When the credits role at the end of a film, and everyone starts to walk out, the huge list of names that went into the project seem endless and this gives an indication into the work involved and the important roles in filmmaking. Regardless of whether it’s a Hollywood feature or simply a corporate film, if you want to work in the film industry you need to understand the film crew hierarchy that exists on sets everywhere.
High Authority (also known as Above the Line)
Director – Working with all talent and members of the production team, the director has to be one of the most important film set roles. They are responsible for deciding on the feel and composition of the film as well as the direction the film will go.
Producer – The logistical seniority whose role is to ensure the budget is met and oversees day-to day activities, usually working under the executive producer. On larger productions, there could be specialist producers working in a variety of different areas.
Executive Producer – Usually the financer of the film who takes a step back from the logistics and for smaller projects may run the company who has commissioned the film.
Screenwriter – This is where the story, scripted lines and content for a film come from. A screenwriter deals with the script and in many cases the ambience of the film itself meaning they work with the director and producer to adapt according to the development of the film. Often, screenwriters will change lines as they go to suit the dynamic of the talent, and in some cases, writing an entirely new character in (or out.)
Talent – This embodies the assets of a film and this could be an actor, actresses or even sport personalities or influencers appearing in your film or video.
Lower Authority (also known as Below the Line)
These filmmaking job roles are commonly only hired for individual phases when the film has been given the go-ahead.
Associate Producer – Part of the production team responsible for working closely with producers and meeting their needs. They are often the authority that secures assets such as talent or funding for a film.
Assistant Director – While the director creates the vision of the film, the assistant director handles the physical logistics such as scheduling, organising crew and extras, as well as the key day-to-day activities on set.
Production Manager – The non-creative side of production such as physical logistics of equipment and gear is up to the production manager.
Line Producer – Logs the finances ensuring expenditure is under control and focuses on the budget, although with smaller projects this role tends to be expanded to combine with the production manager.
Cinematographer (or Director of Photography) – The lighting, colour, shape, mood, atmosphere and camera choices are all helped by the director of photography and this is where a filmmaking degree comes in handy. On smaller films, they will also double up as the camera operator.
Grip – Building lighting rigs, accessories and dolly tracks while working in conjunction with the gaffer. On large productions, there will be many grips reporting in seniority to the key grip.
Camera Operator – Just as it sounds, operating the camera
Assistant Camera Operator – Helps with preparing and ensuring the equipment is ready to use, for example batteries charged, memory cards in place, building the camera or stabilizing and during shooting, changing lenses.
Gaffer – The controller of lighting who works closely with the cinematographer while also managing the electricians and grips.
As you can see, it takes a village to create the stunning results we see in film today and everyone has their role to play. This is not an exhaustive list as you still have to consider sound, electricians, DITs or art directors but hopefully this has given you clearer insight in the film crew options your students can pursue in their careers and an excellent starting point.