1.4. Understanding the roles of the crew

All you have to do is look at any big Hollywood blockbuster to see how many roles are possible in a film. To simplify matters for this course, however, we will work with the following key crew roles which we break down into three areas of competence – Administrative, Creative and Technical (ACT):

Administrative Roles

• Producer
• Production Manager
• Assistant Director
• Continuity Person
• Runner

Creative Roles

• Writer
• Director
• Hair and Makeup Artist
• Wardrobe and Set Designer
• Editor

Technical Roles

• Camera Operator
• Camera Assistant
• Sound Engineer
• Boom Operator
• Lighting Engineer

The producer’s job is to manage the logistics of the overall project – from finding the budget to making sure that all the administration is done.

Production Manager
The production manager manages the logistics during the actual filming of the project from dealing with owners at locations to making sure that such things as sandwiches are paid for during breaks.

Assistant Director
The role of the assistant director (AD) is to assist the director in a practical administrative way. The AD schedules the shoot to allow a certain amount of time to film each scene. They must then ensure that the schedule is adhered to so that the director doesn’t run out of time. They also look after practical matters relating to filming such as ensuring that actors and extras are where they should be when they should be.

Continuity Person
If you are filming with one camera then, more often than not, a scene with a conversation between two people will take at least two shots – one of each person. This means that the actors have to repeat the speech and actions of the first ‘take’ >accurately as possible in the second and any subsequent takes. The job of the continuity person is to make sure that each of these takes is consistent with the others. For example, if a glass of water is half full in the first take it must remain half full through the rest of the takes as well as being placed in the exact same position on the table . Continuity people often use digital cameras, nowadays, to take pictures that they can refer to if they are unsure about a continuity matter.

As the name suggests, runners are people who run errands around the set. While it seems a lowly job it is an essential one. For example, if the sound engineer is short of batteries you don’t want to hold up the entire shoot while he or she goes to the shop to get some.

This is the person who has written the script. It is not unusual in first time film makers that this person would also be the director. On major films the writer’s original work is often changed radically at the whim of the film star, director or producer. Quite often the finished film is far removed from the original script.

This is the film’s ‘artist’. The director is responsible for the overall creative vision of the film. It is the director who works with the actors, filming as many scenes as he or she wishes until they are satisfied that they have the shots they need. The director can also over-rule the other crew members asking, for example, for sets, costumes or even actors to be changed. The director will usually be involved from the casting process right through to the final edit.

Hair and Makeup Artist
On large -scale films these are two roles but on low budget films it is not unusual for one person to look after both the hair and makeup of the actors.

Wardrobe and Set Designer
Again, a big budget film has both a wardrobe department and an art department looking after set construction. In small films the same person often looks after both costume and ‘dressing’ the set.

The editor is, perhaps, one of the people most unappreciated by the film-going public. It is said that a film is made three times – once in the scripting, once in the filming and once in the editing. It is, of course, the editor who has the final input. The editor will often work closely with the director during the edit.

Camera Operator
Sometimes a director will do his or her own camera work but, as the editor ’s key role is to work with the actors, this is not ideal. On a large budget film the camera operator heads a team who work under the instruction of the Director of Photography (DOP or DP) who dictates the creative vision of each shot. With small films the camera operator multi-tasks. With ‘Whatever Turns You On’ my camera operator worked to a storyboard that I had drawn showing him what shots I wanted.

Camera Assistant
This job involves helping the camera operator with a variety of tasks such as setting up tripods, focus pulling and loading film or memory cards.

Sound Engineer
Many first time film makers make the mistake of underestimating the importance of good quality sound. The filming part is very visual so it’s easy to forget the quiet person in the corner with the headphones on. If that person – the sound engineer - isn’t doing their job right, however, you’ll know all about it when you go to edit the film and find distorted audio.

Boom Operator
The boom operator’s job is to hold a boom with a microphone attached to the end close enough to pick up clear dialogue from the actors while ensuring that neither the boom nor microphone are seen in the shot.

Lighting Engineer
The key to good pictures is good light and achieving this is the task assigned to the lighting engineer. It may involve artificial lights or simply reflectors to ‘bounce’ the available light onto the subject.


If you are shooting on a small or non-existent budget your crew will be working for little or nothing. It is essential, therefore, that you ensure they are committed to the project. The same tools that you have in terms of professionalism and a good script are important for attracting and retaining a good crew. Another thing to remember is to establish whether each crew member has his or her own equipment or if you need to supply it. When handing out your own, borrowed or rented equipment ensure that you take careful note of what is being given out and make sure that the crew member takes responsibility for it. There is so much activity on a film set that it is very easy to find that equipment has been lost or misplaced.

Glass half-empty or half full?
Continuity is often overlooked on small budget films but such errors can spoil an audience’s enjoyment of your film and leave you feeling like an amateur.

Written and Practical Assignment
1. Assemble a basic crew to help you complete your filming project

2. Write down who the crew members are, what their roles will be and why you think they are suitable