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Filming the Scene (the Shoot)

The day of the shoot, you walk onto the sound stage (or location) prepared to begin filming. The set has been constructed prior to your arrival by the «swing gang.» You’ll be working with a diverse crew of people to get your scene done, each of whom has an important role in the making of the movie.
  • The cinematographer (or director of photography) is responsible for the lighting, choice of film, correct exposure, correct use of lenses, and supervision of the camera crew.
  • The mixer is responsible recording the sound. Other sounds are added during post-production by foley artists.
  • The gaffer is responsible for making sure all the lighting equipment is where it should be and operating correctly. The gaffer sets the lights so that the finished picture will have the desired effect.
  • The key grip is responsible for the rigging (carpentry) and for moving and readying the sets and camera dollies.
  • The set dresser decorates the set.
  • The property master ensures the sets and actors have all the necessary dressing and props.
  • The wardrobe master is responsible for all wardrobe needs.
  • The make up person is responsible for all makeup.
  • The assistant director keeps order on the set and makes sure the production moves according to schedule. Normally hired by the producer, the assistant director aids the director but also watches over the production company’s investment. Sometimes this involves prodding the director to finish the shots planned for a particular day, or hunting down actors if they are not where they should be on the set. The assistant director also functions as a record keeper and handles time cards and minor union disputes.

You are told exactly where to stand and where to move. Every time you stop someone places a piece of tape on the floor. The camera follows you slowly. You rehearse the scene on the director’s command. Once. Twice. Then the director says, «Let’s go for a take.» You are about to be filmed for the very first time in your life.

The assistant director yells, «Quiet on the set!» The actor who appears in this scene with you (playing the role of Grubowski) moves to his position. He stares into the fire as the cinematographer instructs the cameraman to take a medium shot.

«Roll it,» says the assistant director. Someone says, «Rolling.» «Speed,» says someone else. «Thirty-five, take one.»
An assistant holds a slate in front of the actor’s face and snaps it shut. This «clacker» will later aid the film editor in synchronizing the picture to the sound. «Action!» commands the director.

Seconds later, the director calls out, «Cut. Do it again.» The process is repeated until the director yells, «Cut. Print it.» The makeup person moves into the scene and adjusts the actor’s makeup. The director now wants a close-up shot and the cameraman films several takes until the director is satisfied with each one.

Finally, it’s your turn for a close-up. You know that the camera and microphone will be within a few feet of you, so you’ll need to communicate ideas and emotions at a very close range.

«Action!» You enter the room clutching a tea mug, your hand trembling as you imagine Emily’s might. You’re careful to «hit your mark» and stop exactly where the tape was placed on the floor earlier in the day. «Cut,» the director says, and tells you to do it again. Finally, he calls out, «That’s a wrap.»

You take a deep breath of relief. You’ve made it through your first day on a movie set. The assistant director gives you your callsheet, or your schedule, for the next day’s shooting. The crew begins to pack away the equipment for the night. The film shot that day is sent to a lab where it is processed and made into «dailies.» Dailies are film clips that are viewed after each day’s work in order to evaluate performances and spot any technical problems. They are shown to only a few people—normally, only the director, producer, and director of photography.