Glossary of Industry Terms

Have you ever been in an audition and had the Casting Director say “..Ok. And Slate” and you freeze in terror because you haven’t the foggiest idea what the frick she’s going on about? Or have you arrived at a call back and had the monitor ask you if you need sides, to which you respond with a blank, cud-chewing stare?


Well, with any luck, this glossary of various industry terms should help you out.
Keep in mind that I plan to add to this list as I go along. Any feedback or suggestions welcome.

ABC-TAKE: 3 different takes of a line. Usually audio/voiceover.

AC: Assistant Camera – the person who helps log the shots for a cameraman, among other things

ACTORS AGREEMENT: Union contract for hiring an actor on a job (film/tv, etc)

AD: Assistant Director – the person who assists the director on a shoot, sometimes primarily focused on the talent, esp. extras.

ADR: Additional dialogue recording or automated dialogue replacement. Dialogue recorded to a picture after something has been animated or filmed.

AGENT: A professional male or female from a talent agency who represents you as an actor and submits you to Casting Directors for acting jobs/roles.

BEST BOY: the assistant to the Gaffer/Chief lighting technician or Key Grip/Lighting and/or rigging technician.

BOOK OUT: a term used when you are notifying your agent and other industry folk of an impending scheduling conflict. For example when you are “booked out” for another job.

BREAKDOWNS: A list of auditions with casting specifics (i.e, Blond female, age 28-34 adept in yoga) that Casting Directors send out to agents and managers to help them cast specific jobs.

CALL-BACK: When you are literally “called-back” to audition again for a job. Usually only one call-back is required, but on occasion, can happen numerous times (esp. network TV or commercial spots). NB** It can be pretty rare to ever get a call-back for a voiceover.

CANS: Headphones

COPY: Script (usually commercials)

DEAL MEMO: A contract an actor signs alongside or before they sign the union paperwork. FYI: union paperwork supersedes ANYthing you sign with a producer. You just have to make sure that the production is a union-affiliation/signatory.

DEMO: Your audio reel or “demonstration” – an mP3 or cd with clips of your previous recorded work as an example of your abilities.

DP: Director of Photography

DUB/DUBBED: Alternate vocals laid over the imagery of a film/commercial, etc

(ENDED UP) ON THE FLOOR: A technical term for being “cut-out” or edited out of a final product. Literally a phrase from back in the day when they would edit movies/audio-reels by cutting into the actual spools of film/tape. The unused pieces would end up on the floor. People now refer to whole scenes/characters, etc that get cut out of a film as having “ended up on the floor”

FIRST REFUSAL: When a producer/director is considering you for a job and requests that before you agree to book another job elsewhere, that they get the right to refuse to hire you first. In the commercial world, a call-back is usually accompanied with a first refusal.

GAFFER: A gaffer in the motion picture industry is the head of the electrical department, responsible for the execution (and sometimes the design) of the lightingplan for a production. Gaffer is a traditional British English word for an older man or boss. It is essentially a variant on grandfather, used as a term of respect for a village elder, and applied to those in charge of workers since the 19th century. It has been used for the chief electrician in films since 1936.

GO SEE: An audition for a print/photographic job. Example: Got Milk ads.

HEADSHOT: Literally a photograph of your head and shoulders (or sometimes full-body depending on what your style is and who took your picture) used as a 2-d representation of you that agents, casting directors, etc. can refer to during the casting process. Mine is on this page to your right.

IMPROV/IMPROVISATION: To invent, compose, or perform with little or no preparation. For our sakes, specifically comedy or drama live onstage.

KEY GRIP: In American and Canadianfilm-making, the key grip is the chief grip (lighting and rigging technician) on the set. Like a foreman, the key grip directs a crew of grips, some with specialized skills such as dolly grips, crane operators, camera car operators, etc. The key grip is sometimes credited as the first company grip. In Australia and New Zealand the key grip generally owns the grip equipment, often consisting of dollies, track, cranes, camera cars and insert trailers.

LEGIT: The area within acting localized to theater, TV and film.

LOOP: ADR/Dubbing or bringing in extraneous audio and flying it under the visual product.

(THE) MAGNET: An improv theater and school in New York City owned by Armando Diaz.

ON-HOLD: When you have been selected for the job and the producers/directors, etc., are organizing the shoot/recording/performance. NB** Being on-hold does not necessarily guarantee you the job. They might choose to go with someone else, or they might even pull the job altogether. But you came darn close!

OVER-DUB: Matching new vocals to the mouth of an already filmed script (think about movies on TV that have curse-words “dubbed” over with less crass words. Like F*ck relaced with the more innocuous Fudge…

PA: Personal Assistant or Production Assistant

POP/POPPED (SOUND): Literally popping you “p”‘s or “b”‘s or other plosive letters into the mic creating a puff of wind that slightly distorts the recording.

PER DIEM: A daily cash allowance given to you on the out-of-town set of a production. Generally for food/meals.

(THE) PIT: The People’s Improv Theater is an improv theater and school in New York City.

PHONE PATCH: Frequently in voiceovers the clients may be in another city or country so the director/client listens into the recording session from another studio over the phone live (as it happens) so that they are able to communicate what they need from the spot/job/actor to the engineer.

PRODUCER: The producer initiates, co-ordinates, supervises and controls filmmaking/tv-production matters such as fund-raising, hiring key personnel and arranging for distributors. The producer is involved throughout all phases of the film-making process from development to completion of a project.

READ: A performance/audition of scripted sides.

REP/REPRESENTATION: A slang term used for the agent/agency or manager who “represents” you professionally by submitting you for auditions/jobs and who helps you negotiate your contracts when you book work.

ROOM TONE: To make the editing and overall appearance of a film as seamles as possible it is necessary to capture the base sound of a room/environment without talking, etc so that it can be laid underneath the final audio to mask edits and to create consistency/continuity to the visuals.

SAFETY “ONE FOR SAFETY”: Sometimes you may have nailed a take, but the director wants you to do another one for “safety”. This usually means that they’re covering their backs incase some unseen technical variable renders the good take useless to avoid reshoots and editing nightmares.

SAG: Screen Actors Guild. A union created to protect actors rights and in the case of higher earners a venue to enable to professional actor access to health insurance, etc. Mainly for jobs with speaking roles in movies, television and commercials. (How to get your Union cards)

SCRATCH TRACK/S: A rough edit of the audio for a project to see/hear how it works before nailing it down officially.

SIDES: The script at an audition, usually associated with legit (theater/TV/film) work.

SIZE-CARD: A piece of paper you will have to fill in before an audition and sometimes before an actual job. It literally asks for information pertaining to your “size” – height, weight, shoe-size, dress-size, pant-size, etc. You do’t always have to fill these out at the audition but you will need to give the costume designer your info once you’re booked for the role.

SLATE: Where you simply state your full name for the Casting Director before your on-camera or voiceover audition. Can sometimes require stating your phone number, or talent representation, and sometimes the name of the job/character you are reading for. Example: At the beginning of a voiceover job, I might say (after the Casting Director has given me the go-ahead) Angela Dee. CESD. Wendy’s.

SPOT: a commercial

TALK-BACK: In voiceovers, you’ll find yourself alone in a highly sound-proofed booth while the engineers, CD, directors, etc are in another room. Often separated by a sound-proofed glass window. The only way to communicate between these two areas is through an intercom: the Talk-back. That way everyone can talk to you (and you to them) or to each other when they need to without it compromising/interfering with the recording.

TRADES: Industry publications such as Variety, Entertainment Weekly, Backstage, Holywood Reporter, etc.

WILD SOUND: A recording of the overall sound of an environment.

UCB/UCBT: The Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater is an improv school and theater in New York City and Los Angeles.








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  1. Ask Me! – A new booking conflicts with upcoming auditions? | The NYC Actor - January 24, 2012

    […] Glossary of Industry Terms […]

  2. Ask Me: Where are all the auditions? | The NYC Actor - May 30, 2011

    […] Glossary of Industry Terms […]

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