Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that offers a breakdown of what a gaffer does on a film set.
The term “gaffer” has a confused etymological history. There’s a line of thought that believes the word originated as a contraction of “godfather.” It then steadily evolved to broadly mean “boss” or “master.” Another school of thought ties the word to British slang for a tool called a “gaff,” a hooked metal pole used to adjust stage lights. Considering that, as members of a film crew, gaffers are effectively masters of lighting, both of these definitional histories effectively sum up what it is that gaffers do.
On a film set, gaffers function as the chief lighting technicians and the heads of the electrical department. They typically report to the director of photography and are responsible for executing their creative vision. They play a huge part in how a film ultimately “looks.” So even if you don’t work in the industry, if you’re a fan of cinematography, it’s valuable to learn more about how gaffers do what they do.
In that spirit, we heartily recommend checking out the video essay below as it offers a more in-depth explanation of the role of a gaffer, what their average day on set looks like, and tips from someone with industry experience.
Watch “What A Gaffer Does On Set: Crew Breakdown”:
Who made this?
This video essay on the role of a gaffer is by In Depth Cine, a YouTube account dedicated to providing its audience with practical rundowns and explainers on some of the more technical aspects of movie-making. Gray Kotzé, a documentary DP based in South Africa, is the man behind the channel. You can check out Kotzé’s portfolio on their website here. And you can check out In Depth Cine on YouTube here.
More videos like this
- Here’s another sample of In Depth Cine’s work: how Quentin Tarantino shoots a film at three different price levels.
- And here’s their video essay on how cinematographers work with colorists (the video is a rapid-fire Q&A that covers a wide range of topics).
- Here’s more of In Depth Cine’s work, on what a 2nd AC, or second assistant cameraperson, actually does on a set.
- And one more: In Depth Cine’s opinion on why certain modern filmmakers are opting to shoot their movies in black-and-white.