The Lingo

There's tons of terminology in the business that you will come across, so I've created a dictionary of terms to explain some of them. If you come across a weird word, let me know and I'll add it to the list!


across-the-board - when an agent represents you for film, TV, commercials, voice-overs and modeling

ACTRA - Association of Canadian Cinema, Television, and Radio Artists, the union for Canadian performers

actual call - the heading on the audition sign-in sheet under which you write the scheduled time of your audition

AD - assistant director

air-checking - having a copy of your TV performance professionally taped

atmosphere noise - non-scripted background dialogue

auteur - a filmmaker, usually a director, with a recognizable, strong, personal style

Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR) - putting additional sound to a movie or TV show or re-recording existing lines


banking - doing extra hours of school work so you are free when you're needed on the set

best boy - the chief assistant to the gaffer (electrician) on the set

billboard words - words in a commercial that should be emphasized (ex. "new", "super", "safer")

billing - where you name appears in the credits

book - to get a role or part ("I booked the part I auditioned for")

booking slip - a memorandum briefly outlining your length of employment, what you'll be paid, how you'll be billed in the credits, and your start date

boom - a movable arm that holds a microphone over the actor's heads

breakdowns - descriptions of characters being cast which are sent out to agents so they can pick the clients who are most appropriate for the role

buy out - being paid extra money up front for doing a production instead of being paid residuals (which is basically being paid every time your production airs)


call back - being asked to return for another audition

call sheet - a paper stating where and when you are to report to the set

call time - the time you are to be on the set

cheat sheet - cue cards (one actor used to stick Post-It notes all over the set so she'd remember her lines)

checking the gate - the director will say this after a take, meaning that he's going to make sure the shot is free from any problems so that shooting can move on.

choker close-up (CCU) - a shot from the top of your head to your chin

clapboard - a board put in front of the camera before each scene to synchronize sound and picture (also called a slate)

close-up (CU) - a shot usually involving head and shoulders

cold reading - reading an unrehearsed script

commercial agent - an agent who's clients are sent on commercial auditions

conflict - anyone in an agency who would be trying for the same roles as you

creative fee - what you are paid if you are asked to do improv for an audition


day for night - a shot being filmed during the day, which appears on the screen to be a night scene

day player - what you are when you are hired for one day's shoot

dolly shot - a moving camera shot that uses a wheeled camera platform known as a dolly

downtime - the time between shooting scenes


establishing shot - usually the first shot of a scene, it contains all the actors and lets the audience see the setting of the scene

exclusive - the inability to do a commercial for a competing product once you have shot a commercial (for example, if you did a commercial for Coke, you couldn't do a commercial for Pepsi. You'd be exclusive to Coke)

extreme close-up (ECU) - a shot of anything from an eyeball to a pore


featured - when an actor speaks or mimes 5 lines or less in a production

first position (2nd, 3rd, etc.) - the place that is marked for you to stop/begin on

flag - to direct light and prevent unwanted reflection and lens flare on the camera

foley - sound effects

forced call - violation of your allotted rest periods

freelance - what you are when you're hired for a week of shooting


gaffer - the main electrician

general interview - when you are interviewed by a casting director, producer, etc. with the intention of simply getting to know you, for future consideration

grip - a member of the crew who adjusts scenery, flags lights, and often operates the camera cranes and dollies


honeywagon - trailers used for dressing rooms

hot set - the set which is ready for shooting and should not be altered


idiot card - cue cards

improv audition - an audition in which you aren't given your own script, but are given a topic and you must make up your own script based on that topic


key light - your own "personal" spotlight


lock it up - what is said to let people know that shooting is about to begin on a scene

long shot - a shot that takes in your whole body

look-see - a general interview

looping - re-recording lines of dialogue


marker or mark it - what is said to signal the use of a clapboard

marks - where you must stand or stop so that you're in frame, usually marked with a plastic "T"

master shot - same as an establishing shot

maximum use period - the length of time for which holding fees must be paid when you shoot a commercial (it's a very confusing concept, trust me)

matching - keeping how you looked in one take or scene the same as in previous takes or scenes

medium shot - a shot from the waist up

multiple camera show - when 4 cameras are simultaneously running (this is used for soap operas)


nearby location - any shooting location within a 30 mile radius of the studio


off book - without a script

office scene - a two person script performed in a producer, casting director's, etc. office

overlapping - speaking your line before another actor's is finished

overnight location - a shooting location where you must remain over night


parent union - the first union you belong to

personal manager - the person who guides your career

pilot - the episode of a TV show which determines whether or not it becomes a series

pilot season - the time period when most TV shows are created (in California, it's January-March)

pre-screen - an audition that casting directors will ask a new actor to do in order for them to meet them and see what they can do.

print that - what the director will say when he intends to use a take in the finished production

program use - when a test commercial gets used as an actual commercial

pro rata - what the producer is actually paying you per day, when you're on a three-day or weekly contract


quote - the record that studios and casting directors keep of your salary


residuals - what you're paid either every 13 weeks or every time your commercial airs

roll camera - what the director yells to signal the camera man to begin filming

rushes - all the takes of the scenes filmed in a day


SAG - Screen Actors Guild, the union for American actors

scale - minimum wage for actors, as set by whichever union you're in

scale + 10 - minimum wage plus 10% for you agent

separate card - when a name appears by itself during the credits

session fee - union scale for the day you're on the set

sides - scenes from a script used for auditions

slate - stating your name, agency, and sometimes phone number to the camera before you begin your audition

speed - what is said by the sound guy to tell the director that the sound recorder is ready to record

stable - an agency, or the part of an agency each agent runs

studio work - filming done on the studio lot


tag - something you do to signal the end of a commercial (ex. smile, wink)

take - one try at a scene

teaser - the little scene on a TV show that comes before the opening credits

theatrical agent - an agent who sends his clients for TV and film auditions

time out - the heading on an audition sign-in sheet under which you indicate the time you left

turn around - the amount of time between when you wrap and when you report to the set the next day

turn over - same as 'roll camera'

two-shot (three-, four-, etc.) - a shot with two actors (or three, four, etc.)


union - an organization that protects the right and privileges of actors. Unions also set what "scale" pay is to be

unscripted line - a line added during filming that was not in the original script


weekly conversion - when you are converted from a day player to a freelance

wild track - a re-recording of lines because of sound problems

wrap - the completion of filming


Copyright Vinnie Oatmeal Productions