Film and television production is primarily a team effort. The production team is divided into four departments: Décor Services, Scenic Services, Field Production and Support Services, which can again be subdivided into other sections.
Film, television and video producers plan and coordinate the practical organisational aspects of a film or video. Essentially film and video producers free film directors to concentrate on the artistic aspects of the film; the two occupations are complementary, therefore.
Producers are the leaders of the production team and are involved with all the aspects of film and television production. They are creative people who use the technical facilities available to produce the best possible visual and sound effects. Producers also decide on such details as décor, lighting and music.
They are entrepreneurs, overseeing the business and financial decisions of a motion picture, made-for-television feature or stage production. They select scripts, approve the development of ideas for the production, arrange financing, and determine the size and cost of the endeavour. Producers hire or approve the selection of directors, principal cast members, and key production staff.
Producers set up auditions for actors, procure costumes, props and other equipment, coordinate the sound, scenes, music, camera work, timing and modifications to the script. They inform the actors and crew about the timetable and rehearsals so that the production runs to schedule and within budget. Their work may extend to the negotiation of staff contracts, authorisation of salaries and the organisation of publicity for the production. They raise the finance necessary for the production of a film and are also responsible in many cases for the initial concept or story-line.
Also involved in television and film operations are television cameramen, video sound operators, vision controllers, vision mixers, lighting operators, videotape operators, film preparation operators, title generator operators and final control operators. Other sections are set design, set dressing, special effects, model building, costumes, graphics, hairdressing, make-up, props and wardrobe.
They also negotiate contracts with artistic and design personnel in accordance with collective bargaining agreements and guarantee payment of salaries, rent, and other expenses. Television and radio producers determine which programmes, episodes or news segments get aired. They may research material, write scripts and oversee the production of individual pieces.
Producers in any medium coordinate the activities of writers, directors, managers and agents to ensure that each project stays on schedule and within budget.
Directors are responsible for the creative decisions of a production. They interpret scripts, express concepts to set and costume designers, audition and select cast members, conduct rehearsals, and direct the work of cast and crew. Directors cue the performers and technicians to make entrances or to make light, sound, or set changes. They approve the design elements of a production, including the sets, costumes, choreography and music.
Producers and directors organise rehearsals; meet with writers, designers, financial backers and production technicians. They experience stress not only from these activities, but also from the need to adhere to budgets, union work rules and production schedules.
Producers and directors ensure the safety of actors by conducting extra rehearsals on the set so that the actors can learn the layout of set pieces and props, by allowing time for warm-ups and stretching exercises to guard against physical and vocal injuries, and by providing an adequate number of breaks to prevent heat exhaustion and dehydration.
A great deal of an actor’s time is taken up with rehearsals where movements, gestures, vocal and speech skills, facial expressions and other acting techniques are practised and repeated under the supervision of directors.
Scriptwriters can be considered as the architects of the film. They must have good knowledge of different filming techniques and other technical aspects.
Production secretaries are responsible for all secretarial work during the production. They have many different tasks during a production, but are primarily responsible for the pre- and post-production secretarial work. They type forms, scripts, schedules, letters, contracts, etc. They are also responsible for a production’s continuity and work closely with the producer.
Cameramen are responsible for the filming of the production. They use specialised equipment such as video cameras, sound equipment and lighting equipment, when shooting the various scenes. A cameraman films every scene until the director is satisfied. Cameramen also work on outside broadcast units relaying sports, news and other events.
Video sound operators have to capture the atmosphere of an event or production on the sound track, whether it is the cheering of crowds at a sports event or a clear recording of a major political speech.
Sound-mixers make decisions about the balance of sound coming from different sources so that it complements the visuals. Both video sound operators and sound-mixers need good hearing, a creative approach and excellent technical ability.
Vision controllers ensure that the visual aspects of broadcasts are of the highest quality. This involves various tasks, such as making sure that the lighting is correct.
Vision mixers have to follow the script and the instructions of the producer closely, to combine the scenes accurately by cutting, mixing or using other special effects. This job requires skill, speed and the ability to work under pressure.
Lighting operators determine what lighting is needed during the recording or transmission of a programme or film, plot the lighting and the sequence of lighting changes and feed this information into a computer. The lighting is changed according to the atmosphere, to show a change in mood or to indicate such practical aspects as day or night.
Videotape operators are trained to handle video recording equipment. Pre-recorded programmes, which make up the bulk of television broadcasts, often need to be previewed and edited before transmission. Experienced videotape operators can become videotape editors.
Film preparation operators are responsible for the final preparation of films and sound-tracks. Films are technically examined for problems such as scratches and bad joins.
Title generator operators make use of an electronic processing system and a computer keyboard to create the titles used in the programmes.
Final control operators must have a thorough knowledge of all aspects of television operations, since they are responsible for directing all television transmissions from the control centre.
Scenic designers are the “architects” and responsible for designing and planning the construction of décor in collaboration with the producer. The script serves as a guide to the designer, and the researchers help by gathering detailed information.
Décor construction artisans put the scenic designer’s ideas into practice. This entails specialised construction using various materials to produce lifelike sets.
Props masters or managers rent or buy all the props or property needed to create realistic scenic décor for use by the set dresser. Their responsibility is to see that the props, such as furniture, paintings, etc, are positioned on the set so as to create the desired effect.
Scenic painters are responsible for painting backdrops to complete the décor sets.
Sign writers make signboards for sets depicting shops, ships, offices and the like, on and off sets and should be able to do silk-screening.
Costumes designers need to carry out thorough research into the smallest detail of the costumes that are going to be used. Once the producer has approved the designs and samples of the material, the material is bought, cut and dyed and only then are the costumes made.
Make-up artists are responsible for the make-up of the actors. Make-up is essential for creating the right look. In many instances blood and wounds have to be simulated, so skilled training is essential for anyone considering a career in make-up.
Lighting designers not only have to ensure that their lighting meets broadcast standards, but also have to keep the set design, props and costumes in mind. They have to be able to create sunsets and even night scenes effectively, so they should have a flair for colour and a good knowledge of electricity.
Special effects coordinators are responsible for non-electronic effects, such as smoke, snowstorms, fire and explosions that may be required on a set.
Computer graphics artists use hi-tech computer equipment to create logos, animation and many other electronic images and special effects.
Model builders: numerous productions use models, which include marionettes, puppets, and replicas of buildings, etc. Model builders are not only artists, but also need to have a knowledge of mechanics and electronics.
Film sound operators use portable tape recorders and are responsible for recording a sound tape. It is sometimes expected of the film sound operator to do language dubbing. This is a highly specialised task because lip movements, sound effects, acoustics, etc. have to be as close as possible to the original.
Film editors deal with a film once it has been completed, by editing picture and sound-tracks into a logical whole until the final version of the film is accepted; prints of the original are then made. Film editors work closely with producers and directors, between whom there needs to be a good understanding concerning the nature and purpose of the films being made.
Other people involved in a film production can include: IT (information technology) specialists (besides computer graphics artists), engineers, laboratory technicians, researchers, runners or gofers, stage or floor managers and sound engineers.
Schooling & School Subjects
Degree: Various relevant degrees are offered at universities such as: UP, UFS, RU, UCT, US, NMMU, UKZN.
Diploma: City Varsity (Cape Town), CPUT, DUT, TUT.
In-service training is provided on most aspects of programme and film production, although some of the careers in film and television production need special training and experience.
National Television and Video Association of South Africa (NTVA)
P O Box 16140
Tel: (021) 424-7575 Fax: (021) 424-7580