Filmcrew Jargon from the 1980's and 90's.
This is Vic Hammond, the most genuinely funny crewmate I ever had the privilege to work with. (This is him in 1988) He made every filmset a joy to work on, with his command of the English language, ability to weave a story to perfection, and perfect comedy timing. He was also an excellent grip, and hugely generous. I heard about his passing long after his funeral, which I would have liked to attend. This is a low shot on track with a Hustler dolly. The paddle mount is attached to a Ronford Seven fluid head, which works just as well inverted - one of the few heads that had this adaptation. The camera is an Arriflex BL with a small 400' magazine. There would have been a couple of sandbags on the other end of the paddle mount to relieve strain on the dolly.
Every industry has its own jargon and the movie industry was no exception. Back in the eighties and nineties (my field of experience; I left the industry in 2000 when I got my first writing contract) the industry attracted a skilled workforce from the entire British socio-economic spectrum, and it would be not unusual to have an Oxford Graduate mix on the same crew as folk whose formal education ended at 16. The mix usually worked as there was a fairly strict hierarchy, and with everyone very clear on what their precise job was, and in general a cheery respect for another's skills.
It meant that privately educated twits like me were inducted into the joys of rhyming slang used on a regular basis and in proper context, smatterings of butchers back slang mixed with what was then termed 'Pikey talk' and polari - and just general silly banter and, yes, laddy bollocks. It was mostly to relieve the tedium of the day, as set words and phrases are used continuously, so it made sense to mix them up a bit. 'Pun tennis' would break out at the drop of a hat - Terry Potter, bless him, was always up for this - and beautiful turns of phrase and observations were often invented on the fly - by everyone, so long as the mood of the filmset warranted it.
This was a freelance shop, and was much influenced by merit once you were in. Getting there in the first place was not easy if you didn't know someone or was the son of someone and aside from a few children who were either to obnoxious or too incompetent to work away from their parent, once you were in, you had to be pretty good to remain there - and 'good' in this context meant not just technically proficient, but also a team player and not difficult or annoying to work with. Once you were an HOD this could change somewhat, but personability and flexibility were useful assets to possess. Becasue of this, laughter was always in abundance on the set, mixed with seriousness and concentration in equal measure. The industry was corrosive to socialising outside as hours were long, so much of our socialising was done on set. It was great fun, and I strongly suspect still is.
The list below is neither complete, nor invented - every single one I heard used, either a few times or a lot. Some may still be in use, but slang is ephemeral - it's probably moved on a fair bit since my day. I've included a lot of film terms, too. They may still be in use in the digital age; I don't know.
I am adding to this list occasionally - new entries appear here, at the top.
Added 28th May 2020 (until ++++++++ line)
Top Johnny See 'Diamond Geezer'
Diamond Geezer See 'Cushty Manty'
Cushty Manty Slang for 'a really good bloke' who 'broke the mould, guv'. Pete Goddard and I had many conversations over which accolade was higher, and we thought 'Diamond Geezer' was probably the best. This was the same Goddard who was the junior 'Gel Boy' when I was a runner on Pirates of Penzance . He would later gain fame for rustling up a tray of chip butties from air, so far as we could see, when doing a tedious catererless pre-rig and test day at the Moron airfield in Argentina on Highlander 2. He's a gaffer these days, and I expect as warm and as funny now as I knew him then.
Added 26th May 2020 (until ++++++++ line)
'Dutch the camera'. Canting the camera on an angle for dramatic effect. Probably the finest exponent of this was in The Third Man a favourite, if not my all time favourite movie. Bob Krasker was the DOP on this movie, and the dutching goes thorughout the film, and has its own miniature grammar, all of its own - it is to the right and left on complimentary shots, and increases with tension. Carol Reed was the director in this, and it must have been a massive leap of faith to have this as a motive throughout the film - once they went there, there was no going back - and Alexander Korda must have had his approval too, which again, shows a complete faith in the moviemakers. Others have tried to dutch to the effect as well achieved in TTM, but no-one has succeeded. It just looks contrived - unless in stills, where it is still utterly acceptable. Bob Krasker, it should be remembered, also lensed 'Brief Encounter' written by Noel Coward. The film that makes a lot more sense vis-a-vis Coward's intention (IMHO) if you watch it again, but imagining that Celia Johnson's Laura is a man, and Cyril Raymond's Fred is his wife. Discuss.
'Musical Chairs' Term often used to describe the general arsing around when the DOP and director and 1st AD try and figure out the opening shot of the day, most usually on a commercial, but I've seen it happen on films in a new location. You might be wandering around with a viewfinder and a box of lenses (see below) for an hour or more as they look this way and that way. At the beginning of the day, the day seems long - it only seems short when it gets to be four and only half the shot list has been done. The producer, wary of overtime, will then exert pressure to get everything done in record time, which can lead to Live Cabaret (See below). On commercials overtime was good, so we generally didn't mind - I bought my car on the proceeds of directorial indecision/incompetence, but if you were foolish enough to do a ten hour deal, the crew might get a little frisky.
Viewfinder. Something that takes the lens you will use on the camera and fitted to an optical device with a ground glass, allow you to compose a shot without bringing in the camera. The lesser version of this is something called a 'Tewe' (pronounced 'Chewie') which by adjusting of various rings will show angle of view in a variety of formats and lens sizes. The Arrifinder was the best, made by Arriflex, but Panavison also did a really good device based around the side-finder (see below) of a non-reflex Mitchell camera. The benefit of this one is that everyone could cluster around 'for a look', whereas a Chewie or Arrifinder could only be used by one person at a time and had to be 'held in the air' as best as one could to share a view.
Non-reflex Mitchell BNC Camera made by Mitchell before the reflex through-the-lens refinement took hold. Simply put, what you saw through the viewfinder was not what was recorded on the film. The viewfinder had a separate lens identical to the field-of-view of the taking lens and projected an image on a ground glass that could be viewed without holding your head tight to the finder - very easy to use and quite bright, almost like looking at a small TV screen. In a reflex the image is much smaller, and if the camera is stopped down to a small aperture, quite dark. Many old school operators far preferred the non-reflex. It was attached to the camera door (left hand side) on a hinge that allowed it to swing in and out depending on the focus set by the focus puller to allow for parallax error. Complications could occur when you needed to operate a shot through the rails of a bannister, for instance, or for precise alignment or critical focus. The 'rack over' Mitchell was a refinement that permitted, with the use of a handle on the back of the camera, to shift the camera sideways and slide the taking lens into the viewfinder. Stories were told of operators who forgot to rack back the camera and recorded nothing on the film, but I'm not so sure these were true. Other reflex systems that didn't use a mirror was a prism pellicle (Bolex H16 and Fries Mitchell) and some versions of the Newman Sinclair Clockwork Camera, which could look through the film from the back. Other NS cameras had a similar 'rack over' where you slid the lens over, and others had a mirror shutter - as did mine. Wish I'd never sold it. Awesome camera with a two spring clockwork motor; mine was an ex-Coal Board version for using down a mine.
Live Cabaret A term I used to describe on-set arguments, generally between the 'grown ups' - those in power. Best I saw was an almost punch-up between a director and a producer. The Producer dumped his script on the floor and said: 'Right, let's have it out here and now' to which the director replied 'go fuck yourself'. It ended there. I can't recall who won, but it did brighten up a dull day.
Bottle A lens. A typically British understatement of an important piece of kit. In the RAF a helmet is often referred to as 'a hat'.
'Turn over' Means simply: 'switch on the camera' and has its roots when one literally turned the camera over with a hand crank. Added: Cameramen in those days had a little ditty they sang to themselves to keep the speed, the beat coming at the top of the crank or the bottom. A flywheel was added to aid uniformity. Contrary to what is thought, it's actually quite easy to get a consistent hand crank speed that is unnoticeable when projected. Sammy's (A camera rental company) had a modified an Arri 2II with a handcrank so I got to test it. To make it look odd and weird and a little retro you kind have to be VERY inconsistent with the crank, and the effect, while interesting, does not look like old movies. The odd 'staccato' effect of many old films was a result of the move to sound around 1927. The old silent standard was 16 frames per second, about the slowest you could get away with and still have a clear picture. The advent of sound required a faster film-to-playback head to get decent sound in the days of optical push-pull or variable density soundtracks, so the standard film rate was upped to 24 frames per second, an increase of 50 percent. While all this was good for sound, and it helped with smoothness of picture and sharpness, it did leave a legacy of unplayable 16FPS footage - so the simplest way to up them to 24FPS was to double print every other frame. Voila - you get a funny staccato movement in the films. You heard it here first. Maybe.
NATO A description of how you would like your tea. NATO referring to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and the (presumably internal) military joke that tea was standardised among the member states. In this context: 'milk, one sugar'.
'There's this bloke see, and he goes into a pub..' Amusing quip when manhandling a large dolly or other immensely heavy object up stairs or somewhere else equally as hard. If the stairway was constricted, it meant fewer people to carry the load - and the bigger the sweat it was. Once part the way up the stairs, the intro to a joke was quite amusing in that this was emphatically NOT the place to want to tell a joke - which made it all the funnier. I still have lower back issues from all that lifting - there was a lot of it.
Clock it a gnat's: Commercials, usually. A command from the camera operator, looking through the camera, to the prop man, the only person relly permitted to handle the product, to move said pack. It was usually a very small and trifling change, hence the saying. 'Clock it a hum' was also used. 'gnat's' refers to a 'gnat's hair' - a very small movement indeed.
Spanish Archer: Denotes a command to get rid of something as it's not working. A rig, or some piece of kit that is no longer required. Comes from 'El Bow' or 'elbow'. Jabbing out an elbow was the usual non verbal term for 'get rid of it'.
One for Lloyds: Most productions were insured against negative damage in the labs and weather washing the set away, so 'One for Lloyds' usually meant going for another take, just in case - although the real reason was probably that there was time on our hands and the director simply wanted to do another take, but had no good reason to do so.
Horse: as in 'This Horse should not go back to work' Disparaging comment about darkly coloured tea or other liquid refreshamnt. Apple juice usually illicited this remark.
Wiesenthal, Simon: I put this one in here as it presumably heralds from the seventies and would now have fallen out of use. When something was lost, it might be declared: 'It's so lost not even Simon Wiesenthal could find it'. I heard this one first from Des in 1987. He told me the Bonanza joke, too, which I will always be grateful for.
Knife drawer, Miss sharp: Catty statement when someone makes a barbed comment, as in 'Back in the knife drawer, Miss Sharp' A related comment would be the uber sarcastic: 'Ooooh, Duchess of Sheffield'.
Armchair Army: Term used to describe the large and generally non-involved on a commercial - creative teams, account directors, client - all of whom had to have the pretence of being consulted.
Archie Pitt: Like much Rhyming Slang (CRS), the roots are often in music hall. Pitt was one of these and means 'shit', while 'George Robey', another star, means 'Bogey'. Updated a long way, 'Steffi Graff' was CRS for a 'laugh' as in the incredulous: 'You're having a steffi, aren't you'?
Chinese Handbills: I never found out how this came about, but it was slang for the letter that cancelled your employment, as everyone was contracted for the duration but without an end date in case things went over schedule. Two weeks, usually, under the union agreement.
Per-doh-de-ohs: Per diems, paid on location to cover food and laundry and other sundries. Saving per diems was a good way of augmenting your salary, if you were that way inclined - some crew members were seen hoarding food at lunch to eat later, thus saving on per diems.
Nosebag: A term for a food break.
Shit slides downhill: True for any industry. Get a nasty piece of work up top, and bad feelings and discontent start to rumble on down thorugh the ranks. Luckily, the converse is always true. Get a director who is fair and just and not shouty, and everyone has a great time - and always give their best on account of it.
Drop Anchor: A term often used by an operator when talking to the dolly grip on the back of the wheeled dolly thingy the camera sits on. A dolly is highly manvouverable - it will steer conventionally but also 'crab' - all four wheels turning in the same direction so you can move in and out and side to side - it will jib, too, so you can put the camera where you want it quickly and easily. If it's a static shot, 'drop anchor' was used to mean: 'brakes on, lock off the dolly.''
Wobbly cam: slang term for handheld, but sometimes used to describe Steadicam, but never within earshot of Steadicam operators, who could be sensitive about such matters. And all matters, to be honest.
Self winding: Term used to describe a crew member who would often work them up into a lather over some perceived sleight, usually from production.
Happy Birthday to you: Song sung sarcastically on occasion of the trips going and plunging the set into darkness. Not recommended if the mood of the set is tense, but can be done if you can impersonate another member of the crew.
Washers: Any foreign currency whilst on a foreign location.
Sweaty cash: Petty cash
A highly paid parrot: Self disparaging term from a First Assistant Director, used to describe his job.
Canter: A slow run through once the track is down and has been checked for smoothness or to ensure that the operator/grip will be able to make the shot work. First 'canter' is often with a camera crew member to walk the walk that the actor(s) will be doing. Stand-ins will be then used, and eventually the 'realies' themselves, the first usually a technical 'no acting required' run through.
Talent: The actors. Semi-sarcstic, usually.
Double bubble: Used to describe double time overtime, 'bubble' being overtime. Not to be confused with 'Bubble', CRS for a Greek crew member, or 'bubble', another name for a light bulb.
Too Many Chiefs/Not enough Indians: Term used to describe the frequent clash of egos on the set, where several people either think or want to be in charge, or a lack of crew to carry out said wishes.
Back on your heads: Often from a 1st AD, it denotes a SNAFU sort of scenario - back to wasting time or some kind of hardship, especially when one was hoping to wrap and go home. It comes from a joke, where someone dies and goes to heaven and meets St John at the Pearly gates, who offers them a choice between heaven and hell. He shows him heaven first, which is all clouds and lyres and being pious, and the dead guy thinks it's all a bit dull, so is then shown hell where everyone is waist deep in shit but eating chees cake, chatting amiably and drinking coffee. Our hero decides that hell is a better choice, so opts for that. No sooner does he arrive, however, when the order goes out: 'Right, that's your weekly ten minute break over - back on your heads'. It's not a good joke, but would have been doing the rounds in the seventies, from where this probably comes from. 'Your turn in the barrel' was similarly used, but this is a family website, so you'll have to research that one yourself.
Soppy Bunny: Talking rubbish; making up crap, making no sense at all; waffling on.
Revolving Door: As in 'he could follow you into a revolving door and come out first'. Disparaging comment about a well-known DOP, but equally of use to any crew member overeager to get ahead.
Dead Choir Boys: First Assistant Directors often had their own particular foible when it came to asking for quiet, something they had to do many times a day. So like Speaker John Bercow, had their own way of saying it. 'Dead Choir Boys' meant 'Dead Quiet Boys' and was intentionally misspoken. I can see the 1st AD in my head who used to say this, but can't recall the name. Jake Wright who was the first on 'The Trial' used to say: 'Quiet please sirs' in his perfect tones, while 'Little bit of Hush' was Theo's choice, and 'Keep it down to a dull roar' also quite popular, although 'good luck studio' said in a breathy tone before the cameras rolled was always a good one.
On a new movie, one of the first questions anyone asked was: 'Who's the First?' As the Chief-of-Staff to the director and the person on point for the smooth running of the set, a good First Assistant Director was vital - not just for production, but for us. A weak or sycophantic AD (we knew which ones they were) could make a huge difference to a film's enjoyment, and the 'running around like an idiot factor'. A good AD would be able to finesse a director's whims in a way that made the process easier on the crew, easier on the production, and and actually great fun. An 'I follow orders' AD could be murder - especially if they were the same sort who liked to drop people in the poo as why things weren't going well. The only time I took one aside was when they insisted on saying loudly 'Waiting for focus' when I got a last minute tape out (totally allowable). I asked if he wanted me to say 'waiting for ADs' when they were resetting crowd action, and they got the message. A good AD knew everyone's job, everyone's names - expected hard work, but didn't piss anyone around and the buck stopped with them. Tough, but fair - and no BS. I never did a movie with Derek Cracknell, who had a legendary status amongst crews, but I did a tricky week's commercial with him. As soon as he started talking on day one and organising the crew, I knew we were all in safe hands, and the shoot would be easy. It was.
Trim the Brutes: Gone now, I should imagine, but popular in the eighties and early nineties before reliable large wattage HMI lamps, a Brute was the name given to an arc light of phenomenal power and purity. Made by Mole Richardson, certainly in the fifties, each was usually on a large electric 'Molevator' stand to lift it as high as fifteen feet, and had a body with a 36" wide fresnel, and then a mechanism or 'mech' that swung out from the back that had an ingenious device that brought two carbon arcs together to 'strike the arc' and then very slowly move the cathode and anode together.
A Brute ran on DC power so required their own generator, and the electrician, or 'spark' would expertly trim the brute to get a smooth, non flickering (and quiet) operation, and all was good to go. Squeaky mechs would be replaced, and a pair of rods would usually last about twenty minutes. The best boy or gaffer would liaise closely with the first AD to ensure that no brute would go out during a take, and when they all needed 'trimming', the order would go out once the camera had cut, to 'trim the brutes', and they would all be switched off with a deeply satisfying 'clunk' as DC requires a powerful spring-loaded knife switch to break the circuit.
The mechs were then swung out backwards and the red hot carbons removed with pliers and dropped in an old paint tin hanging on the yoke. A well practised team could have all the brutes trimmed and ready to go in about a minute, and took great pride in being able to do so. Each brute typically had one man each if the brutes were floor mounted, but if in the roof of the studio, one electrician could do two or more, but it took longer.
As an aside, brutes were often used to shoot ultra high speed, as when you're shooting around the 1000/2000 FPS rate, you can start to see pulsing from the AC going in and out of phase, even from standard incandescent lights. Brutes, being DC, don't do this. The light is super pure and quite beautiful, and the focussing fresnel could be swapped for a clear glass in order to get a point source of light for hard shadows. Searchlights worked on the same principle, as did cinema projectors. (An electrician of the day could probably put me right on a few points, but that's pretty much how they worked. Wonderful things, and at night, pure movie set joy)
This is a brute up on a molevator to give you an idea of scale. Useful for lighting out the shadows on sunny days, and when you are competing with the sun, it would have to be very powerful indeed. If you don't have a sun, then the brute would put it in for you. It was mostly transplanted by the 12K HMI by the time I left the industry. That's Steve, an excellent spark and a very funny guy who used to work for MR Lighting. Amazingly, he could do an impersonation of a dog barking through 100yds of fog. Never heard anyone attempt that before, nor carry it off. The skills you find on a filmset.
The title of a film when talking crew to crew was always shortened, and in the correct way. 'Pirates of Penzance' would be 'Pirates' or 'Raiders' for 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. The upcoming Bond Movie was usually known as 'The Bond' except, I believe, on one occasion when it was known as: 'Avtak' - 'A View To a Kill'. Titles were mashed around a little while filming. I heard 'Raise the Titanic' was sometimes referred to as 'Lower the Atlantic' (It would have been cheaper).
Linguistically, this shorthand gave rise to shorthand conversations, the best I overheard was in the canteen at Shepperton. Two riggers, trying to figure out where they last worked together, exchanged the following:
"Bond?" says the first.
"Nah," said the second after a moment's reflection, "Grillers".
('Grillers' : 'Gorillas in the Mist'.)
Rushes Rush prints that you view the following morning to when you've shot them. They have to be done super quick at the labs to be at the editors ready to by synchronised so they can be viewed in glorious sound. It helps to see them first thing so you know where you are, and can be a big fillip or a bit of a downer - if a reshoot. If you're watching them at 8:00AM, they will have left the labs at 5:00AM. In America they were called 'Dailies'.
DOP 'Director of Photography'. Sometimes called a 'Cinematographer' or the gendered 'Cameraman' or 'Camerawoman'. 'Cinematographer' was more of a grand title - Storaro, and the like - with most opting for DOP.
Clapper board That black and white thing that has numbers on it. Two reasons: to identify the shot for sound and picture, and when you clack the top part down, the assistant editor can synch the rushes together, as sound and film were recorded separately. Very important to have the board easily visible, and in focus. Loud and clear announcement from the clapper/loader, and a clack with the board commensurate with the size of the shot - a small, intimate scene needs a 'sotto clap' but big scenes sometimes need to be yelled out, unless the soundman has given the loader a spare radio mike. A big multiple camera scene that can't use a 'common marker' might have loaders announce: "three-seven-five take six marker A and C cameras (clack)" and then another loader elsewhere announcing for cameras B, D and F. It tells the assistant editor which synch goes with which camera. End board was as the name suggested, on the end of the shot, but is upside down and clacked first then announced, so the camera can be switched off - film being more expensive than sound.
Slate Numbers Traditionally in the UK, these would be sequential - starting at number one and then just going up, new camera angle, new slate. Takes are simply as the name suggests. In the USA it used to work (might still do, don't know, this was all how it was used to be done, don't forget) with the slate number being the scene number from the script. Then each different setup would add a letter, and take number after that. The first take on a UK film would be 'One, take one' while in the states it might be 'three-six-seven-Alpha take one' I liked the UK way, but then I'm not an assistant editor or continuity.
PVSR A very popular Panavision camera of the sixties and seventies. Relatively small and a reflex, it lasted until the early eighties but really only as a B camera. It was essentially a modified Mitchell camera in a close fitting blimp to keep it silent. PVSR stood for 'Panavision Silent Reflex'.
Mute Shooting without sound. Film would be idented with the clapper board, but not clacked together.
Sound Stage A stage with padding so you could shoot sound. A stage without padding, a noisy one, was called a silent stage.
Suits Absent producers, usually - the executives back at the studio who are all powerful and also watch the rushes, send odd edicts down to the director over coverage (see below) or, well, anything.
Scope Shooting Anamorphic, or 'Cinemascope' one of several competing widescreen format techniques. Anamorphic or 'to form again' is the optical term for an additional squeezing element on the front of the lens (usually) that gives a squeeze ratio of (usually) 2:1. So you shoot wide screen format, the image on the negative all looks squeezed up, and this is then unsqueezed with a similar additional lens on the projector in the cinema. A trip to Wikipedia might be more helpful if you need to know more, but all those great old movies like Close Encounters, Star Wars and Raiders were shot this way - probably Panavision, those three. The format is a joy - big and broad and wide - and to me, just yells out the cinema experience like no other. In practice, the lens were bigger and heavier and needed to be carefully tested (I had a list of the serial numbers of my favourites) the zooms were poor, and focus pulling could be quite technically challenging. I did five scope movies in all (I think they were all scope): Highlander II, Goldeneye, Mask of Zorro, Saint and Entrapment.
'Swing a lens' a saying which comes from the day when lens were on a rotating turret for news gathering, and one would swing the lens around, often without turning the camera off. A good cameraman would have a wide, medium and CU lens all with the focus and aperture set so they could get three sizes easily. If they timed the swing for a break in the action (or speech) the newsreel editor could edit the shot with only one camera. A good DOP was also a good editor.
It's wasn't all just friendly banter Upon reflection and to avoid giving the wrong impression, nor to varnish the truth, it wasn't all just friendly lively banter - casual and overt misogyny and racism used to be a part of it - there's probably not a racist or misogynist 'joke' told in the 70s-80s-90s that I didn't hear on a film set. Anti-Semitism and Homophobia were there, but not as much. It was a more ignorant age, and in the 80s and 90s the industry was majority white - while I was there, the number of non-white film crew I met could be counted on the fingers of two hands, and the number of non-white camera technicians on the fingers of a single mitten - Tony and Roy. Although it would be handy and expedient and self-satisfying to say that none of this was anything to do with me, it would be dishonest to say I wasn't a part of it. As I moved up the ranks and grew older, wiser and more confident, it became easier to say 'I'm not keen on those sort of jokes' but really only to subordinates or those of equal rank. To superiors I generally effected a stoney silence. It wasn't enough, it's never enough. If you don't call it out, you're part of it. Middle age is built on a foundation of regrets.
Zoom or prime Basically a zoom is variable focal length, and a prime was a fixed lens. While zooms might be considered a no-brainer, they were larger, the optical quality was not so good, they'd be 'slower' so you'd need more light. For the main, zooms were used a lot on commercials as it's easier to make trifling adjustments, while on movies we shot mainly on primes, especially if shooting Anamorphic, where the image quality on zooms was very ropey. If you didn't need to zoom, then there was no reason to use them, but some DOPs swore by them and they never left the camera, unless you were going wide. This was on 35mm. Zooms were better on 16mm, and you really could use a zoom for most applications - except low light and super wide.
'Give me a beat to get the scissors in': Meaning a space in the action to effect a clean editing cut. A pause in the action or the camera just holding static for a beat, just in case. Having everything storyboarded was a relatively new phenomena when I left; it was previously really used to ensure the 1st and 2nd units understood exactly how a sequence went together during action sequences. For the most part, Director, continuity and operator/DOP would discuss coverage when blocking out the scene. Even so, editors would often have their own ideas, and there would often be calls from the editors wanting more coverage. I once heard a DOP say that they could always 'cut to seaguls' and whenever I see a shot of seagulls, I always think of this.
Overlaps Overlapping dialogue. Basically, don't do this if you want to keep your editing options as wide as possible. Actors are pretty good about this anyway, so it didn't happen often. You CAN do overlaps - they're really good, I love them - but you would cover the two actors with a camera each and so long as you use the same take to edit back and forth, all the action will match perfectly.
Perf Perforation - the holes at the side of the film to make it run through the film transport mechanism. 35mm was four perf pull down for the standard frame, but you could have a two perf pulldown for something called Techniscope which used half a frame in a letterbox format - and you would then squeeze the release print to Cinemascope wide screen format. Basically cinemascope on spherical, cheap lenses. The Spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone used this format. Because you're using half the film, it's very cheap, and a 400' roll will last twice as long - but it has a more gritty look to it as there is less information on each frame. Perforations in release prints look like oblongs with curved corners, while negative perfs look more like a circle with top and bottom truncated. Release prints perfs are for strength in projectors, while negative perfs are for better registration - steadiness.
85 Is the Wratten code for the orange filter on the lens that you would use when shooting outside. Film negative was, up until the mid nineties, almost always balanced for tungsten light (daylight is blue (unless at sunset and sunrise) tungsten orange. The human eye compensates easily, but film does not) With the advent of more daylight balanced lights, Kodak started to market daylight film, usually with a 'D' prefix on the film title. Interestingly, motion picture stock was always called 'Eastman' stock - Kodak film is the stuff you put in your camera. A lighter orange filter was an 81EF, a darker orange filter an 85b. If you had daylight balanced film and you wanted to shoot tungsten, you'd need an 80A filter. If you read my stuff about the Trichromes, the Red, Green and Blue filters I use are, in Wratten-speak, a 25A, 42, and 47B.
Hole in the negative Term used to describe an underexposed area of the film negative. If there's a 'hole' there's nothing there at all - so no amount of printing can bring it back. Black cats were tricky to film as no matter how much light you pump onto them, they end up as a 'hole in the negative'. 'Thin' would be an underexposed negative with not much on it, and a 'thick' negative meant one that was quite overexposed. Most DOPs opted for a thicker negative, just in case, although others notoriously sailed a little close to the wind, sometimes on purpose - if, as the DOP, you wanted a low-key scene and you just knew that production would lighten it all up for TV, then giving a thin neg would assure you that the scene would be presented as you intended. The choice of film gate could be similarly contentious.
Gate (from above) was the name for the mask (see 'check the gate' below) where the film ran, and this could be several different shapes depending on the aspect ratio of the film - 1.85:1 and 1.66:1 were both common letterbox formats for movies (Cinemascope was a whopping 2.35:1 - wider than it was tall) Trouble was, that when you were shooting a film for movie and TV - do you shoot it with a TV 1.35:1 format, and frame everything extraneous out, such as lights and track and possibly compromise the framing - or do you shoot with a 1.85 gate (which cannot record anything but that ratio) and letterbox it for TV? It means less now as TVs have themselves gone letterbox, but back in the 80s and 90s TVs were almost square, so arguments used to ensue whereby production might insist that it was shot on a TV gate, but you framed for 1.85 through the viewfinder. Occasionally this meant that production, far on down the line, would just transfer it for TV irregardless, and all those lights and track that the operator carefully framed out are now as clear as day. DOPs and directors always favoured the 1.66/1.85 gate route, as it meant that the film would always be presented as they wanted. Is this too technical?
Bath The development process at the labs, as in 'The overnight bath', 'daytime bath'. Used by lab technicians but not by us was calling the developer 'the soup' as in 'Yes, we'll pop it in the soup'.
Push the film Overdeveloping the film to bring out more detail. Film has a speed sensitivity rating, logged as ASA - a 400 asa film can be pushed to 1600, and then overdeveloped in the soup. (A one stop push is rarely asked for as you can usually 'print up' to accommodate this) This is done by slowing the continuous development down - film moves on a series of pulleys continuously up and down through each bath separately, so your film will have to go on a journey of its own. It's more expensive and, of course, can't be mixed up in a single roll of film. I worked with a cameraman once who, not knowing this, told us that he wanted half a 400' roll of film push processed and the other normal. I had to explain (gently) how push processing worked. Red-faces all round and the rushes were just a little bit underexposed. As an aside to this, if you were lacing a roll of film into the camera and busted a perforation or split the film, you'd have to have a new magazine and have the loader reload the film in the magazine, chucking out the damaged film. Whilst it would be easy to just wind on a foot of film and try again - everyone is waiting for you to finish lacing, after all - a break in the film is a disaster in the labs as that long continuous length of film moving up and down in the bath will quite possibly be lost - and everyone else's rushes with it. Film is checked for broken perfs by the labs before they go in to the bath due to this, but it is possible to miss them. Any broken perfs are reported back to the camera crew, and are usually sent with a tacit warning over film handling. It's usually best to have two spare magazines on set, just in case - along with a spare battery.
'Queen's left the abbey' Meaning that you should get a move on with a slow lens change or something. Most camera crews prided themselves upon the swiftness of a reload or the switch from a zoom to a prime lens, but on occasion, when things slowed up the abbey jibe - meant in jest - would speed one up. Based, presumably, on the 1953 Coronation - the newsreels cameramen would have lined the procession, and you'd only get a single go at this, and you had to be ready.
Reload Reloading the camera. We generally had two magazine lengths - 400' and 1000'. They lasted for roughly four minutes and ten minutes respectively. It was the loader's responsibility to ensure there was enough film in the mag to cover the take (a 'run out' was a serious bollocking offence) This was usually straightforward until a 'start again from the top' moment, where, half way through a scene that has a minimal reset (a static two shot or a single or something) the director would tell the thespians to start again without cutting the camera. At this point, the loader has to do a quick bit of mental arithmetic and speak up instantly to call for a reload. I remember having to do it for the first time - seriously nervous and in a strangled cry - as one NEVER NEVER NEVER speaks during a take.
Coverage How you cover a scene - wide, two-shots, close, reactions. Less coverage means fewer options in the editing room, more coverage means more options. More coverage means more time, less coverage means less. Time is money. Filming just what you need and no more is an efficient way to make a film, but you need to have a really good idea of how you're going to cut it all together, and you can get into serious trouble with not enough coverage. Some directors I worked for gave their editors almost nothing to do, while others had so much coverage the editors had to wade though miles of film. Coverage can also be dictated by the suits - if they're paying a lot of money for a big star, they'll want to see pleanty of Close Ups. Books and books could be written on this, but you know when you're seeing interviews and they cut to the interviewee's hands or something? It's a quick and dirty way of covering a scene in one continuous take - do the interview with all the fluffs, restarts, gaffs and 'ums' and 'ahs' then shoot dopey cutaways that mean nothing that you can insert at will to make the whole thing fit together. News gatherers did this in the single camera 16mm film era with what they call 'noddies' - interviewers would shoot their own questions and listening 'noddies' after the interview, again, for more options in the editting room
Short end A length of film remaining unexposed from a full roll - 720' is very usable, 120' less so. It was the loader's responsibility to shoot these off as soon as they could, but without the director finding out - some directors insisted on full rolls each take as although relaods were a useful pause (see trim the brutes above) they could be very annoying as they could also break concentration. So you had to be smart to get rid of the short ends, usually at the beginning of the next day, or in handheld shots that used small magazines, or action sequences, which were generally short takes.
Waste end Anything below 100' of film, which seems very wasteful. Sadly, you couldn't really use them in your SLR camera for happy snaps as the local labs couldn't get rid of the remjet backing used to stop halation (light bouncing back through the film from the shiny gate (see below) if you didn't have it), so they were binned. I had my loaders log them, bag them and keep them in case the labs had a problem and we could look at the unexposed waste end. I think I might have done this twice; the loaders probably just said 'yes jasper, good idea' to keep me sweet.
Check the gate The aperture where the film is exposed was called the gate, and this is where the film moved through at about a foot and a half a second. 35mm film was made by slitting large sheets of film into handy rolls, then sent to the perforator to have the holes cut. In the slitting process it was possible to collect little whiskers of film - which could then get caught in the gate and ruin a take if undiscovered. Once you had a shot and everyone was ready to move on, the 1st AD would ask the focus puller (me) to check the gate. Some liked to remove a lens as removing the gate could dislodge a hair, but I always argued that if a hair fell out that easily, it wouldn't have been there long - I removed the gate and held it up to the light for examination. With the call 'gate's clear' everyone could move on 'the shot is in the can', but if there was a hair, we went again - but printed* the shot anyway. I was asked on only one occasion from a cameraman to 'find a hair' so they could go again. Stories abound of focus pullers finding a hair so they could go again, but there seemed little point. Asking for another one for focus was permitted - it's a technical process as well as an artistic one - but you couldn't do it that often.
The last gate check of the movie was always a dramatic affair and we used to milk it, taking our time to stare at the gate minutely until the good natured barracking began. 'Clear gate!' and there was usually champagne - in polystyrene cups.
* All the negative would be processed, but only selected takes would be printed for viewing the following morning/evening. It was the loader's job to ensure the correct takes were printed by liaising with continuity who would be taking notes from the director. Hence the satisfactory air of the phrase: 'Cut, print, check the gate'.
Gaffer Chief electrician, answers only to the DOP
Best Boy 2nd in command electrician, answers only to the Gaffer. Chain of command thing, really, as the gaffer pretty much stays at the shoulder of the DOP, and is relaying instructions to his team through the best boy. A good Best Boy will be relaying orders almost before he gets them from the gaffer, and seasoned electricians will be knowing roughly what they should be doing before getting the nod from the Best Boy. Teamwork.
Rigging Gaffer A gaffer electrician who rigs a stage/location for lights at the DOP/Gaffer's instructions
Nervous Rhyming slang: Nervous wreck, check. Making sure there were no pieces of kit left on set was called a 'having a nervous' and was always done after we had checked already - a sort of double check, as leaving something behind when moving locations was pretty f**king stupid, and could seriously impact on the day. Tech departments used to inter-nervous each other, if a grip found a lens cap or we found a world cup adaptor, or the sparks left a magic arm - we'd make sure it got back to the proper owners.
Butchers as in 'Have a butchers' meaning 'Have a look'. Rhyming slang: Butcher's Hook, Look
Scarper Rhyming slang: Scapa Flow, go. As in: 'Scarper lads, it's the rozzers'
Cocoa Rhyming slang: Cocoa Drink, think - as in 'I should cocoa'.
Rosie Rhyming slang: Rosie Lee, Tea. Presumably a carnival Gypsy fortune teller in days gone by. 'Cup of Rosie'.
Lillian Rhyming slang: Lillian Gish, Fish. As in 'Nice plate of Lillian' The only person I heard use this was Terry and Steve.
Rub-a-dub as in 'I'm going dahn the Rub-a-dub' meaning 'I think I will frequent the public house drinking establishment'. Rhyming slang: Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub, pub.
Chalfonts as in 'I've got some painful Chalfonts' meaning 'I have some painful piles'. Rhyming slang: Chalfont St. Giles, piles.
Harris meaning 'your arse'. This is a double rhyme: Aristotle-Bottle - bottle and glass, arse. Rhyming slang.
Hampton Rhyming slang: Hampton Wick, Dick.
Syrup Rhyming slang: Syrup of fig, wig.
Berk/Burk Rhyming slang: Berkshire Hunt, c**t (Meaning 'A complete and utter idiot' - I never heard its context used anatomically.)
A ching-a-ling on the lean and linger Rhyming slang: a Ring on your finger
Gregory Rhyming slang: Gregory Peck, neck. As in 'get that down your gregory'
Onions Rhyming slang: Onion barjees, Argies. Coined by the sparks when shooting on Highlander II, in Argentina. It was 1990 and there was only friendly banter between us and the Argentinian crew - we all blamed the politicians. Mind you, Bob did refer to my large walking boots (I always wore them on set for comfort as you're standing all day) as 'General Belgranos' - a term I still use today. If you think that's sort of flippant, you may be right - but it gives me an opportunity to discuss the Belgrano/sinking thereof with my kids, and that's a positive.
Saucepans Rhyming slang: Saucepan lids, kids
Shermans As in: 'working for the Shermans'. Rhyming slang: Sherman Tank, yank - Americans. A less polite term was 'Septics' for Septic tank, yank.
The Sweaties/ A Sweaty Rhyming slang: Sweaty sock, Jock. A person from scotland.
Bubble Rhyming slang: Someone from Greece, as in 'The Bubble' Bubble and Squeak, Greek.
Pony Rhyming slang: Pony and trap: Crap. 'Go and take a pony'
Horson (pronounced Orson) Rhyming slang: Horse 'n' cart: Fart.
Jam Jar Rhyming slang for car
JoannaQuite lyrical, and not really rhyming slang I suppose.
And yes, to confirm, these are not made up - I heard them on a set, and yes, they were used in a jokey manner to liven up chat. The only one you never EVER heard was 'Apples and Pears' People who know nothing about rhyming slang will quote this one at you.