BTL of the Week

Posted on February 9, 2007

Getting Focus So BTL of the Week, as the name implies, was supposed to be a weekly post recapping the BTL job I just performed on an F3. Well F3s are now over so I’ll just do a recap of the jobs us first years did and what I learned that will be useful for thesis (as we have to do these jobs again on a three day shoot). Maybe the weekly thing will work better then, too.

  • 2nd Assistant Director – probably the most loathed of all the jobs, the 2AD deals with the most paperwork and has the longest hours. It’s your job to prepare the call sheet ((Sheet that gets distributed by 5pm the day before letting everyone know what’s being filmed, when, and where)), arrange crew sign-in sheets, actor sign-in sheets, meal sign-in sheets, copies of the script, and the DPR ((Daily Progress Report – A report that lists how much was filmed, how much is left, what time everything happened, who showed up when, etc. This must be delivered within 2 hours after the day wrap.)). You’re also generally not near the action. Your main on set job is to guard craft services, so if they’re not shooting near it then you’re out of luck. The one plus: this is the only first year job that gets a walkie.
    What I’m Taking to Thesis – Bring more to read…lots more.
  • 2nd Assistant Camera – to contrast the former, this was my favorite job (and also the busiest). The 2AC helps build the camera, loads the film into the magazines, fills out the camera report, takes focus measurements, slates the scene, and downloads the film. The 2AC is the only person that physically touches the film, so the pressure’s on.
    What I’m Taking to Thesis – Eat something before I get to set. Since this was my last job, I was used to getting to set, waiting for the DP and Gaffer to figure out the set-up and grabbing a bite to eat. But with 2AC, while they’re doing that I have to load the magazines, help set-up the camera, and wait until it gets into position before I can raid craft services. Also, I need a better theme for slating ((If the shot is 3A, you say a word, like three apple, to make sure the Assistant Editor can understand the slate. Of course there’s the military alphabet, but that’s boring. I tried mythology because there were a lot of ‘A’s (Apollo, Athena, Agamemnon, Achilles, Artemis) but after that it went down hill.)).
  • Script Supervisor – I kind of like Script Suping, though I think most would disagree. You basically keep an eye out for continuity. Was he wearing this in the scene before? He’s supposed to have gotten punched so there should be blood on his shirt…That kind of stuff. Since it’s only a two day shoot it’s not too complicated, plus Production Design and the Director usually know, but every now and then they’ll ask you a question. You also have to fill out details for each take, track which parts of the script were covered in which set-up, and make note of when meals and wrap times are since your watch is the official time. You’re also in charge of TAP, a monitor that taps into the film camera so you can see the shot and framing, though the image quality is awful. This helps in getting continuity since you know what is being shown on the screen. You can also make sure the 2AC keeps the slate in frame since the Script Supe is also the Assistant Editor, the person that syncs the sound to the picture for dailies.
    What I’m Taking to Thesis – Take lots of pictures. There’s no easier and quicker way to remember continuity then photographing everything. Pictures have saved the day quite a few times.
  • Best Boy Grip – This is the main assistant to the Key Grip. You basically help with everything that isn’t a light: flags, dolly track, silks, c-stands, etc. You also generally Dolly Grip (push the dolly if the move is required).
    What I’m Taking to Thesis – Stay close to set because if someone needs something you’re probably going to be the first person they ask to get it.
  • Best Boy Electric – Continuing with the sexist titles, BBE is the assistant to the Gaffer and deals with everything lights and electricity. Since we don’t use generators like the MFAs, there isn’t much to worry about as our most powerful light will run off a standard circuit as long as nothing else is on it. But whenever someone needs an outlet you’re their go-to person.
    What I’m Taking to Thesis – Always have a stinger on standby. TAP always needs power and usually someone will need something with power, so best to have it ready. Speed is key.
  • Boom Operator – Half of a movie is sound, yet the sound team is only two people and the Boom Op is half of that. Though sound gets ready in about 20 minutes, the Boom Op is pretty tied down so it’s hard to roam freely. You have the boom pole, two sound boxes hanging off your belt, and giant headphones that would tune out a jet. Someone can be talking to you a foot away, but if the microphone isn’t turned towards them you’d never know it.
    What I’m Taking to Thesis – Wear a tighter belt. And comfortable shoes.

Well that’s it. I had a fun time working on the shows and I’m looking forward to doing it again on thesis (this summer), plus we get the added jobs of Unit Production Manager and Art Director.

Written by Joey Daoud

Joey Daoud is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. His past films have appeared on Netflix, The New York Times, and National Geographic. He is also a YouTube creator across multiple channels with videos garnering millions of views. In his free time, he likes to climb mountains, scuba dive, and brew unique coffees.

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