A film is composed of many people working together to bring an idea to life. Each crew member has a specific position within a specific department to ensure that the production runs efficiently. This article will break down each film crew department and position while also highlighting their general responsibilities.
An in-depth understanding of these film crew positions will be helpful when you create a film crew list during pre-production. In its most basic form, this document contains each crew member’s name, position, and contact information so that the production team can keep track of the people on set each day.
If you are interested in creating a crew list for your next production, you can use our fully customizable, cloud based crew list template from Assemble below.
How are film crews organized?
Film crews can be separated into three categories: Above the line, below the line, and post-production.
Above the line crew members are the key creatives invested in the production. They are at the top of the film crew hierarchy, and some of them are involved from development to delivery. Below the line crew members are mainly involved during the production phase of a project. Finally, the post-production crew is responsible for assembling the film after the production phase is complete.
Let’s look at these categories and the different film crew positions within them.
Above the Line Crew
An executive producer Is most commonly the financier of a project. Their financial contribution makes up the production budget, and they are not typically involved in the day-to-day operations. However, a financial stake is not always required. Some actors, producers, or celebrities will be given executive producer credits just for attaching their names to a project.
The director is the key creative responsible for the production. Their vision and decisions dictate the project’s story, tone, genre, mood, and so on. On set, they are at the top of the hierarchy, and their name is tied to the project. Imagine directors as the quarterback of a film crew, the most important creative person on the list.
Producers oversee the production from start to finish. They are involved in every phase, and the role comes with various logistical and creative responsibilities. Producers must balance the line between the business and creative aspects of content creation. In certain productions, producers will have more authority and decision-making power than the director.
Key cast refers to the actors and actresses of a production. This can include both the principal and supporting cast. The key cast is usually attached to a project during the development or pre-production phase.
The screenwriter is primarily responsible for writing the project’s script. In the film world, writers are hired by a producer to write a specific script, or they can write a script and sell the rights to a producer. They are only involved during the development phase and are not required to be on set. However, in the world of television, a screenwriter is one of the most important roles and carries a lot of responsibility and power. Usually, a head writer will also double as the showrunner or producer of the entire series.
The casting director works closely with the director and producer to find and select the cast. They facilitate the audition process between the key creatives and actors. Generally, the casting director’s involvement is over once they have attached actors or actresses to a project. Sometimes, they might also be utilized to cast the extras and background actors.
Below the Line Crew
Assistant Directors Department
1st Assistant Director
The 1st AD creates the shooting schedule and ensures that all departments complete their tasks on time. The role requires involvement during pre-production and production. The 1st AD’s job is to anticipate delays and update the schedule accordingly. Their goal is to avoid delays and keep the crew motivated.
2nd Assistant Director
A 2nd AD works directly under the 1st AD. They are responsible for creating and distributing the daily call sheets. On set, the 2nd AD’s job is to ensure that talent goes through makeup and wardrobe on time to keep the day’s schedule running smoothly.
2nd 2nd AD
This is often a role only seen in high-budget productions consisting of many moving parts. They operate as an assistant to the 1st and 2nd AD.
The line producer works directly with the producer to manage the day-to-day operations of the production. They create budgets, hire crew, purchase equipment, apply for permits, and so on.
Their main responsibility is to oversee the rest of the production team and complete all the logistical planning required to begin production.
Unit Production Manager (UPM)
The UPM is the manager of all the crew members in any given production. They are primarily responsible for budgeting, purchasing, and anything cost-related. The UPM also hires crew and ensures all their needs are met. In terms of the hierarchy, the unit production manager reports to the line producer.
Production coordinators liaise between the production department and the rest of the crew. The job also requires handling paperwork. Production coordinators will hire assistant production coordinators to help with the job on larger productions.
Assistant to Producer
The Assistant to Producer works directly under the producer to ensure their personal and professional needs are addressed. This job includes a range of tasks such as making travel arrangements, scheduling phone calls, organizing meals, and more.
The location manager is in charge of finding locations. They serve as the primary point of contact between the location’s owner and the production. During pre-production, they must obtain rental agreements and film permits for all the locations.
The accountant keeps track of the production’s finances and records expenses. They work directly with the UPM and line producer to ensure that the production does not go over budget.
Production Assistants (PA)
PAs work to support the production in any way possible. The role itself is administrative in nature, but they are required to be flexible. Their responsibilities can range from delivering scripts to picking up coffee. On larger productions, PAs report to a Key PA, who assigns tasks as instructed by the production or assistant directors department.
This role is only applicable to larger studio productions. An office PA works out of the studio’s office, handling paperwork and other clerical duties. They work at the behest of the production department personnel.
The script supervisor maintains continuity during the production process. This involves ensuring that the props, wardrobe, and makeup stay consistent. While shooting each take, script supervisors also watch for the actor’s positioning and blocking. This is an essential job as a lapse in continuity will create issues during post-production, requiring expensive re-shoots.
Director of Photography (DP)
The DP, also known as the cinematographer, creates the film’s visual look. They work closely with the director to sculpt each shot of the film. Apart from the camera crew, they are also responsible for the grip and electric departments.
The 1st AC is in charge of the camera itself. At the start of the day, they will build the camera and plug in the settings as instructed by the DP. During each take, they must pull focus, ensuring that the shots are not blurry as the camera moves.
The 2nd AC can often be seen holding the clapperboard as that is their primary task on set. They must update the content of the clapper board before each shot and ensure that the camera log or camera report is filled out accurately. When needed, they are also in charge of swapping lenses between shots.
While the DP frames the shot, the camera operator controls the camera itself. Most large-scale film or TV productions have multiple operators reporting directly to the cinematographer. On low-budget shoots, the DP takes on the role of a camera operator.
If the project is shot on a film camera, the loader is responsible for inserting the physical rolls of film stock into the camera before shooting. If the project is being shot on a digital camera, they are responsible for the memory cards and ensuring no footage is lost.
Digital Imaging Technician (DIT)
The DIT transfers the footage from the memory cards to a virtual or physical hard drive. Other duties include real-time color correction and facilitating data transfer between production and post-production.
2nd Unit Department
2nd Unit Director
To maximize efficiency, Hollywood productions will sometimes hire a 2nd unit to film certain shots that don't require the main cast and crew. A 2nd unit director will lead this crew that is responsible for filming action sequences, establishing shots, inserts, and cutaways. Even though they work separately, the 2nd unit director must have a close relationship with the primary director to mimic their style as they capture footage.
2nd Unit DP
The 2nd unit of a film crew is primarily made up of a separate camera crew. The main camera crew will shoot the critical shots while the 2nd unit films action sequences, inserts, establishing shots, and cutaways. The 2nd unit DP will work directly under the 2nd unit director and manage their own camera crew.
The gaffer works closely with the cinematographer to create the lighting setup for every shot filmed. They must collaborate during pre-production to create the lighting setups and execute them during production.
Best Boy Electrician
The best boy electrician is the gaffer’s right-hand man or woman, helping set up the lights before every take. They are also responsible for maintaining the lighting equipment and must conduct inventory checks at the start and end of every shoot day.
Electricians are responsible for setting up the lighting equipment and laying down cables to power the lights. On most productions, the gaffer will not set up the lights themselves and will instruct the electricians on the location of each light unit.
A generator is required if the production is filming off the grid with no power sources. A generator operator maintains the generator on set to ensure its safe and efficient operation.
The key grip works under the cinematographer and in tandem with the gaffer to install the camera and lighting setups. The grip department is responsible for the heavy equipment, such as the stands, dolly tracks, sandbags, and more used on a film set.
Best Boy Grip
The best boy grip works directly under the key grip in a similar capacity to the best boy electrician. They are in charge of maintaining the grip equipment and must complete daily inventory checks.
If a shot calls for the use of a dolly, a dolly grip is called on to help execute the shot. They lay down the dolly tracks and make sure it is leveled. During the take, they are responsible for pushing and pulling the dolly.
Grips do the physical labor or rigging the lights and other equipment. They work directly underneath the key grip and best boy grip. If any grip-related equipment, such as a light stand, sandbag, or frame, needs to be moved, grips are the go-to personnel.
The sound mixer controls the audio mixer on set to capture audio. During production, they oversee the recording of all dialog and sound effects. They primarily monitor the levels on the audio mixer to ensure that the recorded audio is of high quality.
The boom operator holds the boom pole and mic, which transmits audio to the sound mixer’s machine. This is a physically intensive job as they must hold the boom pole still during each take to capture clean sound.
A sound utility technician helps the sound mixer and boom operator. They are a jack of all trades, and some of their responsibilities include maintaining equipment, wrangling cables, and micing up talent.
The production designer works with the director and producer to create the world of the film. They create the look of the locations in which the filming takes place. A production designer oversees the art department, so their job involves hiring and delegating tasks to various art department members.
Art directors manage the day-to-day activities of the art department, ensuring everyone completes their assignments on time. They are second in the chain of command. While a production designer focuses on the creative elements, the art director manages the logistical aspects of constructing the world of the film.
The set decorator curates props, furniture, and other items to create the look described by the director and production designer. On set, they are responsible for placing and arranging these items.
On larger sets, the set dresser assists the set decorator in their duties. If needed, directors will call on the set dressers to make minor adjustments before going for a take.
The prop master scouts, rents, and transports the props for the art department. They create prop lists and complete inventory checks to ensure that no props are damaged or lost. On big-budget productions, prop masters will also create specific props called for by the script.
This is a crucial role associated with the use of weapons on set. To ensure safety standards are met, you must hire a weapons wrangler with knowledge of the weapons to handle them properly. This individual is responsible for maintaining, transporting, and storing weapons on set.
A greensman works with natural elements such as plants and trees on set. Their job consists of curating, nurturing, and positioning greenery that will be seen on camera.
Makeup and Hair
Key Makeup Artist
The make-up artist creates an actor’s physical appearance. They apply makeup to the talent as per the director’s creative input. On larger-scale productions, a key makeup artist is in charge of running the makeup department, which consists of several makeup assistants.
Key Hair Stylist
The key hair stylist works with the makeup artist and also contributes to an actor’s overall look. Hair stylists are vital for period pieces as the hairstyle is one of the ways to highlight the period quickly. Like makeup artists, key hair stylists can have multiple assistants on large-scale productions.
SFX Makeup Artist
Special effects makeup artists are responsible for creating non-traditional looks that transform an actor’s appearance. Their work can range from creating facial prosthetics to creating realistic stab wounds.
The wardrobe supervisor is responsible for everything costume-related. They work with the director during pre-production to select or design the costumes. During production, they must assign and maintain these costumes over a number of days. Large-scale productions with extras will hire wardrobe assistants to oversee the costuming process.
Depending on the scale of the production, directors will enlist a costume designer to create a specific outfit for the characters in the film. Costume designers are common in genres such as westerns, sci-fi, or fantasy films.
The costumer is an on-set job. They fit the talent with clothes and make any minor adjustments. During filming, actors might tear or ruin their costumes, so the costumer is always on standby to fix the clothes and maintain continuity.
Stunts and Special Effects
The special effects coordinator is in charge of planning and execution of practical effects on set. This includes fire-based effects and weather effects such as snow, rain, and wind. Special effects coordinators are certified to work with the heavy machinery required to create these special effects.
Pyrotechnicians are individuals authorized to create fire-related effects such as fireworks, bonfires, explosions, and more. They work closely with the SFX coordinators to ensure the safe execution of pyrotechnic equipment. To work as a pyrotechnician, individuals must complete a course with a local governing body such as the fire department.
The stunt coordinator works closely with the director to create the movement of each stunt performer during action sequences. Sometimes, stunt coordinators can double as stunt performers, as they have years of experience within the industry.
The armorer is an expert who collaborates with the weapons wrangler to ensure the safe use of mechanical weapons such as guns on set. With the example of guns, they load the blank rounds and demonstrate the safe use of the firearm to actors.
On large-scale productions, the transport coordinator ensures that both crew and equipment are where they need to be. They work with the production department to create schedules and hire drivers.
Drivers are responsible for transporting crew and equipment. Some subcategories include grip truck driver, camera truck driver, crew van driver, and so on. As some grip and camera trucks are larger, drivers must be certified to operate these heavy vehicles.
Caterers provide the crew with meals during the designated meal breaks during a shoot day.
The craft services team ensures that snacks and drinks are available to the crew throughout the shoot day. This is very important because the crew’s on-set performance improves if they are well-fed and cared for.
On larger studio productions, a unit publicist promotes the film to the general public. They facilitate interviews, newspaper articles, and more to create buzz surrounding the film’s production and eventual release.
The photographer captures behind-the-scenes or promotional images. The unit publicist later uses these images to market the film’s release.
Post Production Supervisor
A post-production supervisor oversees the whole post-production process. They are the point person who contacts and hires all the post-production crew. They work closely with the director and producers to create a post-production schedule and ensure that each stage is completed on time and as requested.
The editor assembles and curates the uncut footage into a cohesive film. They work closely with the director to cut the raw footage into a final product that conveys the director’s vision.
The assistant editor works under the editor to assemble and organize all the footage before the editor begins their work. Assistant editors are also in charge of preparing the final timeline of the edit for the quality control and export process.
The visual effects supervisor oversees the digital effects added to the footage during post-production. As VFX shots need to be filmed in a particular way, VFX supervisors are often required to be present on set. During post-production, they manage a team of VFX artists and oversee the VFX workflow from start to finish.
A VFX artist does the work to digitally manipulate the footage to create the director’s intended effect. There are many specialties in the world of visual effects. For example, some are experts at creating backgrounds, while others specialize in creating digital characters.
The colorist is responsible for the film’s overall look and color scheme. They manipulate the color tones of the footage to create a specific look that can convey the scene's mood.
Once the final cut of a film is locked, the sound designer creates the sonic atmosphere that underpins the film. This includes creating sound effects, adding dialog, and a final mix. The final mix ensures that the sound levels are even and cohesive. On bigger productions, sound designers employ various individuals, such as foley artists, background sound designers, and more.
If your film contains commercially released music, a music supervisor is responsible for locating and securing the rights to use the songs. They usually work with an entertainment lawyer, who negotiates the fees and agreements to use the music in a video.
For films with big budgets, directors may want original music specifically created to match the film's tone. In these situations, they hire a composer to create an original soundtrack. Composers write the music and hire musicians to play the songs. Then, they will curate each section to create an entire soundtrack for the film.
This article provides a basic overview of film crew positions. For a more in-depth look at each department and its chain of command, refer to Assemble’s Definitive Film Crew Hierarchy Chart.
If you want to get started on building your own crew list, use Assemble’s free-to-use, fully customizable, cloud-based crew list template.