In this Behind the Scenes series, we’ll be taking a look at the unseen roles in cinema. Kicking it off – what is a gaffer in film?

Film isn’t all A-list celebrity actors and big name directors. The making of a movie involves many moving parts, all working together in a fine-tuned ecosystem. We’ve already looked into exactly what a film producer does, but we want to dig even deeper.

At Synchedin, we love championing the lesser-known, the little guy, the underdog, even. All creators are important, and without all hands on deck, most creative ships would sink. So with that in mind, we want to explore one of the more anonymous jobs in movie making. The gaffer.

What is a Gaffer?

In sailing, there are competitions to see who will be crowned the best gaffer. Honest.

A gaff rig is a type of sailing boat, controlled normally with a large pole – the gaff. “What does this have to do with film?” I hear you ask.

Not a lot, really. Both might involve some pole-handling. But, it’s just nice to know, isn’t it?

A gaffer in film is the head of lighting.

What Does a Gaffer in Film Do?

A gaffer works closely with the director of photography (DoP), and oversees the lighting department. The gaffer is responsible for helping the DoP to realise their vision, setting up the lighting on set accordingly.

Extensive knowledge is used to figure out what kind of kit will be needed and techniques used in order to achieve a certain effect. Whether in a studio or on location, the gaffer will have to use their technical know-how in order to translate a creative vision.

Lighting plays a big part in creating different moods and is a huge stylistic tool. So, although we may not be able to name many gaffers, they’re a vital part of any film production.