In the everyday watching of films we judge the importance and influence of someone, by where we see them on the credits. Director tends to be the first established in both titles and credits. Through recent research I have discovered this is a very naive and unfair way of accrediting work and authorship, and so I intend to follow with description of what the main production roles are in Film without bias or preconception.
A director will inevitably decide the style of the movie, for he or she is mostly responsible for picking the production team and has a lot of input of the actual casting of the project. Always with the big picture in mind they answer the most seemingly unimportant questions from cast and crew; including camera positioning, make-up, clothing etc. Depending on project funding, sometimes a producer will have more influence than a director, or if a major star has a lead role, they too will steer the movie in a particular direction, for example if Arnold Swarznegger starred in the film there would be lots of action and special effects dominating the storyline.
Second unit director: A second camera crew may be used to shoot location footage and will have another director.
Assistant director (first A/D): As the name would suggest, assists the director by managing large scenes, supervising rehearsals, keeping track of scheduling and preparing paperwork such as production reports and call sheets. First a/d will sometimes direct the second unit.
Second a/d: Works closely with camera crews and other technical staff as well as the first a/d.
Third a/d: Messenger, more of a production assistant than a director.
Wrangler: Animal Keeper.
As with most production roles in cinema, the role and degree of creative input varies incredibly. The balance of power is usually swayed by the balance of monetary input. They are the assemblers, the movers and shakers of the production team. They raise the money, get the rights and hire the director. The line producer is the person who usually works on set with the production team. The director gets to make all the exciting creative decisions, while the producer has the more mundane jobs left on his “To Do” list throughout the duration of the shoot, pre and post production.
Executive producer: Usually the person who has arranged finance for the film. The title is also used for star’s agents, people who finalise presales, rather important contributors to the production – anyone really. (A good example of the later is George Lucas’ somewhat unique position on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Obviously Star Wars was Lucas’ baby, so he had important input into the editing and direction of the film, even though these roles were filled by others.
Associate Producer: A title given to a person who has made a major contribution to the production. It could be a financier, production manager, writer, post-production supervisor, actor, etc. Second in charge of production. The person who takes part of the producer responsibility, both creatively and administratively.
Line Producer:The person who takes responsibility for the production of the film. Line producers are generally employed just before pre-production and complete their work at the answer print stage.
The Production Manager: Sometimes called the unit production manager, is the businessman (businessperson?) of the company. The UPM hires the crew, leases the equipment, negotiates with unions (for independents), and sets the budgetary limits within which the different departments must function. They also monitor the production in progress and ensure that if the production begins to go over budget or over schedule, steps are taken to correct the problems before they multiply. They are the Producer’s right arm.
The Production Designer: Is responsible for creating and designing ‘the look’ of the film – that is the sets, costumes, props etc. He/she is head of the Art Department and works closely with the Director in an attempt to put their vision forward.
The Art director:Second in charge of the Art Department after the Production Designer. The Art Department looks after ‘the look’ of the film, which includes sets, costumes, make-up, props, locations, construction, etc.
The Director Of Photography: Responsible for the cinematic look of the film – the lighting, the type of film/lenses used, etc, and also for getting the image on film.
The Gaffer: The head electrician on set, supervised by the Director of Photography. They will arrange the lighting and electrical requirements on set as needed, and supervise the other electricians.
A Grip: Is a person who works on set with all of the camera support equipment. They organise camera mounts when the director wants the camera on the side of a moving car, they move dollies, cranes, lay tracks and generally make it possible for the director to put the camera in more places than just on a tripod. A Key Grip is the person in charge, and reports to the Director of Photography.
A Foley Artist: The person who creates sound effects for the post-production of the film. They beat drums, throw themselves on the floor, walk on gravel, etc to record the right effect as required by the director and sound supervisor.