10 Film Set Terms Every Actor Should Know

10 Film Set Terms Every Actor Should Know

When it comes to being on set, there are a number of things that actors should know. Other than your lines, knowing the key terms for when onset are crucial for success. From budding actors to the more experienced, these phrases are common on the lot. Read below for 10 film set terms every actor should know.

Action:

This is the director’s cue for the actors and/or acting to begin. As an actor, you must be ready at all times—no checking your phone or goofing around. When you hear “action,” you should be ready to act.

Call time:

The time you must be on set or location and ready to work. Check your email and phone regularly to ensure you read all communications from set. If you’re late or miss a call, you may have lost your chance to work with the director again.

Cheat:

So what does it mean if you hear: “We’re going to cheat you in a little for this shot.”?  Cheating, the method used on set where special shot angles are used to get interesting takes of people or objects. If you’re in a cheated shot, you’ll be asked to move off to one side to get the required shot. Someone will instruct you where to stand.

Dirtying the frame:

A director has many choices for how a scene is shot. If you hear “dirty shot,” it means there is some physical intrusion like a body part of another actor to give a sense of distance between two actors. It may also be used to create a power differential between actors. If a dirty shot is called, you may need to cheat your height a bit to get the correct angle in the shot.

Key light:

A light trained on you. An actor should always know the location of their key light so they can play to it. You may have a wonderful acting moment and be in the wrong position but a simple adjustment can make everyone happy and ensure you have a great shot.

Pick up:

Re-filming part of a scene from a specific point in the action where only part of a take is done again with dialogue or action. A pick up may be used to correct a mistake or film additional material. For the actor, this means listening attentively and being ready for an action called.

Quiet on set:

Complete silence. Any movement or sound can spoil the shot, and that can be costly. You don’t want to be the one responsible for ruining a great shot by making noise.

Rolling:

Action is about to begin as the cameras (and/or sound) are rolling to film a take. It’s also another signal to pay close attention and be quiet.

Standby:

When you hear these words, it means to hold your position for a temporary delay and be prepared for rolling. You must be emotionally ready at all times so you can step into your character’s shoes. Standing by or holding means you will pause, stay in character, and be ready to continue when action is called again.