Here are some of our favorite, more obscure production and film biz terms. If you know all of them, you’ve either been in the business a really long time or a true film nerd.
Abby Singer: It’s a term given the next-to-last shot of a production. The name references a famous assistant film director, Abby Singer, who worked in the biz during the 50’s thru much of the 80’s.
Barney: In the ancient production days ending perhaps ten years ago, a barney was a physical enclosure or a blanket placed over a film camera to reduce the amount of noise of the moving mechanism (motors, gears and gate) inside. If your camera was close to a talent doing a sync shot, it was pretty important.
Bogie or Bogey: An unwelcome person who is walking thru a set or location. We believe its genesis comes from military slang for some unidentified aircraft.
Chocker: This is an extremely tight close-up, showing mostly the eyes.
Chopsocky: It’s a slang (and not particularly enlightened) term for a martial arts film.
Cookie: This is a mask for a light usually with different types of irregular holes that help put patterns on the intended surfaces, usually backgrounds. It is either a form placed in the front of light and held in place with a c-stand or it can be inside certain specifically designed, focusable lighting instruments that project different patterns. The name derives because their hole patterns look like a chocolate-chip cookie.
Dead Cat: Aka wind sock, wind muff or mic cover and its larger cousin, the Dead Wombat. They are those fuzzy, fake-fur coverings that go around a boom microphone to help cancel wind noise. Somewhere some sick boom operator thought the name was perfect because it looked to him like a dead cat.
Enfant Terrible: You might have worked with one of these. We are not talking exactly about the French term meaning ‘terrible baby’ but a great analogy; a jerky, young, brash, egotistical director who gets away with bad behavior because they are supposedly supremely innovative.
Fake Shemp or just Shemp: A term referring to a look-a-like "talent" used in a film, shot only from the back, or perhaps only showing an arm or a foot. Long-story-short, when The Three Stooges actor, Shemp Howard died suddenly, the Stooges were still contractually obligated to four more shorts. They were able to deliver the films by shooting new footage of the other two Stooges along with stock footage and heavy use of a Fake Shemp.
Gary Coleman: This is a short or small C-stand.
Jelly Roll: A director’s term of obfuscation to the DP or AC to act like they are shooting or rolling but actually aren’t. This used to be very important during the expensive film footage days when you didn’t want to embarrass a poorly performing talent or interview and waste very expensive film.
L-cut: Aka, split edit, J-cut, and delayed edit. Simply, a L-cut is placed in between two scenes and the audio and video portions do not happen at exactly the same time. The audio can start before or after the picture cut to achieve a desired effect.
Martini Shot: The Martini Shot is the very last shot of the day after the Abby Singer (see above). This is very much received as welcome news by a usually tired crew.
Rhubarb: This is apparent background conversation by extras. Background talent were often asked to mutter the word “rhubarb” to produce the sound effect of a genuine conversation with their mouths moving convincingly. Alternatively, they would be asked to murmur a phrase “walla-walla,” “peas and carrots,” or “watermelon” to create either the sound of a crowd or to pretend visually that they were talking and not screwing-up the important hero sync of a scene.
Rocky Mountain Leg: Refers to a third leg of a light stand or c-stand that can be adjusted individually from the other two to accommodate placement on uneven ground, inclines or even stairs.
Smash-Cut: An editorial term that refers to a very sudden and jarring transition from one scene to another to surprise the audience.
10-100: Usually uttered over a radio, this usually means a cast or crew member is heading toward the washroom.
Vertigo Effect: Aka Contrazoom. From the famous Hitchcock movie, it is a camera technique that is created by a dolly moving away from a talent while simultaneously zooming in (or vice versa). It produces an odd visual effect where the surround and environment changes while the person appears stationary.
Wig-wag: It’s a red warning light located above each door to a film set or sound stage. It is designed to rotate or flash to indicate when shooting starts or ends so people don’t walk in on a ‘take.’