When you go to start work in the industry, one of the things you might not think about is having to learn a foreign language. Throughout the years, filmmakers have developed a vernacular exclusive to the industry with terms ranging from logical to downright bizzare.
The language though is part of the all-important setiquette (or set etiquette) and makes communication faster and more effective if everybody learns to use it correctly.
In Part 1 of this 3-Part jargon buster, you’ll learn how to navigate around the set as well as pick up on some basic item names that get thrown around!
Navigating around the Set
Unit Base / Basecamp
An area (sometimes located away from the set) where you’ll find crew parking, makeup and wardrobe trailers (or tents), catering and pretty much everything else. Sometimes crew parking can be away from basecamp which is then in turn away from the set.
Staging Area / Grip City
An area of the set where all of the cases and equipment not being used will be stored. Often a complete mess.
An area of the set to which the cameras won’t be pointing and where monitors and play-back equipment will be set up for the director and the keys to watch the take.
Portable toilets. Don’t ask.
Craft Service (Crafty)
Crafty is the holy grail on a film set. It is where the talent and crew can find refreshments and sustenance between meals.
An area of the set where talent or background will wait. Talent and background are ALWAYS kept separately from each other. Thus, you have “background holding” and “talent holding”.
Typical Items on the Set
A wooden box with standardised sizes that is useful for pretty much everything. They can be placed in three different ways: “New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago / Texas”.
An industry term for a wooden clothes peg. There is lots of discussion as to where this term came from, but it’s become part of industry vernacular one way or another.
Clapper / Slate
The (traditionally) black and white chalk board which marks the scene, take and roll numbers. Nowadays they are white acrylic and can be customised to include the logo of the production. You can also get smart slates which have a digital timecode synced to the camera and sound mixer.
This is when the grip department uses a flag to provide shade to a cast member, crew member or a monitor.
Dirt / Sand
Shorthand for a sandbag.
A sheet of black fabric (usually duvetyn or “commando cloth”) that completey blocks unwanted light. It can be used as a noun or a verb. Flags come in different shapes and sizes such as Meat Axes, Cutters, etc.
Furnie / Furniture Blanket
A heavy blanket used to help improve the sound quality of a set by dampening echo or to protect the set from equipment.
Gaffer Tape / Gaff
A heat-resistant tape with a colourful cotton side used for pretty much everything.
A light that doubles as set dressing. For example, a bedside lamp.
A small explosive charge, sometimes filled with fake blood, to simulate bullet hits or something similar.
An extension cord.