The Ultimate Film Crew Guide (Film Crew Positions)

Jakob Straub
Jakob Straub, Content Writer

When you’re starting out as a filmmaker, you’ll likely fill more than one role, especially when working with a smaller film crew. For smaller film productions, the number of film crew positions will vary with the budget. But if you want to work in any position on a larger film set, you'll need to understand the hierarchy of film crew positions and how the different departments work together during the production stages.

From directors, producers, and their assistants to more obscure crew members, our ultimate guide to film crew positions will give you an overview of a Hollywood-sized film production.

All great films start with a storyboard. Try the #1 Storyboard Software built for Filmmakers.

Try Boords Free
2,245filmmakers signed up for Boords last week

Film production positions: an overview

Filmmaking is a collaborative process during which many creative and technical roles work together to realize the director’s vision for a film. As a film industry rule of thumb, the size of the film crew and the total number of positions grow with the size of the film project.

The tasks and responsibilities of film crew members will vary as the production progresses, so who is doing the bulk of the work depends on the three distinct stages: pre-production, production or principal photography, and post-production. Film crew positions also fall into specific departments with a distinct hierarchy, ranging from department head to managers and down to assistants or interns.

Day-to-day tasks on a film set might have a more repetitive nature, especially when they have a strong technical or skill-based aspect, whereas, for other film crew positions, involvement can be more of a creative journey from inception to the finished project, or touch only a particular film production stage.

What are film crew positions? While the cast of a movie are the actors and actresses that work in front of the camera, the film crew comprises the film set jobs and positions that work behind the scenes and off-camera. Typically, a producer or production company will hire crew members, though it can also fall to a department head to bring on people with whom they want to work. Different departments take over the tasks of film production and commonly follow a hierarchical organization of crew members. The producers or production department members are not part of the film crew, though an overview of film crew roles often includes them for the sake of completeness.

The stages of film production

The film production process follows the three sequential stages of pre-production, principal photography, and post-production. Important roles such as the director, art director, and production manager will have changing tasks and responsibilities over the three stages, while the involvement of other film production crew positions focuses on one particular stage only. Screenwriting is a development and pre-production job, for example, while an editor’s responsibilities fall into the post-production phase.

What are above-the-line and below-the-line film crew positions?

In a big Hollywood film production, a majority of the crew members are below-the-line personnel. What is the distinction between above and below the line? Anyone above the line is typically accounted for individually in the film’s budget: important leadership positions such as the director, screenwriter, cinematographer, art director, and producers will receive a negotiated compensation. The line producer will handle a large part of the production budget and the team below the line, production crew members who draw a daily or weekly salary for their tasks on the film set.

Film crew positions within the film production process

From the director’s vision to the final cut of a movie, how are the film crew positions distributed during the three production stages? Let’s look at the jobs during film production in sequence.

Pre-Production film crew positions

Production Management

  • sparkle

    Director: The director’s vision is guiding the production. Together with the screenwriter, they’ll finalize the shooting script and might be involved in creating storyboards together with the art department.

  • sparkle

    1st Assistant Director (1st AD): At this stage, they’ll prepare the shooting schedule.

Production Office

  • sparkle
    Executive Producer: The role of an executive producer can differ. Occasionally they'll contribute in name only, but the executive producer can have a hand in financing the movie during pre-production or leverage film industry connections to attract talent and creatives or acquire intellectual property. The role is one of overseeing important production elements.
  • sparkle
    Producer: A fundamental role, a producer is also a manager, for example, of funding, project steps and logistics, and other organizational tasks. The larger the production, the more individual producers will control specific aspects of the film production.
  • sparkle
    Line Producer: Though this role will include many tasks, the line producer will concern themselves with planning and managing the budget and schedule during pre-production.
  • sparkle
    Production Manager: With oversight of budget, scheduling, and staffing, the production manager reports to the line producer and supervises the production coordinator.
  • sparkle
    Production Coordinator: They are in charge of coordinating logistics involving actors and actresses, film crew, and equipment.
  • sparkle
    Production Assistant: As a common position to get started on a film set, these crew members take part in all aspects of production with a wide range of tasks.

Locations Department

  • sparkle
    Location Manager: Their responsibility is to find shooting locations, as well as secure necessary permissions and adhere to laws and regulations for shooting on location.
  • sparkle
    Location Scout: Working with the location manager, the location scout identifies and finds locations to realize the script. This includes dealing with the attached logistics and challenges.

Art Department

  • sparkle
    Production Designer: As head of the art department, the production designer works closely with the director and cinematographer to realize the director's vision from the script, storyboards, and look-book to design, settings, and costumes.
  • sparkle
    Art Director: Working under the production designer, the art director supervises the art department, often together with assistants. During pre-production, they're concerned with set creation and set dressing, and working on the look of the movie.
  • sparkle
    Set: The Set Designer and Set Decorator plan and prepare sets, while the Set Dresser will furnish them. The smaller the production, the more these tasks will be concentrated in fewer roles, up to where the art director is also assuming the role of Set Designer. During pre-production, the Set Designer works on structures and interior spaces needed for film production.

Costumes & Wardrobe Department

  • sparkle
    Costume Designer: The head of the wardrobe department, the Costume Designer, collaborates with the director during this production stage to create the clothing and look for costumes.

Production film crew positions during principal photography

Principal photography describes the production phase of a movie where the actual shooting takes place and film crew members work on the film set.

Production Management

  • sparkle
    Director: Especially during the production stage, the director moves the project forward with great responsibility, authority, and influence over the entire film crew.
  • sparkle
    First Assistant Director (1st AD): The 1st AD works at the side of the director to realize the director's vision, but their responsibilities also include the shooting schedule, running the set and film crew, and managing minute daily tasks. They're problem solvers.
  • sparkle
    Second Assistant Director (2nd AD): Working below the 1st AD, the Second Assistant Director handles daily call sheets and makes sure talent appears at the set. They need a high-level understanding of how the other film departments operate and also distribute scripts to them.
  • sparkle
    Visual & Special Effects Supervisor: Their responsibilities are the creative and technical aspects of visual and special effects, the practical and digital effects.
  • sparkle
    Unit Production Manager: This administrative role oversees most issues and decisions regarding the budget and payroll.
  • sparkle
    Set Production Assistant: The Set PA supports the needs of the shooting set and can be called upon to perform nearly any task.

Script Department / Continuity

  • sparkle
    Script Supervisor: During principal photography, the Script Supervisor keeps track of the footage to make sure it follows the script and to match the continuity between shots.

Camera & Lighting Department

  • sparkle
    Director of Photography (DP): As the head of the camera department, the director of photography creates and records the images following the director's vision using camera equipment, lighting, and framing. Cinematographer is another name for this role, and they also guide the grip and electrical department.
  • sparkle
    First Assistant Camera (1st AC): The 1st AC handles camera equipment on set. A traditional name for this role is focus puller, as this was their primary task with analog photography. But with digital equipment, the 1st AC has to concern themselves with an array of image and camera settings.
  • sparkle
    Second Assistant Camera (2nd AC): The second AC has the traditional task of operating the camera slate, but they're also in charge of gear, records, and help for the camera department.
  • sparkle
    Camera Operator: When the DP or cinematographer doesn't control the camera themselves, they'll instruct a camera operator, especially during multi-camera shots.
  • sparkle
    Digital Imaging Technician (DIT): This relatively new role on a film set stems from digital equipment. The DIT manages a digital image workflow. This is not a post-production role, but includes tasks of data management shortly after capture, ensuring the footage is up to par and fits the pre-defined looks for the production.
  • sparkle
    Film Loader: This role is the analog equivalent of the DIT. They handle physical film before and after filming.
  • sparkle
    Steadicam Operator: This specially trained camera operator handles a motion-stabilized camera rig.
  • sparkle
    Gaffer: The Chief Lighting Technician or Gaffer is the head of the electric department and is responsible for the placement and powering of lights to fulfill the production's lighting plan. The Gaffer works closely with the DP.
  • sparkle
    Best Boy or Best Babe: The BBE, Best Boy Electric or Best Babe Electric, is second to the Gaffer and delegates day-to-day electrical and lighting tasks, such as staffing and power supply.
  • sparkle
    Electrician or Lighting Technician: Sets up and controls lighting equipment and electrical power on set.

Grips Department

  • sparkle
    Key Grip: As the head of the grip department, the Key Grip collaborates with the Gaffer to control light, but also works on rigging, temporary structures, and physical support for other departments. Apart from their work on the lighting plan, the Key Grip will concern themselves with on-set safety.
  • sparkle
    Best Boy Grip or Best Babe Grip: Second to the Key Grip, this role has managerial duties in the department in supporting the Key Grip.
  • sparkle
    Grips: If anything needs moving on a film set, grips will move it. This can ensure not only safety but an organized and timely execution.
  • sparkle
    Dolly Grip: This role handles the movement and placement of dollies, cranes and other heavy equipment needed for camera operation.

Sound Department

  • sparkle
    Production Sound Mixer: This role records all sound during shooting day, as well as selecting and operating audio and mixing equipment.
  • sparkle
    Boom Operator: Their classic role is to operate the boom mic, but they are also involved in placing other microphones around the set and achieving high-quality audio recordings.
  • sparkle
    Sound Assistant: This "cable person" assists the sound department not only by laying cable but also by monitoring recording equipment and helping out.

Art Department

  • sparkle
    Set Decorator: Their responsibility is to decorate the set during production, working with the Set Designer or the Art Director.
  • sparkle
    Set Dresser: They specifically work on the shooting day's set, furniture, and design elements. On a smaller production, set design, dressing, and decoration might be rolled into one position, or be the responsibility of the Art Director.
  • sparkle
    Props Master: They organize all props for the film project, except for weapons. A smaller production will have one role within the art department, whereas a Hollywood production can feature its own Props Department.
  • sparkle
    Art Production Assistant: This role is a general art department assistant, though specialization, for example in set design, is possible.

Costumes & Wardrobe Department

  • sparkle
    Costume Designer: As head of the Wardrobe Department, the Costume Designer collaborates with the director to ensure the proper look for all costumes.
  • sparkle
    Costume Supervisor: Works with the costume designer to manage the on-set wardrobe. Formerly called wardrobe supervisor.
  • sparkle
    Set Costumer: This role is an on-set representation of the wardrobe department to be on standby for adjustments as needed.
  • sparkle
    Costume Coordinator: They keep track of everything to organize the Wardrobe Department.
  • sparkle
    Tailor: They can alter or fix costumes on set as needed.

Hair & Makeup Department

  • sparkle
    Makeup Artist: In charge of makeup and styling for the cast in line with the production design.
  • sparkle
    Hairdresser: Responsible for hairstyles and upkeep.

Stunts Department

  • sparkle
    Stunt Coordinator: They cast and supervise the stunt performers and design the on-set stunts, together with the director and cinematographer. They might use a choreographer for support.
  • sparkle
    Stunt Performer: These professionals carry out the actual stunts.

Food Department

  • sparkle
    Caterer and Craft: The Craft Service and Catering Department feed the crew and cast. Catering is for specific meals, whereas the Craft Service pertains to snacks, food, and drinks throughout the entire shooting day.

Get your FREE Filmmaking Storyboard Template Bundle

Plan your film with 10 professionally designed storyboard templates as ready-to-use PDFs.

download

Post-Production film crew positions

The final stage of the film production process after principal photography includes editing, as well as adding music, sound, and effects.

Editing Department

  • sparkle
    Editor: They’re the creative head of the post-production process and work with the director to assemble and edit the footage.

Sound Department

  • sparkle
    Sound Designer: In charge of post-production sound on a film, the sound designer selects and edits the on-set recordings to provide the editor with an audio track. Also called Supervising Sound Editor.
  • sparkle
    Sound Editor: Assembles and edits all sound effects.
  • sparkle
    Foley Artist: They create sound effects in sync with the final edit of a film.
  • sparkle
    Composer: They write and perform the musical score for the final cut of the movie.
  • sparkle
    Music Supervisor: They choose music separate from the original score for the film, and deal with licensing issues.

Visual Effects and Special Effects Department

  • sparkle
    Visual Effects Editor: Together with the Visual Effects Supervisor, they add post-production visual effects.

More from the blog...

The Pre-Production Process Explained

Pre-production includes the creative and logistical work needed before shooting a film, TV show or video. Explore each step in the pre-production process.

What does a Cinematographer do?

Cinematographers play an essential role in film production, dictating the overall look and visual style of a motion picture, television show, music video, or advert.

The 9 Essential Video Transition Effects

Video transitions are a staple of video editing and motion graphics. Learn about the dos and don'ts of transitions in this handy guide.

Try the #1 Storyboard Software built for Filmmakers

Boords is the complete set of filmmaking software tools to help you create great storyboards, shot lists, and animatics. From start to finish, Boords makes it easy for you to visualize your ideas and communicate with your team.

Try Boords Free
2,245filmmakers signed up for Boords last week
Shapes