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Film Facts

    Did You Know?
  • DROP PICKUP – A contractual situation where the performer is dropped and then re-hired on the same production.

  • TURNAROUND – A state of limbo that a movie enters after a studio decides to drop it. In turnaround, the producers have a chance to set the project up with another studio or with different talent.

  • WALLA (aka: Rhubarb) – Background conversation. Historically, when a script called for "crowd unrest" or "murmuring", the extras would be required to mumble the word "rhubarb", as this produced the required effect.

  • COOKIE – A flag-like filter held on a c-stand to give the appearance of shadows from leaves.

  • C-47 (see forty seven) – clothespins, used to attach gels to lights. Wood is used because it doesn't heat up and doesn't melt. C-47 is given as technical name so that when you order 500 dollars worth of clothespins you don't look ridiculous.

  • HONEYWAGON – Usually a trailer, or truck and trailer combination outfitted for and used as the dressing room for actors when on location shoots away from permanent soundstages.

  • MOS – A shot done without any sound recorded. Why MOS? No one's exactly sure. The most popular explanation is that it's an abbreviation of "mit-out sound", which is how the German directors in the early Hollywood era would say "without sound". Other explanations are "microphone off set" and "minus optical sound", but frankly, none of them really make sense. A true Hollywood mystery.

  • ELS – Extremely Long Shot.

  • ESTABLISHING SHOT – he first shot of a new scene, that introduces the audience to the space in which the forthcoming scene will take place.

  • GAG – Not a joke, but any bit of film trickery or special stunt. For instance, if you're doing a war scene and you need a soldier to run by and get an arm blown off, that effect might be called an "arm gag" if you're doing the gag practically, rather than with CGI.

  • GOING AGAIN – When the director wants another take right away, the AD will announce "going again" to the crew to avoid any disruptions. After six takes or so, this phrase can begin to take on a certain bemused twang.

  • MAGIC HOUR – The minutes just around sunset and sunrise, where light levels change drastically and quickly, lending a warm orange glow to earlier shots, and a clearer blue in later minutes that allows a crew to shoot night scenes while light still remains.

  • ARTIFACT – A visual defect in an image caused by limitations or the malfunction of imaging equipment. See also motion artifact, contrast with cinch marks

  • ABBY SINGER – The second-to-last shot of the day. Apparently from an A.D. named Abby Singer who routinely announced that a shot was the last of the day, only to learn that there was one more.

  • COWBOY – Another common shot description, denoting a frame that runs from mid-thigh to the top of the head. Taken from Westerns, where the shot was commonly used.

  • WILHELM SCREAM – Originally recorded as a sound effect for the film Distant Drums in 1951 and named after the character who yelped it out, this distinctive scream was archived in the Warner Brothers sound effects library, and was subsequently used in countless films, first simply as a generic stock scream, and later because sound supervisors and directors used it in their films (including Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Toy Story and Pirates of the Caribbean) as a sort of touchstone or homage to earlier films.

  • 50-50 – When you hear someone suggest a 50-50, it means a two-shot in which both actors share the screen equally. You can have a 50-50 head on, or a profile 50-50. This term is used exclusive of an over, which is a shot over one actors shoulder to another, or a single. Singles can be clean (just one actor) or dirty (one actor with a bit of another in the frame).

  • DUTCH TILT – A shot composed with the horizon not parallel with the bottom of the frame. Used extensively in Batman, and frequently by Orson Welles.

  • BACKLOT – A large, undeveloped area on studio property used for constructing large open-air sets or for filming wilderness scenes.

  • ZOOM FREEZE – A zoom shot that ends in a freeze frame.

  • GO TO 2 – Most of the crew are wired into a walkie system. Channel 1 is the main line. Everyone generally stays tuned to that one (certain departments just stay tuned to their own channel to avoid the chatter on 1). When you need to speak to someone, you ask for them on 1. When they respond, the caller will often say "go to 2", meaning "let's not busy up channel 1 with our conversation that no one else will want to hear, so go to 2 and we'll talk semi-privately".

  • FAKE SHEMP – Anyone appearing on screen whose face is not seen (either because of heavy makeup or camera angles) and who has no lines; can include stand-ins and extras. The term originated with Sam Raimi and his colleagues, who borrowed it from Hollywood lore about a stand-in used to finish Three Stooges films after Shemp Howard's death.

  • PRINT – A projectable version of a movie, usually consisting of one or more reels. When refering to a particular take on a continuity report, "print" indicates that the take should be developed.

  • AUTEUR – A filmmaker, generally a director, who creates a body of work with a unified sensibility that reveals, through the interplay of themes and styles, a personal worldview. The term originated with Francois Truffaut, whose 1954 essay "Une certaine tendence du cinema francais" put forth the idea that the most interesting films were those that functioned as a medium of personal expression--and therefore bore the distinctive imprint of their "author."

  • BEAM SPREAD – The area that the lamp covers (the beam of light).

  • FOLEY – The art of recreating incidental sound effects (such as footsteps) in synchronization with the visual component of a movie. Named after early practitioner Jack Foley, foley artists sometimes use bizarre objects and methods to achieve sound effects, e.g. snapping celery to mimic bones being broken. The sounds are often exaggerated for extra effect - fight sequences are almost always accompanied by loud foley added thuds and slaps.

  • HOT SET – A set where set dressers and prop persons have finalized placing furniture and props for filming a scene and on which a scene is in the process of being shot; labeled thus to indicate that it should not be changed or disturbed.

  • CIRCLE – Film is expensive to print, and it's annoying to have to pour through endless dailies when you know there's a particular take that was great. Directors tell the script supervisor to "circle that take", and only circle takes are printed. Happily, the uncircled takes are still developed and can be mined for hidden gold when your circle take turns out to be worthless in the cutting room.

  • CLAPBOARD – A small board which holds information identifying a shot. It typically contains the working title of the movie, the names of the director and director of photography, the scene and take numbers, the date, and the time. It is filmed at the beginning of a take. On the top of the clapboard is a hinged stick which is often "clapped" to provide audio/visual synchronization.

  • FLYING IN – When something is requested to be brought to the set, it "flies in".

  • APPLE BOX – is really the size of a regular apple box used to prop things up so they are "taller".

  • 20 – When you want to know where someone is, don't say "Where's Joe?" That's the mark of a rookie. You want a "20" on Joe. An alternate is to get on the walkie and ask, "Does anyone have eyes on Joe?"

  • ABOVE-THE-LINE EXPENSES – The major expenses committed to before production begins, including story/rights/continuity (writing); salaries for producers, director, and cast; travel and living; and production fees (if the project is bought from an earlier company). Everything else falls under below-the-line expenses.

  • FILL LIGHT – Light used to control shadows by "filling in" certain dark areas.

  • THE MARTINI – The last shot of the day. In Vancouver, they call this "The Window."

  • GATE – Where the film feeds through the camera (and this gets checked a lot – CHECK THE GATE).