What is a gaffer in film?

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What is a gaffer in film? If you’ve ever been on or around film sets, there’s no doubt you’ve heard the term gaffer… but what exactly does it mean to be a gaffer? What is their role on film sets?

What is a gaffer in film?

Simply put, a gaffer is the head electrician on a film set. They are responsible for executing the lighting plan for the film shoot. Sometimes, the gaffer helps develop the plan as well. You may have heard the term “best boy” as well; the best boy is the gaffer’s assistant. Another term for gaffer is “chief lighting technician.”

What does the gaffer do?

In film, the director of photography is in charge of designing the lighting plan. In television, that job is the responsibility of the lighting director. Under the direction of the DP or LD, the gaffer is responsible for implementing the lighting plan alongside the key grip. Depending on the size of the crew, the gaffer may set up lights themselves, or they may supervise other film workers known as “electricians” or “set lighting technicians.” It is important to note that in film, the position of electrician is filled by workers who are not trained electricians in the traditional sense of the word.

What about gaffer tape?

Gaffer tape is named after the position of gaffer, because it is a tool that is frequently used by gaffers and the entire lighting department, under the gaffer’s supervision. Gaffer tape is used for a lot of things on set, especially holding down cords to either prevent them from being a tripping hazard or to keep cords out of the view of the camera. It is also widely used in theater, photography, and other industries. It is made of fabric with an adhesive backing that is designed to be removed without damaging the surface it was adhered to. Gaffer tape was invented in 1959 by a cinematographer with the express purpose of using it on film sets.

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Author

Molly is an author, screenwriter, blogger, and brand manager for New 32 Productions. They are passionate about sharing content that helps filmmakers live a more productive, informed, and well-balanced life. They live in North Carolina with their spouse and way too many dogs.

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