.
Film Loader Responsibilities
The film loader must load and unload film magazines as directed, prior to them interrupting production in any capacity.
They are also responsible for various duties on set such as marking the stage floor with chalk to designate where talent should stand or place feet, and they are responsible for clapping hinged boards together to designate the beginning of the scene.
Film loaders ensure that film, digital cards or whatever medium the film footage is shooting with is in place for the production to continue on schedule.
The film loader was historically responsible for putting film into camera magazines, but in today’s digital production world, this job may represent more working with SD cards and other forms of digital media.
Film Loaders used to go into a dark room, open cameras and stock film. They had to be experts in operating the camera film magazine as they would do so very much in the dark. They would then give the loaded magazine to the 2nd assistant camera who would put it into the working camera.
When the film reel was finished, the film loader would take the completed footage back to the dark room or tent, remove the film and put footage back into a light-tight container to be labeled and transported to the development lab for further production.
Today’s film loaders are mostly digital. They work with memory cards and film sock to provide support to the camera crew. Film loaders manage inventory and backup digital film footage alongside the digital imaging technician.
The position is not as common today as it once was because managing memory cards is significantly easier than managing film loading once was.
Film Loader Skills
The film loader works closely with other members on the set including the camera crew and the digital imaging technician. This individual must have strong communication skills and advanced technical skills in order to properly ensure backing up of digital data and footage.
Additional skills include:
- Ability to work well under pressure.
- Strong working knowledge of cameras and production tasks.
- Ability to communicate well with others.
- Verbal strength.
- Technical skills.
- Motivation to succeed.
- Strong organizational skills.
- Precise attention to detail.