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Film Terminology- A Vocab Guide to Acting

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

(In other words, what the heck does THAT mean?)



Click on this button to find out exactly what you need to know as far as On Set Lingo:)


ACT: One of the main sections of a Screenplay or a play ACTING PROCESS: Specific choices an actor makes to bring the character to life ACTION: One of the key words a Director says to start the scene AD LIB: Dialogue in the scene that has been improvised ADJUSTMENT: An artist’s pay is being increased above the base rate ADR (screen): Automated Dialogue Replacement – dialogue that has been added in post-production ADVANCE: Money that has been paid in advance to secure somebody’s work AGENT: An artist’s/performers representation in the business responsible for negotiations and other business deals ART DIRECTOR (screen): A person responsible for designing a film set ASIDE (stage): A line delivered to audience that isn’t meant to be heard by other performers on the stage ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (screen): Director’s assistant, often referred to as A.D. ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER (stage): Stage Manager’s assistant AUDITION: An artist’s tryout for a role/job where demonstration of skills is required BACK TO ONE: A direction for performers to return to their starting reading/scene positions BACKGROUND (screen): People who work in the background of the scene, often referred to as Extras BACKSTAGE (stage): Part of the theatre not being seen by the audience, like dressing rooms BEAT: A pause of varying length in the scene, usually to emphasize an emotion or a thought BEAUTY SHOT (screen): The last shot on a TV show, which is then used to run the credits BELT (stage): A style of loud and full tone singing in Musical Theatre productions BEST BOY (screen): Assistant to a Gaffer BILLING (screen): The list of names in the Opening Credits BIO: Short for “Biography”, a short description of performers or other people working on a production BLACK BOX (stage): When theatre room is surrounded in black curtains and audience are in the same room with performers BLACK OUT (stage): An immediate shutdown of all stage lights BLOCKING: A rehearsal of physical actions taken by actors during a scene, including entrances and exits BLUE SCREEN (screen): Filming with a large blue screen in the background so that special effects could be added in post-production BOOK (stage): A script for a play, musical’s libretto BOOKING: Employing an actor and scheduling them for a role BOOM (screen): A set-microphone at the end of a long pole to use over performers’ heads so as to keep it out of the shot BOX OFFICE: Commercial success of any production/performer based on profits and audience’s size BOX OFFICE (stage): A place where tickets to a production are being sold BOX OFFICE MANAGER (stage): A person in charge of ticketing and reservations BREAK A LEG: A term used among actors before performance or audition which means “Good Luck” BREAKDOWN: Production’s description by Casting Directors privately passed on to Talent Agents to find performers to attach to the project BREAKING CHARACTER: Stepping outside of the imaginary world of performance BROADWAY: Most famous theatrical district in the world based in New York City BUMP: A one time payment for additional services BUY OUT: A flat fee for a production that will not return any Residuals CALL SHEET (screen): A list of Cast and Crew with the day’s filming schedule CALL TIME: The time by which someone has to be on the set or stage; start of the day of shooting CALLBACK: A second round of Auditions for the same role the performer initially went for CAMERA CREW (screen): A team in charge of everything to do with the camera CAMERA LEFT/RIGHT (screen): Indicates the side of the shot where the performers are kept, from the Camera Operator’s perspective CAMERA OPERATOR (screen): The person responsible for operation of the camera and looking through the lens during a Take CAMERA READY (screen): Description of anyone who is completely ready to appear on camera, dressed for the part and in make-up CAP: Performer completing their section of the scene CAST: All actors and performers in a production CASTING: The process of actors being chosen (cast) for the role, done by the Casting Director and/or Director, Producer CASTING DIRECTOR: The person responsible for Casting, in speech often referred to as C.D. CASTING NOTICE: Similar to Breakdown, except this one is available to the public and is often listed on casting websites CATERER: The person responsible for all the food on the set or stage CATTLE CALL: Auditions that are open to all types of actors: professionals, amateurs, Union members and non-Union CATWALK (stage): A very narrow walkway on the ceiling of a theatre where lights and scenery are hung from CHANGES: Different performers’ outfits worn during a production CHARACTER: The person who is going to be played by an actor during a production CHEAT (screen): An angle where an actor is being positioned to better accommodate the camera CHECKING THE GATE (screen): Checking the lens of a camera CHIEF ELECTRICIAN: A person in charge of an electrical team, sometimes referred to as Gaffer CHOREOGRAPHER: A person responsible for arranging movements and creating dances for actors to perform CHORUS: A company of singers and dancers, OR songs and dances performed by those people CINEMATOGRAPHER (screen): Someone in charge of the Camera Crew, often referred to as Director of Photography (D.P.) CLOSE-UP (screen): A close shot of an actor, from forehead to the chin, often marked as C.U. in the Screenplay CLOSING OFF (stage): An actor’s action of turning away from the audience; opposite of Opening Up COLD READING: During an Audition, reading of the Sides that are completely new to the actor COLOR COVER (screen): A Stand-In wearing the same color as the principal actor COMMISSION: A percentage taken from an actor’s paycheck by a Talent Agent or a Manager COMPANY (stage): The whole Cast and Crew of a stage production COMPOSITE: 3-5 different photographs of an actor to show off their various looks, sometimes referred to as Comp Card CONTROL BOOTH (stage): A small room/place in the theatre from where all technical things, lights and sound, are controlled COPY (screen): A Script for a production that’s for TV, usually a radio Voice Over or a Commercial COSTUMER: The person responsible for costumes COVER SHOT (screen): An additional shot that might be of a different angle to a Master Shot done for editing purposes CRAFT SERVICES: A table with food and snacks, cared for by Caterer CRANE SHOT (screen): A shot of a scene from above, often with the camera hanging on a crane CRAWL (screen): The ending Credits CREDITS (screen): Appearance of names involved in the production, OR list of actor’s experience on their Resume CREW: All people involved in the production except for the actors CUE: A signal for an actor to act/begin CURTAIN (stage): A screen of cloth on stage that separates the audience from the performers CURTAIN CALL (stage): The time at the end of a stage performance when all actors come out to take their bows CUT (screen): A cue to cease the action of the scene, usually given by the Director CUTAWAY (screen): A short scene showing something other than the person in the previous shot (e.g. what they’re reading) DAILIES (screen): A raw footage that has been shot that day and is yet to be edited DAY PERFORMER: The person hired to work on a production on a day-to-day basis, not on a contract DEMO REEL/SHOWREEL: A short footage that showcases performers’ skills DIALECT: A regional accent that is often adopted by actors to make the role more believable DIALOGUE: A verbal exchange among at least two actors DIRECTOR: The person responsible for all components of the production DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY (screen): The person responsible for Camera Crew and filming process, makes decisions with the Director DOLLY (screen): A piece of equipment used on the camera to allow for more mobility DOLLY GRIP (screen): The person from the Crew responsible for working with Dolly DOUBLE: A person who is used in a place of a principal actor; not to be confused with Stand-In DOWNSCALE: Performers who appear in casual and regular clothing DOWNSTAGE (stage): Part of the stage that is closest to the audience DRAMATIST: The person who writes plays, also known as Playwright DRESS REHEARSAL (stage): A principal rehearsal just before the show with the Cast in full costumes DRESSERS (stage): People responsible for helping performers to get in and out of their costumes during the show DRESSING (screen): Various items and props used on the set to make the scene look more realistic DRESSING ROOMS (stage): Rooms in the theatre where actors change into costumes DROP (stage): Fabric that is hung on the stage and often used in the actual show DROPPING CUES: Actors forgetting their lines or missing the Cue EIGHTEEN TO PLAY YOUNGER (screen): Someone who is 18 years or older, but can played a younger role ELECTRICIAN: The person usually responsible for all of the lighting part ENSEMBLE: A group of performers in the production EQUITY: Trade Union to protect all kinds of performers in the business by regulating pay and working conditions ESTABLISHED (screen): When a person or object has been established in the shot in a specific position or doing a specific action ETHNIC TYPES: Referring to the race of a person which is most often not Caucasian EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: The person responsible for the business side of the production, including funding EXIT (stage): A stage direction for an actor to leave the stage EXT. (screen): Short for “Exterior”, used in a Screenplay to indicate a scene outside EXTRA (screen): A non-speaking role in the production that is used in the background to create an atmosphere of the scene FEATURE (screen): A film that is of full length FEATURED (stage): Second to Lead role in a stage production, similar to Supporting in films FIELD REPRESENTATIVE: A representative of the Union that is responsible for making sure that standards are upheld FIRST A.D. (screen): Short for “First Assistant Director”, the person responsible for giving most of the directions on the set to the Cast and Crew FIRST TEAM: Principal actors FORCED CALL: When the Cast and Crew have to work in less than 12 hours after they have finished FOREGROUND CROSS (screen): When an Extra crosses in front of the camera or principal actors FOURTH WALL (stage): An imaginary wall between the audience and actors on the stage during a show FRONT OF HOUSE (stage): Area of theatre and people who deal with the audience, like Ushers, Box Office, etc. FX / SOUND FX (screen): Special effects GAFFER: Head Electrician, also known as Chief Electrician GOLDEN TIME (screen): 16th hour on the shooting day; Extras receive Base Pay for every single hour spent on set past this point GREEN ROOM (stage): A room where performers relax before going on stage GREEN SCREEN (screen): Same as Blue Screen, except the screen is of green color; the choice of Green Screen is more common than Blue GRIPS (screen): Crew that is responsible for moving the equipment around the set HAND PROPS (stage): Objects held by performers used to tell a story HEADSHOT: A photograph a performer to showcase their look HOLDING (screen): A room/area where Extras are staying while not working on the set HOLDING BOOK: When a member of the crew assists performers by giving them their lines HONEYWAGON (screen): Truck trailer close to the set that hosts bathrooms and changing rooms HOT SET (screen): A set that is ready for filming HOUSE (stage): Means audience in the theatre, OR could be short for Front of House HOUSE LIGHTS (stage): Lights that are used to light the auditorium HOUSE MANAGER (stage): The person responsible for anything to do with the audience HOUSE OPEN (stage): When the audience are being seated before the show and performers can no longer appear on the stage IMPROVISATION: Coming up with actions and/or lines on the spot without any preparation INDUSTRIAL (screen): Film, Short or a video clip used for educational purposes only INSERTS (screen): A shot that is used in the footage during post-production INT. (screen): Short for “Interior”, a term used in Screenplay to indicate a scene taking place inside LIBRETTO (stage): A book or script of a musical or opera production LIGHTING DESIGNER (stage): The person responsible for show’s lighting LINE PRODUCER: The person responsible for keeping the Director on the budget and on the schedule LOCATION (screen): It could refer to the stage, set or an area where the filming is taking place LONG SHOT (screen): A shot that exposes most or all of actor’s body, often abbreviated as L.S. LOOPING (screen): Tool used in post-production to correct dialogue that has already been shot, OR use of audio/music on the loop MARK (screen): A designated position where an actor has to stand in order to be at a perfect angle/lighting for the shot MARKER (screen): A command used along with a Slate Board to indicate a visual cue for the camera MARKING OUT (stage): The process of marking out the stage to indicate where the props and furniture is going to stand MASTER SHOT (screen): An important shot that comprises principal actor(s) and background to create a scene MATCHING ACTIONS (screen): When an actor has to match their previous actions for another shot after they have been Established MATINEE (stage): A performance of the show that takes place in the afternoon MEAL PENALTY (screen): A payment to actors and Extras if the production doesn’t break for meals at least every six hours MIXER (screen): The person in charge of the Sound Crew, responsible for the quality of the sound MONOLOGUE: An longer speech used by a single actor without breaks for Dialogue, often used for Auditions M.O.S / S.O.C (screen): Short for “Motion Only Shot” and “Silent on Camera”, where the shot is taken without any sound or Dialogue MUSICAL DIRECTOR (stage): The person responsible for musical effects of the show, usually works with the Director and orchestra NIGHT PREMIUM: An additional pay for people working past 8 PM. OFF BOOK: The term that refers for when actors must have all their lines memorized, not reading them off book or off script OFF-BROADWAY: New York City theaters that aren’t located on Broadway OFF-CAMERA (screen): A Dialogue or Monologue performed by an actor who isn’t in shot, often abbreviated as O.C. OFFSTAGE (stage): Stage’s area that the audience cannot see ON BOOK: The term that refers for when actors are still using their scripts in rehearsals; opposite to Off Book OPEN CALL: Same as Cattle Call; long days of general Auditions available for anybody OPENING CREDITS (screen): Credits shown in the beginning of a film or a TV show OPENING UP (stage): An actor’s action of turning away from the audience; opposite of Closing Off ORCHESTRA PIT (stage): A sunken area of the theatre in Front of House where the conductor and musicians are located OUT OF FRAME (screen): A term that refers to a performer who’s outside of camera’s field of vision OVER THE SHOULDER (screen): A shot that is focused on one actor while being filmed over the shoulder of an actor opposite them OVERDUBBING (screen): Technique of using one audio track/sound on top of another OVERTIME: The term refers to the time after 8 hours of work OVERTURE (stage): The introductory music during a musical show to give the audience a feeling of what’s to come PRODUCTION ASSISTANT (screen): The person responsible for a big variety of things during a film production, often abbreviated as P.A. PAN (screen): A sweeping camera shot/movement that goes from one end to the other without any cuts PANTOMIME: A pretend speech when Extras in the background are imitating real conversations; same as Ad Lib PER DIEM: A fee paid to the actor to cover meal costs that weren’t initially cover by the Producer PERSONAL PROPS (stage): Props that actors carry with them in their costumes PICK UP: Starting from a designated place in the scene that isn’t the very beginning PICKING UP CUES: A term that refers to performers acting on their Cues faster than they previously have PICTURE’S UP (screen): This line is shouted when a cue to shoot a scene is coming PILOT (screen): A first episode of the TV show that is produced in order to sell the whole show PLACES (stage): A command from Stage Manager which means all actors have to take their designated positions before going on stage PLAYBILL (stage): A pamphlet, booklet or program that contains information about the show, OR a poster of the show PLAYWRIGHT (stage): A person who writes plays and dramatic literature, also known as Dramatist POST-PRODUCTION (screen): The stage that the production enters to start the editing process after all the filming has wrapped up P.O.V SHOT (screen): Short for “Point of View Shot”, where the shot is positioned in the way to indicate Character’s perspective PRE-PRODUCTION (screen): The stage that the production is in before all the filming begins (writing, casting, location scouting, etc.) PRESET (stage): When a prop or costume is placed on the stage before the show begins PRINCIPAL: Actors with speaking parts PRODUCER: The person responsible for the business side, as well as financing and supervising the production PRODUCTION COMPANY: The firm that is making the production happen PROFILE: Performers’ view from the side PROMPT (stage): A person who follows the play by the book and gives actors the line when they forget; similar to Holding Book PROP MISTRESS / MASTER (stage): Someone who’s in charge of all the Props PROPS: Objects and items used by performers on the set and stage; not the same as costumes PROSCENIUM (stage): Arch that frames front of a theatre stage READING (stage): Reading and demonstration of a new play to an audience with little to no actions READ-THROUGH (stage): A first reading of the play by the cast that is going to perform on the show REAR OF HOUSE (stage): Area in the back of the stage, usually used to store props and furniture REHEARSAL: Time of practice and Blocking before the actual performance either on stage or in front of the camera REPERTORY THEATER (stage): A theatre group that rehearses several plays at a time REPRISE: Repeating the performance RESIDUAL (screen): A pay that performers get every time the production they were a part of gets rebroadcast RESUME: A list of actor’s information, including Credits, personal details, special skills, etc. REWRITE: Editing of the Screenplay or a play RISER (stage): A platform on the stage that creates different levels ROLL OVER (screen): A command given by the Director to Cinematographer and Mixer to start rolling ROLLING! (screen): A command then given by the member of the Crew to start rolling the cameras and sound ROOM TONE (screen): Recording of a sound on location, sometimes referred to as Wild Track RUN (stage): The number of times that the stage show has been performed RUNNING-TIME (stage): The time it takes to run through the stage show, including intermissions RUN-THROUGH (stage): Rehearsal where the whole show is being run from the beginning to the end RUSH CALL (screen): Last minute booking of performers or Extras SCENARIO: An outline of the plot SCREENPLAY (screen): A written piece of material by a Screenwriter used for a film or TV, also known as Script SCREENWRITER (screen): The person responsible for writing a Screenplay to film SCRIM (stage): A drop of special material used to for setting the scene SCRIPT (screen): A written piece of material for film or TV, sames as Screenplay SCRIPT SUPERVISOR (screen): The person responsible for tracking all the changes made to the Script SECOND ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (screen): The person responsible for dealing with things that have to do with actors and Script revisions SECOND TEAM (screen): The Crew that’s ready for Stand-Ins coming in SECOND UNIT (screen): A small group of filmmakers that film less important shots not involving principal actors SEGUE (screen): A transition from one shot to the other SELECTIONS (screen): Wardrobe of actors or Extras SET: Either location where the filming takes place or a stage where a theatrical production is being staged SET DESIGNER (stage): The person responsible for stage’s set design SET-UP (screen): The time of camera changing the position SHORT (screen): Refers to Short Film, which is a film of shorter length, usually made on a lower budget by aspiring filmmakers SIDES: Part of the script, usually a couple of pages, that is used during an Audition SKINS: List of people working who have been booked for that particular day SLATE (screen): A quick statement to the camera of performer’s name, and any additional required details before the Audition begins SLATE BOARD (screen): A chalkboard with a clapper on top used as a visual Cue for the camera and to mark the shot being filmed SOLILOQUY: Monologue that usually represents the inner workings of one character’s perspective SOUND DESIGNER (stage): The person responsible for designing sound directions during a staged show SOUND EFFECTS (stage): Noises used to accompany a scene on stage SPEC (screen): People who arrived on the set when they’re not booked, OR a Screenplay that has been written without arrangement SPEED (screen): A old-fashioned command from a Crew member to indicate that everything is ready for filming the scene SPIKE (stage): The same thing as Marking Out SPIKING THE LENS (screen): The term that refers to an actor looking directly into the camera during a Take SQUIB: A small device that simulates a bullet-shot on the body and similar effects STAGE DIRECTIONS (stage): Script giving actors specific directions for actions on the stage STAGE FRIGHT: An anxiety during the performance STAGE LEFT (stage): A Stage Direction for the actor to move to the left, from actor’s perspective STAGE MANAGER (stage): The person responsible for running the whole show STAGE RIGHT (stage): A Stage Direction for the actor to move to the right, from actor’s perspective STAGE WHISPER (stage): Whisper during a show that isn’t supposed to be heard by the audience STANDBY: The command for actors to be ready for their Cue for action STAND-INS (screen): Performers used in the place of principal actors while adjusting cameras and lights STEPPING ON LINES: A term used for when one actor cuts off another actor, not to be confused with interruption STRIKE (stage): Taking apart the stage set STRIKING (screen) Gaffer says this before turning on a light STUDIO (screen): A room or a building where the filming on the Set takes place STUNT COORDINATOR: The person who’s responsible for coordinating all Stunts performed by actors STUNT DOUBLE: The person who performs all the Stunts instead of the principal actor STUNT: Physical actions that are considered dangerous SUBMISSION: Submission/suggestion of actors for roles SUBTEXT: The true feeling behind the words that a character is saying SUMMER STOCK (stage): Repertory Theatre that produces shows during summer time SW (screen): Implication of an actor commencing work on that particular day; term used on the Call Sheet SWF (screen): Implication of an actor beginning and finishing their work on that particular day; term used on the Call Sheet SWING (stage): A performer in a musical show who substitutes for chorus that cannot perform; similar to Understudy TAKE (screen): A shot that is being taken TAKE 5: Five minute break TECHNICAL DIRECTOR (stage): The person responsible for supervising construction of a stage set TECHNICAL REHEARSAL (stage): The first time the play is rehearsed at the location it’s going to be seen by an audience TELEPROMPTER: A device that allows for the reader to look right into the camera while reading the Script THREE BELLS (screen): An indication to be quite on the set during the filming of the scene TIGHT SHOT (screen): A shot that focuses on a single subject and allows for very little to no extra space around TILT (screen): When movement of the camera vertically TIMING: Best moment for an actor to do something or say something TOPPING A LINE: A term refers to an actor responding with a line that is more powerful than the one delivered before them TRACKING SHOT (screen): A shot taken with a camera on the move TRADES: The type of media that is about the entertainment media, also known as Trade Papers TRAP (stage): An opening on the stage where something or someone can be hidden TREATMENT: More detailed explanation of the story or plot TROUPE (stage): A theatre company formed by a group of actors TURNAROUND (screen): Shot from a different direction, OR the time between finishing work and starting it the next day TWO-SHOT (screen): A shot of two actors UNDERSTUDY: An actor who learns one or more roles to substitute in case principal actors cannot perform UNION: Unions are responsible for protecting performers’ rights, regulating pay and working hours UPGRADE (screen): Usually refers to individuals being promoted to being a more significant part of the production UNIT PRODUCTION MANAGER (screen): The person responsible for managing production’s costs, often abbreviated as UPM UPSCALE (screen): The term refers to performers and Extras that come in nicely dressed; opposite of Downscale UPSTAGE (stage): Area of the stage farthest away from the auditorium V.O. (screen): Abbreviation for “Voice Over” VOICE OVER (screen): A term used to indicate an off-camera directions, narration, commentary, etc. W (screen): Implication of an actor working on that particular day; term used on Call Sheet W/N (screen): Implication that an actor will be working on that particular day, but no time has been decided yet; used on Call Sheet WAIVERS: A Union’s approval to deviate from the contract WALKAWAY: Break for meals when the Cast and Crew can go on their own to eat WARDROBE: An actor’s clothing for the performance or filming WARDROBE ALLOWANCE (screen): Payment made to actors who use their own Wardrobe during the filming WARDROBE FITTING: An appointment when actors are trying out Wardrobe and costumes WEATHER PERMIT CALL (screen): During unplanned weather conditions, the production can dismiss actors 4 hours after the Call Time WRANGLER (stage): The person responsible for the younger cast members WRAP (screen): The end of the filming for the day or the whole production WRAP PARTY: Party that takes place after the production has been finished and Wrapped


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