GLOSSARY for the film/TV industry


GLOSSARY of terms for the film/TV industry. This is a work in progress. Comments and suggestions welcomed.


A-list The very best; the highest quality. Usually describes top talent. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

above-the-line or above-the-line expenses/costs Expenses incurred before production begins, including acquisition of the story rights or a project from another company; fees paid to the creative talent: actors, directors, producers, and writer(s); and travel. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

above the title Contractual billing of an actor’s name above the film’s title. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

acquisition The purchase of distribution rights to a packaged or finished project by a production company, studio, or distributor. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

attached talent Generally, the actors, director, producer, or writer who have agreed to participate in a specific project prior to it being sold. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

action 1) The command given by the director, or another, to begin shooting a take; 2) the movement and business going on within the camera’s view. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

adapt or adaptation To rewrite a story from one medium to another, such as from a book to a movie screenplay. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement) Rerecording of production dialogue on a sound stage, against picture, to replace dialogue that is unusable for reasons such as a change in words, poor sound quality, or other problems. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

aerial cinematography Film shot from a helicopter, airplane, or other airborne machine, with a camera hand-held by a cinematographer or mounted on the aircraft. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

agent The person or firm that promotes, solicits work, and negotiates contracts for an above-the-line or below-the-line talent or property. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

animator Generally, the animator is responsible for creating cartoon characters, the most common form of animation, but the process can also include silhouettes, props, and other objects. An animator determines the amount of change needed in each cel or individual frame of film to create the illusion of movement. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

apple boxes Boxes, usually constructed from wood, used to raise the height of an actor, piece of furniture, light, or prop, during a shot. In the early days of filmmaking, an actual apple box was used. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

apprentice A person who learns job functions and gains experience by working under the direction of a skilled technician. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

art department Crew members charged with creating and maintaining the visual look of the production. Individual positions include: art director, assistant art director, carpenter, draftsman, greensperson, leadman, production buyer, production designer, set decorator, set dresser, property assistant, property master, special effects supervisor, swing gang. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

atmosphere The mood or emotional tone of a scene as communicated by lighting, music, camera angles, and so on. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

Avid Brand name of the Macintosh computer-based nonlinear digital film editing system. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

B-roll Secondary background footage that will be cut into the film’s primary story line to help establish atmosphere, location, and so on. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

back end Percentages and fees paid to individuals or companies after a production has turned a profit. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

back lot An out-of-the-way area of studio property where permanent outdoor settings or “streets” are erected, each depicting a different geographical location or time, whose look can be altered as needed. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

below-the-line or below-the-line expenses/costs Budgeted expenses assigned to crew and production costs such as art department, camera, electrical, film and film processing, hair dressing, location fees, makeup, music licensing and recording, production staff, props, retakes, set construction, set dressing, sound recording, special effects, studio rental, transportation, visual effects, and wardrobe. Those fees not associated with above-the-line expenses. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

bible The compilation of all information pertaining to story lines and locations, and the complete history of each character. Used as a reference guide to maintain continuity and consistency from one episode to the next in an ongoing film or television series. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

billing The ranking of actors’ names in credits, advertising, and so on. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

blocking The planned movement or position of the performers and cameras for a shot. “Marks” are taped to the floor or “chalked” to ensure accuracy and consistency. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

blue screen A blue backdrop against which an actor is filmed, which will be digitally replaced with background footage in postproduction. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

boom The pole that holds the microphone above the performers’ heads and out of the shot, so the sound mixer can record their dialogue. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

breakdown The process of analyzing a script to discover critical information needed by each department. For example, a shot-by-shot description of action to be photographed; specific props called for in the script; costume changes for each character; and visual effects to be created. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

callback Any additional interview(s) or reading(s) with an actor after the initial audition. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

call sheet Daily schedule of times for actors and crew to report to the set. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

camera package All equipment related to the camera used on a shoot. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

cast 1) The actors in a production; 2) The process of selecting actors to portray characters in a production. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

CG Computer generated. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

clip A short excerpt of film footage used for promotional purposes. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

continuity The consistency of dialogue, physical movement, clothing, hairstyles, makeup, furniture, props, and other elements, within a shot or scene. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

coverage The filming of a scene with multiple cameras and camera angles to provide sufficient choice of footage for later editing. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

crane A piece of heavy equipment with a mobile arm upon which the camera is mounted, enabling sweeping camera movement and high angle shots. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

credits The names and titles of cast and crew involved with a production. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

cutting The process of selecting, editing, and splicing film footage together. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

dailies Footage from the previous day’s shoot, screened at the end of the workday. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

day player A day player is a performer or crew member hired on a daily basis. For instance, a production might be shooting an outdoor scene with hundreds of extras, and hire a day player in the wardrobe department or grip department to assist with the added volume of work. Serving as a day player is a good way to get on set, learn how things operate, and make contacts for future jobs. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

deal memo The legally binding preliminary outline of a contract. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

development The process of readying a screenplay to the point where filming can begin. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

digital effects Computer generated special effects. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

director’s cut The version of a film edited to the director’s specification. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

dissolve The optical effect of one shot or scene fading into the next. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

dolly A piece of wheeled equipment set on a track and upon which a camera is mounted, enabling smooth camera movement. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

dubbing The addition of sound to film footage in postproduction. See looping. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

dupe A duplicate copy of a negative made from the original negative. See print. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

effects Sounds or images created to heighten the action or mood of a scene. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

electronic press kit (EPK) Videotaped cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes footage used to generate free publicity from the media. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

episodic television An ongoing weekly television series. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

extras Background actors with nonspeaking parts. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

feature A full-length motion picture. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

film commission Organizations set up to invite and assist filming within a particular city, state, or country. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

film stock The unexposed material used to capture photographic images. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

final cut The edited version of a film that is released to theaters. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

financier The organization or individual(s) who provide the funding for a production. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

first-look deal An arrangement whereby a studio pays a production company’s overhead costs in return for the first option on their product. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

flag A cloth or metal covering used to soften a light’s effect. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

foley The postproduction process of adding sound effects to match the action taking place on-screen. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

footage Exposed film containing a photographic image. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

green light A project approved for production is said to have been given the “green light.” . [Source: StateUniversity.com]

gofer The lowest level production assistant, often unpaid, who performs menial tasks and errands. Literally, to “go for.” See runner. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

guild An organization set up to protect the rights of and set the standards for its member craftsmen. See union. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

honey wagon The chain of personal trailers, dressing rooms, and portable toilets brought to a location shoot. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

independent film, indie A film produced without the funding or input of a major studio. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

in the can A production that has finished shooting, but is not yet edited for release. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

the industry or the biz The motion picture industry, in general. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

infomercial Television advertising presented in the format of regular programming. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

literary A category term for writers, directors, and some producers. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

location The setting where a scene is filmed, which is usually pre-existing and away from the studio or soundstage. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

looping The postproduction recording and replacement of actor dialogue within filmed footage. See dubbing. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

made-for-video or direct-to-video A full-length feature made specifically for the video market, rather than for theatrical release. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

mail room The department of an agency or studio responsible for sorting and delivering incoming mail. The entry-level training ground for future agents and studio executives. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

marketing campaign The planned promotion and publicity of an upcoming film. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

material A category term for screenplays and manuscripts. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

matte painting A painted background inserted into the filmed footage during postproduction. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

merchandising Licensed products whose design is based on a film or television show. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

mix The compilation of various sound tracks into one. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

montage A rapid sequence of filmed images used to suggest the passage of time. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

networking Social contacts made within an industry with the aim of advancing one’s career. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

nonpro An individual who does not work in the film industry. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

notes A brief written notation of inconsistencies or problems in a screenplay or during filming that need to be addressed and fixed. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

novelization A fictional literary work based upon a film or screenplay. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

on location Filming that takes place away from the studio or soundstage. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

on set The immediate area where a scene is filmed. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

one-sheet A standard size movie advertising poster, usually about 2 × 3 feet. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

opening The debut of a film to general release. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

option A deal to pay a deposit toward the potential future purchase of a project. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

overhead The cost of operating a business, including rent, equipment, salaries, utilities, and so on. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

package A term describing a script with a key cast or crew member committed to participating in its production. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

perk An additional, nonmonetary privilege given to a key cast or crew member to “sweeten” the deal. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

picked up A film or television project or series which is purchased, approved for production, or renewed is said to have been “picked up.” . [Source: StateUniversity.com]

pitch The verbal presentation of an idea or story line to those entities who might purchase it. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

point of view (POV) The subjective perception from which a story is told. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

polish A minor rewrite to refine a screenplay. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

postproduction Every process that goes into finishing a film after the principal photography is completed. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

preproduction The process of readying a project for production that occurs between the development and filming phases. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

press junket A post-screening one-on-one publicity interview marathon between the media and a production’s director and lead actors. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

press kit A publicity package of photographs, cast and crew biographies, production synopsis, and so on, sent out to the print media. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

principal photography The period of time allotted to complete filming. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

print The positive image printed from a film negative, or a duplicate copy of that image. See dupe. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

production A term describing the filmmaking process or the project itself. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

production assistant (PA) An entry level position, production assistants are generally assigned menial tasks such as making photocopies, fetching coffee and lunch, and running errands. Production assistants are attached to a department, such as camera department, costume department, the production office, art department, and so forth. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

production board A board with a series of strips representing master scenes used to visually organize the production into the actual sequence of scenes in which they will be shot. Strips vary in color to distinguish day from night shooting. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

production company A firm that develops and produces film or television projects. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

production report A daily accounting of hours worked, footage shot, and other production information used to monitor budgets and schedules. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

production sound Dialogue and ambient sound recorded during filming. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

prop Any item that is used or handled by an actor, or is otherwise identified in the script. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

publicity The generation of free media coverage and advertising. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

pulling focus The process whereby the assistant camera operator maintains consistent focus by adjusting the lens to compensate for the movement of the camera. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

query letter An unsolicited letter sent to a producer or agent to elicit interest in a writer’s product. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

reel A video résumé containing samples of a director’s, cinematographer’s, or crew member’s best work. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

rough cut The intermediate edited version of a film made subsequent to the initial assembly of footage, but prior to the refining process of the fine cut. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

runner Sometimes referred to as a production assistant, the runner’s primary function is to run errands such as picking up and delivering packages, videotape, scripts, contracts, and lunch. See gofer. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

sample A script or screenplay used as an example of a writer’s work, to obtain a writing assignment or commission. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

scene A section of a script taking place in a single location, or focused on a specific character or group of characters, that ends with the movement to another location. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

score A film’s musical sound track. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

screenplay The script for a film production. See teleplay. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

script The written story line that the director and actors work from; contains plot development, characters, dialogue, and situations. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

set The immediate area where filmed action takes place, often constructed on a soundstage. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

set up The arrangement of camera and lighting for a particular scene or shot. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

shoot The act of filming with a camera; the location where filming is taking place. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

shooting schedule A detailed listing of filming days and times, cast and crew members required, location changes, and transportation needs. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

shooting script The version of the script that has been approved for production. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

shop To present or “pitch” a project to those entities capable of financing it. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

shot A brief, unedited section of film devoted to a single item or view. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

slate The clapboard filmed at the start of each take, identifying the shot and take by number for the editor. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

sound effects Sound other than music, narration, or dialogue that is added in postproduction. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

soundstage A hangar-like building where filming takes place under controlled conditions on specially constructed sets. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

spec script A completed script that has not been contracted from a writer, that is offered for sale; literally, on speculation. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

stand-in A person who substitutes for an actor during the long process of blocking and lighting. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

Steadicam A movie camera that is mounted to the body of its operator and maneuvered by him. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

storyboard A sequence of drawings that depict the story line as a guide for filming. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

studio A company formed to acquire, finance, produce, and distribute films or television programming. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

sync; synchronization The exact matching of sound to filmed action. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

syndication Generally, describes television programming licensed for reruns after its original network contract has expired. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

take One filmed version of a particular scene. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

talent A category term for a writer, director, or actor. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

teleplay The script for a television program. See screenplay. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

time code The sequential reference code attached to each frame of film that aids the editor in cutting the footage together. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

trades Entertainment industry publications like Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

trailer A compilation of film clips taken from a soon-to-be released feature and used for promotional purposes. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

trainee An entry-level position similar to a production assistant, the difference being a trainee is generally being groomed for a specific job within a company. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

treatment The written synopsis of a screenplay, giving an overview of the characters and story line. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

turnaround The period of time between when a studio decides not to proceed with a project, and the project is resold to another buyer to recoup production costs. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

union An organization that protects the rights of and sets the standards for its members. See guild. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

union scale The minimum pay rate approved by a union for its members. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

wrap A shot, shoot, or production that is completed is said to be “wrapped.” . [Source: StateUniversity.com]

video playback The videotape that is available for immediate viewing before the film is processed. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

voiceover Narration delivered by an off-screen voice, added to the onscreen footage. [Source: StateUniversity.com]

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2 thoughts on “GLOSSARY for the film/TV industry

  1. Pingback: GLOSSARY for the film/TV industry « Michael R Barnard's Thoughts …

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