Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mystery Movie Jobs

Post by Trai Cartwright
I sat with Kerrie Flanagan for the TriMedia Film Festival’s opening night film, we tipped back the margaritas, enjoying the good tale on screen. The credits began rolling, and she leaned over and asked, “What’s a gaffer?”

Ding! Another blog to write for The Writing Bug.

The three most consistently baffling credits on a film are the Gaffer, the Grip and the Best Boy. So here’s what these strange creatures do:

Gaffer: the gaffer is the head electrician, and generally focuses on the lighting equipment. They work in conjunction with the Director of Photography (cameraman) regarding placement of lights, and more importantly make sure the electric circuits aren’t blown by overuse. The general joke is that when an actress has been photographed beautifully, she’s sleeping with the DP, but when an actress is lit so beautifully, she looks fifteen years younger, she’s bringing donuts to the gaffers every morning. Gaffers don’t require much in the way of attention or rewards.

Here’s a rumor of how the gaffer got his name: gaffer predates the sound era in a time when electricity was used to a lesser degree than today. The early stages had canvas roofs that were opened and closed to emit varying degrees of light. This canvas was moved with large gaffing hooks which had been traditionally used to land large fish. (

The Best Boy is the gaffer’s assistant.

Grips are just what their name states: they grab hold of things and move them. Specific grips are assigned to the props department, the DP, the gaffer, the sound technician and they are not interchangeable – each has a specialty, and is generally working in that department because that’s the job they want in the future.

Key Grip: The key grip is the person in charge of all the people in their department who move anything. So there can be multiple Key Grips.

Mystery solved!

Are there any credits you’ve seen that mystify you?



Tim of Angle said...

The men who tended street lamps in the days before gas used a gaff or hook to bring the lamp down from its pole to refill it or tend the wick. I suppose that the name carried forward.

Trai said...

I'm digging that answer, Tim!

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