Being an actor is not just about learning lines. You also need to understand on-set lingo, the jargon of filmmaking. In this article we take you through some of the phrases and terms you’ll hear on set as an actor.
The Importance of Understanding On-Set Lingo for Actors
Setting foot on a film set for the first time can be an incredibly daunting moment – no matter how long you’ve been preparing for it. There is, simply, nothing quite like it.
It’s important to realize that when you do arrive, there are going to be other actors there who are either as new to it as you are or who are seasoned professionals with several credits under their belts. But it’s more important to realize that the people who’ve probably been doing it the longest are the crew. And they have their own way of talking on set – an almost different language if you will.
Now dubbed “Film Set Lingo”, there are codes and shorthand for so many things on a film set, and having prior knowledge of what these are will be an absolute life-saver for when you finally set foot on a set.
It’ll not only help you feel a little bit more comfortable and at ease on set, but it will also allow your collaborators to realize that you mean business and that they don’t have to hold your hand.
So, let’s demystify some on-set lingo!
Common Lingo and Terminology You’ll Hear On-Set
- 10-1 – Indicates that you need to use the bathroom (#1). While this is technically short-hand for walkie-talkies, talent also use this shorthand on set for bathroom breaks.
- 10-2 – Indicates that you also need to use the bathroom (#2).
- 10-4 – understood the message – Typically only for crew members, as talent won’t usually have a walkie-talkie on them.
- Upgrade 10-1 – means that you need more time for the bathroom.
- A.D.R – Automatic Dialogue Replacement. The process of re-recording dialogue in a studio after filming has been completed.
- Apple Box – Wooden boxes (Grip Department).
- Blocking – Rehearsing the scene, working out the actor’s movements on location without the camera rolling.
- Call sheet – A list of the day’s work schedule and what time everyone is needed on set.
- Call Time – The time you must report to your given location. You must be on time. Aim to be early.
- Camera right and Camera left – Describes the view from the camera’s point of view. If you are told to move “camera left” and you are facing the camera you would move to your right and vice versa.
- Cheat – To falsify the actor’s move or positioning within the frame intentionally to best suit the camera.
- Circus – Where all the trailers are parked.
- Closed Set – This means that the set is closed off and private, perhaps for nude scenes or scenes where the production does not want information leaked. You are not allowed on a closed set unless you are key to that scene or have been specifically given access.
- Close Up – Shot of a person, the camera would be only on their head.
- Continuity – A sequence filming over more than one day, or more than shot. It is therefore essential that nothing changes to upset the continuity of the scene.
- Crafty – Craft service, food and catering on a film set.
- Crew – refers to any production staff on set.
- Crossing – is a warning given before ANYONE crosses in front of the camera during a shot set up.
- Cut – The end of a take when the camera stops recording.
- Dailies – Recent footage ready to be watched, often looked at by the Director and Producer at the end of each shooting day (also called Rushes).
- Day Player – a crew member hired for only one day or a handful of days worth of work
- Double – A stand-in actor used when the main actor is not available. Usually shot from long distance or from behind, or for a part of the body such as hands and feet.
- End Board – When a scene is boarded (when a clapper board is used to denote the details of the scene and shot) at the end of a shot and not the start – the clapper board is often held upside down.
- Establishing Shot – A general view of any location or building. Usually wide-angle, to “establish” the location
- Eye line – The direction you are required to look in the shot.
- First / First Assistant Director – They manage all the heads of department to make sure the set runs smoothly.
- First Positions – Sometimes referred to as Number Ones. You will be given a starting position for each take of a scene.
- Flashing – is said when anyone is taking a photograph of someone.
- Flying In – said when a person or object is on the way to set.
- Focus Puller – The person in charge of the lens on the camera.
- From The Top – To start the scene from the beginning
- Green Room – is the area allocated to the talent or guests to rest between shot set-ups.
- Grips – People who move lighting/grip equipment.
- Last Looks – Phrase used by the 1st AD, the last chance to check actors, set equipment before filming begins.
- Last Man – Phrase that refers to the last person to get their food at lunch; usually used because lunch should not officially start until the last person has sat down.
- Magic Hour – The magic hour is the hour before sunset when natural light is at it’s best and the sky is golden.
- Mark – is a blocking term that tells the actors where they need to stand in order to be in focus for the camera, usually marked by an “x” on the floor in gaffer tape. Different colours are sued for different characters. You’ll often get asked to “hit your mark” which means to be standing on that piece of tape at a certain point in the scene.
- Martini Shot – is the very last shot in production for that day.
- Master Shot – Wide shot that covers the main action throughout.
- Mid Shot – Shot that frames the top half of the body.
- Pan – The camera turns from left to right or right to left.
- Pick Ups – Shots that crew were unable to film on the scheduled shooting day. Usually small shots or cutaways.
- Quiet on set – No talking, no cell phones (not even on vibrate), no walking around. No noise of any kind when this order is given.
- Runner or PA – A crew member who can be instructed to do anything at all to support the ADs and Production Office.
- Scripty – The nickname for the script supervisor on set, whose job is to ensure continuity and make sure the script is being followed.
- Second / 2nd AD – In charge of actors, transport, backstage, makeup and wardrobe.
- Second Unit – A second film crew usually assigned to shoot less important scenes or scenes without the major actors. Location shots, cutaways, prop inserts etc.
- Sides – Script pages of the day’s scenes to be shot, in shooting order, usually printed onto A5 paper.
- Sparks – Electricians.
- Speed – When this is called, it means the camera or sound equipment is rolling.
- Squib – a small explosive device, often attached to an actor to give the impression of them being shot. The special effects technician will be in charge of these on set.
- Stand By – This is a warning that filming is about to commence.
- Striking – removing something, a light, a box, a horse, an actor.
- Take – is a scene that has been or is being filmed.
- Talent – refers to any of the actors or models on set.
- The bottle/barrel – The lens of the camera. “Don’t look down the bottle.”
- Tracking Shot or Dolly – The camera moves smoothly forwards or backwards by running on tracks.
- Turnover – To start recording a take.
- Video Village – The place where the monitor goes on set, and where the director and crew watch the footage being shot.
- Wrap – This indicates the end of the filming day.
How recording a take is announced on a film set
Depending on how directors like to work, they will either handle the action sequence themselves, or they’ll hand it off to their First AD. They’ll do so by calling out the following:
“Quiet on set / Quiet please”
“Turn over” (Start recording)
The camera operator then calls out “Camera Speed” (Meaning they’re rolling)
The sound operator calls out “Sound Speed” (Meaning they’re recording sound)
The camera assistant called out “Scene # / Take #” (Clapper board goes down)
“Action!” – The director or 1st AD calls “action” and the actors begin acting.
There you have it! Your first primer to on-set lingo. While it’s not everything, it’s a majority of the lingo that we think you’ll need to equip yourself with as an actor. There are a lot of other particular short-hands and codes, but they’re more department-specific and suited to crew members and their assigned jobs.
So start memorising this on-set lingo – you never know when you’re going to need it!
Where to get more information
All of the acting courses at The Reel Scene are heavily practical in nature, and many include shoot days where we film scenes with our students and with a professional crew. You can also improve your acting skills and take part in Q&A sessions with working actors and filmmakers as part of our online platform, The Actors Gym.