16 On-Set Phrases You Must Know

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Photo Source: Nick Bertozzi

In my previous column, I explained 15 terms and phrases that every actor should understand to seem like a professional. But those weren’t the only ones! Here are 16 more, from “the Abby” to “video village.”

The Abby Singer or “the Abby”
Named after the production manager who, as an A.D., realized that a few extra shots could be squeezed out of the shooting schedule if the crew began packing up and moving to the next location before a company move took place.

A “technical” term for clothespins. One legend has it that an accountant, tired (or afraid) of explaining the purchase of a large quantity of clothespins, called them C-47s on the purchase order.

A camera term from the days of Westerns. The camera will frame “holstered guns–up level,” or waist-hips up. “Tight cowboy” would be above guns.

First team
The actors, excluding background and extras, in a scene (the A.D. will call for first team when they’re ready to shoot). Second team is the stand-ins and doubles.

Flying in
When a request is made from a department head for a piece of equipment or a prop, the person who is retrieving it usually announces it’s “flying in” to the crew.

Golden time
When a crew is working past 16 hours. Everybody is exhausted, pissed off, and earning triple time!

Hot set
A set on which furniture, props, and sometimes food are positioned for an imminent shoot, so called to prevent those items from being moved and thus compromising continuity in the finished product. You never want to mess with anything on a set, nor should you sit on the furniture unless you’re in the middle of the scene and told to do so.

The Jonesy
A new and bittersweet term. This is the first shot of the day and honors assistant cameraperson Sarah Jones, who lost her life on the set of the film “Midnight Rider.”

Kill the baby!
Filmmaking can be relentless, but nobody is actually killing a child. This is when they turn off the baby Fresnel light.

Last looks
The moment just before shooting starts when the hair-makeup-prop people make sure that the actors and the set look exactly as they should before the camera rolls.

Magic hour–Golden hour
This is the director of photography’s delight, the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer. It’s been said that Terrence Malick shot “Days of Heaven” entirely during magic hour.

The tripod.

The off-time hours guaranteed by the various union agreements to actors and crew members between shooting days. Many crew members aren’t guaranteed enough time to wrap, drive home after a long day of shooting, get the sleep they need, and get back to set the next day.

Video village
The encampment on the set around the video monitor(s) so that all can view the action on set and not actually be on the set. Here you can find the producers, writer, director, D.P., executives, and any visiting guests. You don’t belong here unless you’re asked. Only the top tier of actors is welcome.

“Watch your back” or “Hot Points!”
The crew yells this as they move equipment. Invariably, there’s always an intense discussion going on between the filmmakers directly in the path of the crew. This is their nice way of telling you to move your ass!

“We’re on the wrong set!”
No, you’re not actually on the wrong set—it’s what the A.D. says to signify a company’s move to the next set or location.

Like this advice? Check out more of Marci Liroff's articles!

Known for her work in film and television, producer and casting director Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Mark Waters, Christopher Nolan, Brad Bird, and Herbert Ross. While working at Fenton-Feinberg Casting, she, along with Mike Fenton, cast such films as “A Christmas Story," “Poltergeist," “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial," “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and “Blade Runner." After establishing her own casting company in 1983, Liroff cast “Footloose," “St. Elmo's Fire," “Pretty in Pink," “The Iron Giant," “The Spitfire Grill," “Untamed Heart," “Freaky Friday," “Mean Girls," “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” “Vampire Academy,and the upcoming “The Sublime and Beautiful,” which she produced as well.

Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light. The class spawned an online course available at Udemy entitled "How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp".

Visit Liroff online at marciliroff.com, follow her on Twitter @marciliroff and Facebook, and watch her advice videos on YouTube. You can also read her blog.

Photo by Doug Hac.

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Marci Liroff
Known for her work in film and television, producer, casting director, and intimacy coordinator Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world. Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light.
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