We previously put out a blog with some acting terms that every actor should understand. This blog will extend those terms to industry-wide. If you are in the film industry, you need to know what these terms mean. There’s a ton of jargon in the film industry but these listed are among the most common.
Actor Lingo Every Actor Should Know:
In cinema, TV and the theatre, an ad lib is when an actor says something that’s not in the script. An ad lib might be a small improvisation to the lines or completely made-up dialogue. It’s not a good idea to do this unless the director encourages it.
Automatic Dialogue Replacement (ADR):
If you’re called in to do “ADR,” it means you must go into the studio post-production to re-record some of your lines. Reasons for ADR include the poor audio quality of the original recording and a vocal performance that needs some work.
This is where it all starts! An actor will either get a call from their agent or manager, or find a casting call on one of the casting websites, submit their headshot and resume, have the look that the producer/director is looking for and ask them to perform one scene or more to see if they have the right skills, look, etc. to be part of the production.
Possibly one of the best-loved words in acting terminology, a booking means a job! Sometimes you’ll be booked right away, and other times you’ll be placed on hold until they’re 100 percent sure they want you for the part. Television and commercial bookings generally happen fast whereas film bookings can take more time.
After the initial audition, an actor is asked to audition again sometimes with different scenes or adjustments to what they initially did. It’s not uncommon to have more than one callback.
A chemistry read takes place when the director/producer wants to see two or more actors audition together to see if they have good chemistry. Just because you are invited to a chemistry read, does not mean you have booked the job.
Cold reads are not as common as they once were, but actors should still know what it means in case you’re asked. A cold read is exactly how it sounds; a read from the script that you haven’t had time to breakdown or do much preparation. You may get the sides five minutes before you’re asked to read.
Also called an actor’s reel or a showreel, a demo reel is a video compilation composed of short clips that showcase your acting work. It’s an essential part of your acting kit, along with your resume and headshots, because casting directors, agents and producers will use it to judge your capabilities.
If the director tells you to take a break and go to the greenroom, they mean you should go to the actors’ lounge. Green rooms are more likely found on talk shows or live appearances and not so much on set.
A headshot the actor’s business card. A professional headshot is a MUST and should be exactly what it says; a shot of just your face and that looks exactly like YOU. No glamour shots here, just you.
When you’re “off book,” you no longer have to read from the script because you already have all your lines memorized.
See pinned below.
If your agent/manager let’s you know you are “on hold” for a project it means you need to hold that date and not book yourself on anything else until you get word you have been booked or released.
Sometimes being pinned is also referred to as “on avail” or a “watch and advise”. All of them essentially mean the same thing: you’re “in the mix”. This is not a booking but a term to let you now that they are still considering you for the role.
Pages of the script the actor is asked to perform for their audition.
A slate shot is a talking head shot. You’re slate shot should just be a few seconds and only be you intruding yourself. Nothing cute or fancy here, just say your name.
A list of the actor’s acting jobs, training and specials skills. This will also include agent and contact information and physical traits.
This is a read of the script by a group of actors. Sometimes it’s with the actors that have already been cast and sometimes it’s a group of actors that have not been cast yet. It’s called a table read because it typically takes place with all the actors sitting around a table.
Watch and advise:
See pinned above.
ON SET LINGO:
A short bathroom break.
A longer bathroom break.
The A team is the principals or leads in the film/series.
The B team refers to the stand-ins for the leads.
Back to One:
All cast and crew are to return to their first positions.
This is where the makeup, costume, and cast trailers are located, as well as crew parking and catering. It’s the largest base and first point of call when arriving for work.
The early stages of rehearsing a scene. The Director works with the cast to place everybody in the set and walk through actions and dialogue. Be sure to give them space and stay quiet while this is happening.
The time the actor needs to arrive on set for hair and makeup.
Based on the director’s shot list, the assistant director will put together a schedule that’s given to the cast and crew. It lets them know where and when they will be needed on set on any given day of filming. It’s called a “daily call sheet.” It also contains things like what’s being shot, the nearest hospital, and the weather forecast.
“Camera speeds” is a line you may hear on set. This indicates that the camera is rolling, and prompts the director to call for action.
Coverage refers to the collection of shots that you need to gather during filming in order to edit together a coherent scene during post-production.
A table that has drinks and snacks for the cast and crew.
The time-of-day shooting is scheduled to begin for the day for the crew.
At the end of each day of shooting, the footage is assembled for the director and other staff to view each night. The purpose of “dailies” is to ensure what was shot does not contain technical issues. They are also used to get a feel for the pace of the movie, how things are going in general, what’s working and what’s not, and to monitor the overall structure.
A day out of days (DOOD) report, is a handy organizational chart that marks which cast members are needed on a day of shooting, and for how long. The production team uses the DOOD report and the shooting schedule when creating a budget for the film.
This refers to the team of individuals who are involved in shooting the sections of the film that are of primary importance, typically scenes involving actors or the stars of the film. In large productions, there would typically be a first and second unit.
“Honey wagon” in acting terms is a truck, trailer or a combination of both that houses dressing rooms and toilets.
A set that is currently in use for filming or needs to be left as is because filming will return there in the near future. Don’t touch or move the props or set dressing, or else prepare to feel the wrath of the art department.
This refers to the casts’ hair and makeup. It’s used to indicate that the scene is about to be filmed and that if any final touch-ups are needed, now is the time to do them. And, although it’s technically intended for hair, makeup and wardrobe, it is also a signal to the entire crew that everyone needs to ensure everything is in its proper place.
A mark is where the actor needs to stands. They can be on their mark the entire time or have a beginning mark and end mark.
When you hear the director or first AD say “martini shot” on set, this means it’s the last shot of the day.
Points or Hot Points:
This is a safety term used by grips to let those nearby know they are carrying some equipment, like a light stand for example, with its tip pointing forward. It can also mean some heavy equipment in the vicinity that could be harmful or dangerous.
The response of the individual in the audio department controlling sound recording letting the crew know that sound is being recorded.
There is another team responsible for shooting supplementary footage. When there’s a lot to get done it can be more efficient to have a second team shoot at the same time the first unit is shooting. While the first unit handles primary shots, the second unit can take care of elements like horses trotting through a field, people walking in the streets, or establishing shots.
A shot list is a detailed list of every camera shot that needs to be captured in a scene of a production.
This is an audio term. “Audio speeds” or “Sound speeds” indicates that the audio technician is ready and rolling sound.
This is a quick rehearsal that does not require sets, lights or crew. At a speed-through, actors typically sit at a table and read lines to check their accuracy and timing.
To strike on a film set simply means to turn on a production light or series of lights. While it is less common in modern filmmaking, every now and then you might hear someone yell “striking” when turning on a light.
This is a viewing area for directors and other production personal. It contains monitors, chairs, and the like where the crew are able to see what the cameras see. Sometimes talent will sit here in between scenes as well, or executives to see how the overall production is going. And it’s where the script supervisor lives.
No acting glossary is complete without the magical word, “wrap.” When a director calls out, “it’s a wrap,” it means that filming has ended.
Terminology for Roles the Actors are Hired:
Same as extra work. No lines, just a person in the scene.
This term is used for TV/series actors and is an actor who supports a scene or two. A co-star role is typically a day player with a few lines. However, there are also multiple day co-stars or recur co-stars.
An actor who is hired to be a “day player” works on a set daily and not on a long-term contract. Another term for a day player is “additional,” as in, “The actor who said the memorable line, ‘I’ll have what she’s having” in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ was an additional named Estelle Reiner.”
Same as background. No lines, just a person in the scene.
This term is used for TV/series only. A guest star will normally perform in multiple scenes and have a character arc in the episode. Often times, the actor playing a guest star role will appear in the opening credits. A guest star can also be recurring.
Generally, a principal actor is someone with a speaking role on camera. This classification can mean different things depending on the type production but usually this term is used for commercials. (Commercials have different rules than movies and TV shows).
An actor who appears in multiples episodes of a tv show/series.
The leads of a television series (someone who appears in the main credits and posters/advertising).
An actor who is put into place for another actor so that lighting can be set and checked. This gives the principals time to rehearse, eat or do whatever else they might do until they are needed.
Only the actor’s voice is used.
“In perpetuity” means… forever. And ever. They can use your image in this infomercial FOREVER! Be careful with this and it’s best to ask your agent/manager if you’re contract has this in it.
Actors who live where the project I being shot. Producers like to hire actors who are local to avoid transportation, room and board expenses.
In addition to the pay an actor receives, if it is a union job, they will also get a daily allowance for personal expenses.
Right of First Refusal:
A producer requests that the actor contact them before booking another job that would conflict with the one they are casting.
The combined Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists unions. Actors need to meet certain requirements to be eligible to join the union and pay an initial membership fee and then annual fees to remain in the union. The benefits are many and can be found on the SAG/AFTRA website, https://www.sagaftra.org
If it is a union job, it is the minimum amount the actor can be paid according to the union’s schedule of minimums.
Scale + 10%:
The minimum amount the actor can be paid according to the union’s schedule of minimums plus 10% of his amount to be paid to the actor’s agent.
There are too many to list here. To see the majority of roles, go to https://www.wrapbook.com/blog/film-crew-positions
We hope this helps! If you have any questions please reach out to us!