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Quiet on the Set: Film Jargon

What is a take? If you're asked to cheat, what are you being asked to do? As an actor on a film set, you'll need to know the following words and phrases.

action
The word the director uses when he wants the actors to begin performing.

actor's call
Your call to the set. You will be called at least an hour before the assistant director thinks you will be needed—be sure to show up at least a half hour before that. This will help you become accustomed to the set, the props, and the atmosphere. Never be late; the cost of a crew waiting for you is enormous.

cheating
When an actor takes on a physical position that would not be natural in real life, such as looking at something other than the person or object on which she is supposedly focused. This is often necessary to get the right effect or perspective on film.

close-up
Positioning the camera close to an actor's face (or any object that is significant in the scene) so that the person or object fills the frame.

cut
The director's instruction to stop a scene. The director is the only person on the set allowed to "cut," or stop, a scene. If the assistant director, sound mixer, or camera operator needs to stop the scene for any reason, they call out "break it."

The ability to find your predetermined location in the scene without looking at the marks that have been placed on the floor.

long shot
A camera angle used to stress the environment or setting; the camera is at a distance from the subject of the shot.

medium shot
A camera position that results in full- to half-figure shots of performers.

pickup
The director uses this term to indicate that he or she wants to redo a small part of the scene. For example, if a scene is going well until someone forgets a line, the director might want to pick up the scene near that point to avoid reshooting the entire scene.

print it
What the director says when the take completed is good enough to use. A film print is made of the take.

setup
The camera position or the composition of a shot. Each time one of these is changed, there is a new setup.

speed
A term used to let the production crew know that the camera is rolling or the sound is being recorded.

take
A scene that is being (or has been) filmed. It is not a rehearsal and there will be a film record of it.

that's a wrap
A phrase that means, "We're done. Shooting is over for today."

 Back to: "The Shoot" Next: "Editing"
 "Cinema" is inspired by programs from American Cinema.