People Behind the Image

Stanley Kubrick directing 2001: A Space Odyssey. Photo: PORT Magazine

According to Entertainment Weekly, The Game of Thrones premiere of the last episode of seventh season on August 27, 2017, got 16.1 million people in front of their screens. And it is only in the USA. This success is not luck. It is a result of a gathering of talented people, and their hard work.

Filming process. Photo: sergeyzhelezko

But what exactly is their work? What do they do? Sergey Zhelezko, who works at Nu Boyana Film Studios in Bulgaria, explained how a day on a film set usually goes. According to him, it takes from half an hour to an hour to set up all the necessary equipment. While the equipment is preparing, director and actors usually rehearse. The director is a person focused on storytelling and a creative part of a project. The Director of photography (DP), who makes sure that the image achieves director’s vision, is often present at rehearsals. As well as a gaffer — a person who is in charge of lighting.

As soon as all crew members are ready, everyone takes their place. Other crew members, who are on the set, include two director assistants — they organize and run the set, distribute scripts and other documents. Also, there are usually two camera assistants. One is in charge of focus pulling. During the filming process he/she makes sure that the right object is in focus. Another one is responsible for operating a slate or a clapperboard — a device, which is used for synchronizing image and sound. It also contains important information — take number, scene number, director’s name.

Using the clapperboard. Photo: sergeyzhelezko

After the slate claps, the action starts. Depending on thetype of action, different amount of scenes can be shot during a day. “If it is a hard action scene, for example a fighting scene — it can be even less than a page of a script,” says Zhelezko. But if it is a dialog, four or even five script pages could be filmed.

Georgii Kolotilo, who is a sound mixer, working on a currently active project in Bulgaria, says the film crew works at least 12 hours a day. His role is very important. A sound mixer makes sure that the sound is recorded properly. He is usually helped by a boom operator — a crew member who holds the boom microphone above the actors in a shot.

According to Zhelezko, 10–12 hours is a common length of a filming day in USA and other countries that follow USA format. Both Zhelezko and Kolotilo are very enthusiastic, when they talk about their experience, and the people they met on a filming set.

Zhelezko excitedly describes a director he is currently working with, saying that it is the nicest person he has ever met. Then he remembers working in Hitman’s Bodyguard’s film crew in 2017 in Bulgaria and Netherlands and enthusiastically describes being on a set with Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. “Constant improvisation on the set, making everyone laugh,” he says, smiling. “Every take is different from the previous one,” he continues.


Denis Baev is a journalism major at American University in Bulgaria. He is interested in film, cinematography, and photography.

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