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Strange jobs in film explained

Ever wondered what a best boy does – or what kind of dolly needs a grip? Find out what some of the stranger sounding jobs in film really involve.

The actors and directors normally grab all the glory, but many different people are needed to make a film, from location teams to find somewhere to shoot to technical crew to work the equipment, not to mention accountants to make sure there’s enough money and caterers to keep everyone fed. But while you can normally guess what most people do from the end credits, there are a few more obscure job titles you might see scrolling across the screen.

Gaffers

Gaffers are electricians responsible for the lighting on sets. This involves setting up the lights to create the right atmosphere, and making sure all lighting equipment is safe. A head gaffer oversees other electricians, and their assistants are called best boys. Gaffers have to be both technical and creative, and need to be trained electricians.

Grips

Grips look after equipment needed to move cameras, such as cranes and dollys – wheeled platforms used to move cameras for tracking shots. Alongside understanding how cameras work, grips need problem-solving skills to work out how to capture complicated shots, and also have to be physically fit to set up heavy equipment in difficult conditions. You can study an NVQ course to become a grip.

Foley artists

Foley artists add background sounds to films. These might be things like clinking cutlery or footsteps that microphones might not pick up during filming, and which foley artists then recreate in a studio using props. Foley artists have to be very imaginative in thinking up ways to come up with sounds, like crushing lettuce to simulate someone getting punched. These sounds are recorded and added to the soundtrack by foley mixers and foley editors. Foley artists normally have a foundation degree or bachelor's degree in sound engineering or music.

Focus pullers

Focus pullers (sometimes called first assistant cameramen) keep cameras in focus when filming moving people or objects. They do this by placing marks around a set and changing the camera focus whenever an actor or object crosses them. Focus pullers need to be very precise to make sure these marks are accurate, and have extremely quick responses so cameras stay in focus during fast-moving scenes. Many focus pullers have a creative and media apprenticeship or a foundation degree in film production, and work experience as a runner.

Clapper loaders

Clapper loaders (sometimes called second assistant cameramen) are the people who snap the clapperboard after the director shouts ‘action!’ But there’s much more to the job than that, as the clapper loader is also responsible for loading the film into cameras, and ensuring all camera equipment is working correctly. This means clapper loaders need great technical skills and have to be extremely organised, since one mistake could waste a whole day’s filming – which is very expensive! Many focus pullers have a creative and media apprenticeship or foundation degree in film production, and work experience as a runner.

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