- Title: Gaffers, Grips, and Best Boys: From Producer/Director to Gaffer and Best Boy, a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Who Does What in the Making of a Motion Picture
- Author: Eric Taub
- Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 04/11/2013
I have the 1987 edition of this book. Even in reading the first chapter I had two immediate thoughts, “nice idea” and “too bad it’s so out of date”. This book really suffers from being terribly out of date. It describes the film industry of the 1970s and 1980s, not the film industry of today. I liked that for each job title, the author, Eric Taub, interviews experts in not just the film industry in general but for that particular position specifically. After all, when’s the last time you read an interview with a Gaffer? Or a DP (Director of Photography)? Or even an Editor? Do you know what the people listed in the credits of a film actually do? And this book answers many of those questions. Gaffers, for example, prepare a film’s location and are the manager-in-charge of the lighting crew. The key grip by contrast is in charge of the people who adjust stands for lighting effects such as diffusion and the dollys for the camera. Electricians plug into the local electrical system or arrange for a generator to supply direct current for the film equipment. However, it is also massively out of date. Although editors still arrange film sequences – I don’t think anyone physically splices film together by cutting it and taping it. (Something I myself did in a college film and television production class, with 8mm film.) These days even if a film is filmed on film (not using digital cameras) the film is transferred to digital and then edited. Or, at least that’s my understanding. But there are other areas where this book just feels extremely outdated. And I wanted to read something up-to-date immediately.
That said, this book is a fascinating look at the “non-glamorous” people in Hollywood film-making from pre-production to production to post-production (visual and sound editing only, I was disappointed that music composition wasn’t included). It does not read like a “job manual” because Taub interviews experts with long careers in their individual fields, and sometimes even includes a brief biographical sketch of how they ended-up in The Industry in the first place. As a bonus, an interview with John Lithgow is included. The interview centers on The World According to Garp but Twlight Zone – The Movie and Buckaroo Banzai are also mentioned. Oddly enough the famous deadly helicopter crash during Twlight Zone – The Movie isn’t mentioned – at all, which I found strange.
Besides really wanting to read an updated version of the book (or a similar one); I also found at times I wanted additional interviews with people in different positions. Still it’s a quick, educational read.
By the way, per Good Reads it does look like there is an updated version (it came up first when I did a search). I’ll have to look for it.
Update: I now have the updated version of this book but I have not read it yet.