Saturday, December 30, 2017


I believe it would be a reasonable assumption for me to say that many of you go to the cinema. That some of you may be aspiring movie critics or even be addicts of the celluloid art.

But how many of you stay till the final credits naming all those involved with the production has faded to black?

Not many, is a fair answer.

Yet every name listed on those credits gave their, perhaps menial talent, to the creation that you have just viewed.

Have you ever wondered what the 2nd unit 3rd assistant director or the SF make-up artist did? Or how the caterer got lunch to the whole crew and artists on the lower Alpine slopes in that James Bond chase?

I'll attempt to answer some of those questions.

The production of a movie is very similar to the mounting of a military campaign. The key word in both ventures is "Planning".

Let us assume that money has been raised and our movie has three executive producers, who have hired a director and secured the involvement of 2 "Box-Office" names to play the leading male and female characters. They have also got a guarantee to distribution of the finished product.

This latter requirement ensures that the public will see the film in a cinema and may also include DVD and television clauses.

This was the genius of George Lucas when he started work on the first Star Wars film. He made sure he controlled everything. Production, distribution and marketing, even of the spin-of industries which included games, T-shirts, and toys.

A stroke of genius.

However, in most movies most of the profits go to the distributor. The producers are next on the list, followed by possibly the director, depending on the clauses in his contract.

The crew and actors will see nothing, unless they have negotiated like Alec Guinness when he appeared as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars movie, where he asked for a small 2% of the gross takings paid to George Lucas.
His estate to this day has earned approximately $95 million, and poor old James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader made only $7000!!

A similar story can be seen in the phonemically successful film "The Full Monty".

The actors in this film only received a paltry amount of the film's massive takings of $250 million from a production budget of $3.5 million.

I apologize for the above diversion into the financial shenanigans of the movie industry.

I move back to my opening statement.

Who or what is Grip or Gaffer?

And who is the "Foleys Artist"?

Foley, the name, came from the first artist to add sound effects to a movie in post-production, a Mr Jack Donovan Foley. He did this in the Universal Pictures production of "The Jazz Singer" way back in 1915. He continued as a Foley Artist till his death in 1967.

I too, have worked as a Foley artist on a couple of feature films, treading on old disused quarter inch recording tape to sound like footsteps on grass, I’ve even opened and closed a few doors and once, using an effect I picked up in a radio studio way back in the seventies, chopped through a cabbage with an axe to replicate a beheading! Experience in the field of radio or as it was known, wireless, is a great advantage should you wish to pursue this career.

A Grip and a Gaffer are highly intricate jobs and a clear understanding of weights and balances along with a firm understanding on how to tie a good knot using either rope or plastic will stand you in good stead.
Their job is to rig up a camera in sometimes what seems to be an impossible location, under a car, on top of a car, inside a car, half way down a perpendicular cliff face, and even under water. The latter requires a highly specialized Grip who can swim, dive and sometimes snorkel.

A Greensman?

Go on have a guess.

Well he or she works on the “set” and is part of the set dressing department, which oversees the decorating of a film set, which includes the furnishings and all the other objects that will be seen in the film. They work closely with the production designer and coordinate with the art director and should an Academy Award be given, it is given jointly to both the production designer and the set decorator.

Now if any greenery is required i.e.: flowers plants, or even trees in steps the Greensman. He or she is a specialised set dresser dealing with the artistic arrangement or landscape design of plant material, sometimes real and sometimes artificial, and usually a combination of both. Depending on the scope of the greens work in a film, the greensman may report to the art director or may report directly to the production designer.

If say the location is a nursery, this department can move into double figures with a Greensmaster, greens supervisor, a foreperson, a leading hand, and several labourers.

Another department with numerous worker and a hierarchical structure is the costume department.

First there is the costume designer, who is responsible for all the clothing and costumes worn by all the actors that appear on screen. He or she will discuss with the production designer to achieve an overall tone of the film.

Once they have interpreted the various characters appearing and decided on the “look” they will have, in steps the costume buyer or Cutter, they may be called a fitter, a seamstress or a tailor. Some celebrity actors have favorite cutters, and larger productions may hire several and have them on set at the same time, particularly in period film projects that might have complicated or expensive extras wardrobe.

If a Hollywood star is in the film often a “key costumer” is employed on larger productions to manage the set costumers, and to handle the star's personal wardrobe needs.

A Costume standby person is present on set always. It is his/her responsibility to monitor the quality and continuity of the actors and actresses costumes before and during takes. He or she will also assist the actors and actresses with dressing.

I could go on and on through all the departments involved on a production, but suffice to say, on a large scale international well financed production the list of technicians involved could be over three hundred possibly four or five if modern green screen technology is used, and a lot of computer graphics are required in post-production.

So, apart from their names on that endless list that comes at the end of the movie, that hardly any of you stay behind and watch, what else do these poor technicians have?

Well, they certainly have a longer and a more secure life than your jobbing actor! Because work is almost always on offer in documentaries, animation movies, news reporting, TV series and soaps, and Commercials which are highly paid.

And finally, there is of course “The Wrap Party”!

Always a festive occasion which is paid for by The Producer/Producers who are always the guys who pocket the rewards


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