What Does a Best Boy Do In Filmmaking?

Films are artistic endeavors and the result of many people working together to bring a vision to life. Many moviegoers stick around through the credits thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the credits reveal all of the hard work of the teams. What is the one role that always sparks a bit of curious interest? The best boy. This role is crucial in filmmaking and involves dedicated technical training.

In this article, we will take a look at what a Best Boy is and what they do. Additionally, we will go through about skills and responsibilities of the best boy.

Let’s have a look!

Who is the Best Boy

The term Best Boy refers to the best electrician in the team led by the gaffer (chief lighting technician). Best Boys coordinate the team of lighting technicians and deal with all the logistics and paperwork relating to the role. They liaise between the production office and the lighting company and relay information to the gaffer. Best Boys ensure that equipment is ordered, arranges its delivery, and ensure that it arrives in the right place at the right time.

They are also in charge of dealing with any damaged or malfunctioning equipment. This is a senior lighting role and varies according to the size of the production. The Best Boy is the gaffer’s right-hand person.

What does he do?

If you’ve ever sat in the dark and watched the credits roll after a movie, you may have giggled at the “best boy” title and wondered what it meant. Well, for one, the best boy is actually a full-grown adult and not a child — there are no little boys working on film crews (at least we hope there aren’t). And best boys are usually men, but there are a few female best boys. They’re not called best girls. Confused yet?

There are usually two best boys on a film set — they’re the right-hand men (or women) of the gaffer (head electrician) and the key grip (the leader of the grips, or camera crew). The theater and film industries borrowed the term “best boy” from the seafaring world, probably around the turn of the 20th century. On a ship, the “best boy” in the crew would be tapped to be the captain’s second-in-command.

Sailors and dockworkers commonly helped out in New York theaters, building sets, and lugging equipment. They made the natural transition into film work when the film industry started (it wasn’t until later that all the movie people picked up and left for California). The best boy name stuck, and it’s still used on film sets today.

The gaffer and the key grip work with the director of photography, or cinematographer, to fulfill the camera and lighting vision for the film. The best boys supervise the crews of grips that work under the gaffer and key grip. The grips are responsible for most of the physical labor that’s needed on a shoot.

Aside from building sets, they set up and adjust cameras and lights, build lighting rigs and camera dollies, and run errands for the key grip and gaffer. The best boys stay in constant communication with the gaffer and key grip, assign tasks for the crew, handle paperwork, verify work hours for the crew, order equipment and keep in contact with the production office.

Like just about everyone on a movie set, best boys work long, unpredictable hours (20-hour days and six-day workweeks are not unheard of). Grip jobs are union jobs, so in order to join you have to meet the union’s membership requirements.

Job security will probably be dicey until your foot is firmly in the door, and even then work can be erratic. It takes at least a few years to build up enough experience as an electric or camera grip to be promoted to the best boy. A middle-of-the-road estimate for an annual salary for the best boy is about $50,000 to $75,000, with big-budget films paying more than that.

Best Boy And Equipment Management

The best boy also rents and orders all of the needed equipment for the department and keeps a running inventory of each item. This includes writing up deal memos, as well as logistics for the entirety of the film shoot. It’s vital for the best boy to be in sync with the key grip to make the entire production smoother.

Organization As Best Boy

This will require anyone in the role to create a binder to keep all of the information they need. This binder includes the script, schedule and contact information, and paperwork for any on-set situations.

What it Takes to Be the Best Boy on Set

When it comes time to shoot, the best boy’s duties exponentially increase which will require one in this position to truly utilize all of the skills that they’ve acquired prior to gaining their digital media production degree in addition to being able to handle a high physical workload.

Assorted Roles For Best Boys

On smaller sets, the best boy takes care of all the pre-lighting themselves. The best boy also has to operate as a sort of technical scout. Doing so means that one has to plot out the places on set where they’ll run cable, set up the staging area for equipment, and (if needed) coordinate truck placement in close proximity to the set. The best boy also has to walk with a toolset for these duties, which will include Allen key sets for stands, levels, measuring tape, and a clamp meter among other items.

Best Boy – Responsibilities

Best Boys have specific responsibility for liaising with other members of the production team, e.g., the first assistant director, the special effects director, or the art director. On location, they may liaise with the building maintenance team, or with the electrician in a particular building.

It is the Best Boys’ responsibility to check the lighting team members’ timesheets in order to verify the hours they have worked. Best Boys issue written orders, and assist the gaffer in coordinating the other lighting technicians in the team. The work is demanding, and the hours are long and unpredictable. Best Boys may work a six-day week, and up to 12 or 13 hours per day.

Best Boy – Skills

Lighting technicians need several years of working experience before becoming Best Boys, and it is unlikely that anyone would attain this position before reaching the age of 25. They must be organized, able to motivate other team members, and communicate effectively with other production departments, as well as acting as the liaison with the lighting company. Best Boys must be aware of health and safety legislation and procedures.

There are 132 members with the job title Best Boy on Media Match.

To Sum Up

There are many working parts of a film set and the Best Boy is integral to the filmmaking process.

The most important asset a best boy is required to have for the job is a knack for direct and distinct communication. It’s vital as they’ll be in a prominent position to manage various technical elements as well as different crew members in the department, even to the extent of firing someone if they’re not pulling their weight consistently on set.

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