Acting Terminology: A Guide to Key Concepts and Jargon

Lights, camera, action! If you're venturing into the world of acting, it's crucial to familiarise yourself with the terminology used in the industry. Understanding these key concepts and industry jargon will help you navigate auditions, rehearsals, and on-set experiences with confidence. Here's a comprehensive glossary of essential acting terminology:

  1. Action:
  2. The command given to actors, signaling the start of a scene or performance.

  3. Assistant Directors:
    1. 1st A.D. (First Assistant Director): The director's right-hand person who assists in coordinating all production activities and supervises the cast and crew.
    2. 2nd A.D. (Second Assistant Director): Assists the 1st A.D. by preparing the Call Sheet, overseeing actors and crew, and ensuring everyone is in the right place at the right time.
  4. Director:
    The individual responsible for coordinating the artistic and technical aspects of a production.
  5. Director of Photography (DoP):
    The person who supervises decisions related to lighting, lenses, filters, color, camera setups, the camera crew, and film processing.
  6. Background/Extra Performers:
    Actors in non-speaking roles, typically adding depth and atmosphere to a scene.
  7. Bit Part:
    A role involving direct interaction with principal actors but consisting of no more than five lines of dialogue.
  8. Boom:
    A microphone attached to a pole (boom pole) used to capture sound from actors or the surrounding environment.
  9. Buyout:
    A negotiated payment given to actors to secure the rights for their appearance in a film or commercial for a specified period.
  10. Casting Director:
    The individual responsible for auditioning and selecting performers to be considered by producers and the director.
  11. Residuals:
    Payments received by actors when their work, particularly in unionised projects, is aired or shown.
  12. Union:
    In the United States, the primary actors' union is the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). In the UK, Equity plays a vital role in protecting the rights and interests of actors.
  13. Callsheet:
    A daily report providing essential information such as call times, shooting locations, scenes to be filmed, and any additional details for the day's production. Callsheets are typically distributed the day before shooting.
  14. Close-up:
    A camera shot focused on a person, highlighting facial expressions or details.
  15. Continuity:
    The process of maintaining consistency throughout a production, including actor movements, props, costumes, and even hairstyle, ensuring seamless editing and storytelling.
  16. Camera right and camera left:
    Describes the perspective of the camera. If instructed to move camera left while facing the camera, the actor moves to their right, and vice versa.
  17. Costume Fitting:
    A session, usually before production begins, where actors try on various costumes, wigs, and prosthetics, ensuring clarity and accuracy before filming commences.
  18. First Position:
    The initial position from which a scene begins.
  19. Hair and Makeup Ready:
    The expectation for actors to arrive on set with their hair and makeup done according to the instructions provided, or they can avail the services of the hair and makeup department.
  20. Night Shoot:
    A production that takes place overnight, without fixed working hours, often starting in the evening and concluding in the early morning.
  21. On Avail (On Availability):
    When an actor progresses through the casting process, receives a callback, and is asked to hold specific dates because they are a likely candidate to be cast in the production.
  22. Rehearsal:
    A session where actors practice and experiment with their roles and scenes before actual filming takes place.
  23. Set:
    The physical location where filming occurs.
  24. Sides:
    A portion of the script, usually a page or two, provided to actors before shooting their scenes, allowing them to familiarise themselves with their lines and cues. Sides are also given at auditions.
  25. Stand-in:
    A background artist or extra who substitutes for the principal actor during the setup of a shot. This allows the director of photography to set up lighting and rehearse camera movements.
  26. Special Effects (SFX):
    Techniques employed to create extraordinary or impossible visual or audio elements during post-production, such as fire, wind, rain, snow, or gunfire.
  27. Stunt Person:
    A trained performer who executes stunts on camera, ensuring safety during action sequences.
  28. Wrap:
    The conclusion of filming for the day or the entire project. It is often announced with the phrase, "That's a wrap!" indicating that the work is completed.

We hope this comprehensive glossary of acting terminology will serve as a valuable resource on your acting journey. If you have any questions or need further explanations of acting terms, feel free to reach out. Break a leg!