Filmmaking Expressions That Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean
Jack’s been working in film for the last 4 years and has encountered his fair share of awkward moments due to odd filmmaking expressions…
In general the film industry is a strange beast, that often when talked about can confused those from outside the conversation. General film lingo is riddled with potential euphemisms and these can sometimes get you in a spot of trouble if talked about outside of a closed set. In fact the other day I was at the pub with a colleague discussing methods for blowing someones head up, which we talked about at length before realising the awkwardness of the conversation had anyone overheard it.
So following that I’ve compiled a collection of some of my favourite film expressions that can either generate strange looks or even get you in some trouble:
Now this one is pretty self-explanatory when you see what a Deadcat is. Essentially the Deadcat dampens the amount of wind reaching the microphone so as to stop there being unwanted noise when recording sound in windy environments. This one may freak you out a little if it’s your first time on set and the sound guy asks you to fetch him a Deadcat. Please don’t go and kill the neighbour’s cat…
Legs refers to a tripod, specifically the legs of the tripod hence, legs. This one got me in trouble when I tried to compliment someone in the street for having a nice tripod, however they hadn’t had it long and also had never been on a film set so I was met with an ‘excuse me?’ and a very odd look. Luckily my explanation diffused the situation…
A clapper may be more obvious to most people and less likely to result in dodgy looks. A clapper simply refers to the clapper board used to keep track of the scene, slate and take as well as provides a ‘clap’ for syncing audio and video that are recorded separately.
This was the one that inspired this article. Shooting is the term that almost all photographers and camera operators use for filming or taking photographs. Hilariously, one of my freelance colleagues was working in Turkmenistan, (which is ruled by a dictator) and was filming an opening of a ceremony. When approached by the President’s personal guards and asked what he was up to he said, ‘Oh, I’m just here to shoot the president’, which resulted in his passports being taken off him and taken to an interrogation room for a few hours. So be careful where and when you use this expression…
Run and Gun
It seems like a lot of filmmaking expressions are related to guns and warfare. Thankfully this doesn’t involve actual guns. This one refers to a method of filming. This involves running around with the camera either handheld or shoulder mounted, and filming everything possible.
A cheese plate as many will know is a delicious way of tasting different cheeses often accompanied by some wine and grapes. A cheese plate in the film industry however is a piece of metal with lots of screw holes drilled into it to allow the attachment of different camera accessories. Far less tasty, however I imagine if you really wanted to you could use one to hold your various cheeses (preferably Edam).
A lens baby is actually a really cool type of lens that creates strange effects with the focal plane . However if you walk up to a female on set and ask for a ‘lens baby’ you could end up with a slap or a sexual harassment complaint.
Another weapon-based nickname for something film-related, this however is simply a directional microphone. The name comes from the field of view that the microphone uses to pick up audio, very similar to the spread of a shotgun.
On my first ever time on set I was asked to fetch the ‘matte box’ and spent 30 minutes looking for a box full of rugs. Of course that wasn’t what the director of photography was asking for. A matte box is an accessory that attaches the front of a cameras lens to allow the use of filters as well as very large ‘French flags’, which shield the lens from the glare of the sun.
Babies are simply miniature tripod legs that allow the camera to mounted at a low angle, however if the camera operator says, ‘Can I have babies please?’ it’s not appropriate to say, ‘At least buy me dinner first’. Trust me…
Thankfully now that you have this list you will not have to find yourselves in the positions my colleagues and I have found ourselves in. Plus if you do find yourselves on a film shoot you won’t get offended or freaked out if someone asks you for a Deadcat or compliments your legs.
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