Monday, 28 April 2008


Some of the vernacular from film, television and theatre explained.

The Martini  The last shot of the day. Traditionally accompanied by feelings of great joy or panic. The Assistant Director/Production Executive Abby Singer named this shot after the sound of the Director mixing cocktails in anticipation of the end of the filming day. Hence:

The Abby Singer  The second-to-last shot of the day. 

MOS Without synchronised sound. Literally, Mit Out Sound, possibly from the German speaking directors who worked in Hollywood such as Lubitsch, Lang or von Stroheim. A liberating experience for an actor, to be paid for later in post-synching. 
Alternatively, Minus Optical Stripe.

Post-Synch Also, Dubbing. Recording dialogue in a studio and matching it to the lip movements of the actor in the original scene. Usage, "We can fix it in the dub."  

Dirty Shot  A close-up with a bit of the other actor in it (usually the shoulder, it's not that kind of dirty). 

Flats The flat backdrops that are raised and lowered on to the stage from the flies.

Flies The gantries at the sides of the stage where the ropes for the flats are controlled by the flymen.

Flymen Men who can see down your dress. 

Prompt Corner The side of the stage from which the Stage Manager calls the show. Prompt Corner, PS or Prompt Side, usually the left-hand side is Stage Left as the actor looks out at the audience. Thus, Stage Right is also known as OP, Opposite Prompt. However, Camera Left and Camera Right are situated from the point of view of the camera operator. No chance of confusion there, then. 

Blocking  The rehearsed movements of the actors on stage, after the practice of directors moving blocks on models of the set. It has been observed that some directors would wish the actors to be as amenable as the blocks. Usage, "The director told the actors that he wanted them off the book when they started blocking."

Off the Book The actors perform the play without the script in their hand. Usage, "I can never come off the book until I've finished blocking."

Dailies and Rushes The day's film footage. These used to be a positive print of the daily negative screened by projector for viewing by the director, camera and other crew, usually in the evening after the next day's filming. On some films, the watching of the dailies was an event and the entire company would attend. With the advent of video, it is no longer necessary for many people to see the footage projected, they can watch it on DVD. Also, with some films now shot entirely on digital video, the footage is instantly accessible. This has the unexpected effect of slowing filming down, while actors watch their performance on playback and rally themselves to do it better.

Eyeline The specific point, on stage or set, upon which the actor gazes. Some actors dislike seeing people in their eyeline when they are filming. Usage, "Bob requested another take because the crowd was in his eyeline."
In film close-ups it is often impossible for actors to actually look at the face of another actor and the eyeline will be a piece of tape stuck to the camera. If the director is in love with the other actress and cannot bear to film you without some piece of her in the shot, he may request that she stands nearby in order that her reflection appears in the window behind you. In this instance, you will have to address the moving speech about the death of your mother to a tennis ball stuck on top of a lighting stand. For example. 

DCOL  Doesn't count on location. A state of denial which exists until the +1s arrive.

+1s Wives, husbands or partners.

Alan Smithee A pseudonym for a director who has taken his name off a film. Usage, "The director said it DCOL but his +1 was the producer and now it's an Alan Smithee."

Practical A prop which can actually be used, such as a light switch. Usage, "The pay was terrible but there was a practical pie in the Third Act."

Pickfords After the British removal company. Additional money when an actor moves furniture on stage for technical rather than performance purposes. Usage, "Everybody had to bring their own chair on and off stage with them but it was a creative decision so none of the actors got any Pickfords."

Craft Services Catering on American productions involves a large trestle table permanently displaying food and drink. Bagels, cream cheese, doughnuts, red vines, fruit, potato chips, candy, juice, tea, coffee and peanut butter are the mainstay of the table. Usage, "Ever since rehab, Bob clung to craft services."

Honeywagon A type of trailer. Sometimes refers to the actor's mobile dressing rooms but more often describing the unit's location toilets. Usage, "Bob gained so much weight from craft services he had to meet his dealer in the honeywagon."

The Wrap Party The last night of the gig that goes on just long enough to make sure everyone is too ill to panic.


  1. Eyeline: Thank you. I'll never look at tear-jerking 'declaration of love'/'I have a deep, dark secret' scenes in quite the same way ever again.

    Pickfords: I wonder why the name? Although Mary Pickford was so business canny I wouldn't be at all surprised if she did charge extra to help move furniture.

  2. Hi Mary,

    Pickfords is a furniture removal company in the UK, of long standing. And you're so right about Mary Pickford.

    Don't lose your faith in the magic of the movies! I'm going to see 'Iron Man' today and I'll believe a man can fly.


  3. I suppose every trade has its own lingo. Being at a set a few years back, I found out I didn’t understand much of what I heard around me.

    I got a text message from a friend telling me they were desperately short of extras one day. 'We need people for a walla group' he wrote. As I didn’t want to appear too ignorant I looked up the expression before I replied. Apparently they wanted us to sit and murmur in the background. I am a student and decided I might as well bring my books and read there instead of at home. But I was constantly distracted from reading when someone yelled something I did not understand at all: 'We are going to need a blimp!' 'Now, will you adjust those barn doors?!'

  4. Ah, yes. Lighting jargon is another chapter.

    Mary, hope you don't mind, I'll edit the Pickfords definition as I should have mentioned its origins. Thanks for the tip :-)

  5. I don't mind at all.

    Between the jargon and the UK/US divide, just another case of being "seperated by a common language."

  6. Just wondering what the Jargon could be for, 'That was shite. Could we do it over again?' :-)

  7. Oh, Sophie, what an ass I am. Of course, it's called Take Two! Duh. Never mind. Playwright leaving room, now.

  8. Well, that should be one I know. There are plenty of euphemisms ("That was great. Let's do another.") but Take 2 (and Take 97) pretty well.

  9. Well, the jargons in your line of work are funnier than those used in the financial world. Sounds more fun ,-p

  10. Yes, -p, they are funny and not so many anonymous acronyms as in the financial sector and I won't make any remarks about fantasy and reality...

  11. I'd sure love to also ready several tennis terms and jargon if you're familiar with those.