A Beginner’s Guide to Film Set Lingo

Posted on: Feb 01, 2024

Photo Credit: gnepphoto // Shutterstock

By Benjamin Hickson

Whether you’ve just landed your first production gig or have been in it for awhile, it can be tricky to learn the lingo. You will often hear terms like “apple boxes,” “crafty,” “gaffers,” “grips” and the mysterious “martini shot.” Walking onto a film set as a newbie can be daunting, but by the end of this article, you’ll be fluent in the language of film set pros.

Department: Crafty

Let’s start with the basics. “Crafty” is short for craft services, which is the assortment of snacks and drinks available on-set for the cast and crew. Given the long, demanding days on-set, crafty is there to keep everyone’s energy and morale high. As a production assistant, you may be responsible for stocking crafty products and ensuring it’s always full.

Accessory: Apple Boxes

Apple boxes are not part of crafty, nor are they crates of apples. These versatile tools solve various challenges on a film set. Made of wood or plastic, apple boxes can be stacked, combined or flipped to create different heights, making them indispensable for adjusting camera angles or providing seating.

Here’s a breakdown of sizes:

  • Full Apple Box: The largest standard size, often used as a seat.
  • Half Apple Box: Half the height of a full apple box, used as a step or smaller seat.
  • Quarter Apple Box: A quarter the height, typically used as a riser for props or actors.
  • Pancake: The thinnest apple box, providing minimal elevation when needed.

Equipment: C-Stand

C-stands support and position lighting equipment such as flags, scrims and reflectors. Known for their stability and adaptability, C-stands allow for precise control over lighting setups, making them invaluable to lighting technicians and cinematographers.

Department: Grip

The grip department manages the setup and maintenance of production equipment. Assisting the camera and lighting teams, grips ensure that gear is secure and positioned correctly for desired shots. If you’re asked to move equipment as a PA, it’s best to check with the grip department first.

Position: Gaffer

A gaffer is the chief of the electrical department, working closely with the grips. With a deep understanding of lighting dynamics, the gaffer collaborates with the camera department to shape each scene’s visual aesthetic.

Terms: Walkie-Etiquette

Communication on-set often happens via walkie-talkies, and knowing walkie-etiquette is key. Always respond with “copy” to acknowledge messages and keep the channel clear for essential communication. Announce “rolling” and “cut” as needed to keep everyone informed.

Equipment: Hot Brick

A “hot brick” refers to a fully charged walkie-talkie battery. As a PA, keeping a hot brick on hand ensures that communication remains uninterrupted if someone’s battery dies.

Term: Martini Shot

The “martini shot” is the last shot of the day. This term signifies the end of the workday and allows the crew to start wrapping up.

Term: OTFs

Short for “On the Fly,” OTFs are impromptu interviews typically conducted during reality TV shoots. Producers may pull talent aside to capture their in-the-moment reactions.

Term: Blocking

In the early stages of rehearsing a scene, the director arranges the actors on-set. As a PA, give them space, remain quiet and assist if needed without interrupting the process.

Term: Wrap

The term “wrap” indicates the end of a day’s filming or the completion of a scene, actor or item. It’s a word everyone looks forward to hearing.

Armed with this essential film set vocabulary, you can confidently step into your role as a PA. The industry has many unique terms, and learning them will come with time. If you’re ever unsure about a term, don’t hesitate to ask. As a PA, your job is to absorb as much knowledge as possible, so embrace the learning process and enjoy the journey!

Benjamin Hickson is an aspiring producer and production coordinator who has 4+ years experience working on various Film and TV projects. He has a background in Public Relations and served for six years in the military. He also has passion for travel and aims to increase LGBTQ+ representation in the entertainment industry.

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