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What is a Gaffer

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

I’m sure you’ve seen the credits roll at the end of a movie, documentary, TV series etc, and saw on the crew list ‘Gaffer’. Did you ever wonder what and indeed who it was?

In today's blog, I'm going to help you by briefly answering this question.

For starters, a Gaffer is not to be confused with Gaffe which means someone who is embarrassed by one's mistake or ‘my Gaff ‘which in parts of the UK is slang for ‘my apartment’ nor under any circumstances should it be confused with someone who runs around with gaffer tape sticking bits and pieces together.

In Fact, the Gaffer is aptly named so due to the stick which is carried and is called...a Gaff.

In British theatre, the term was used to describe the man who adjusted the lighting, this came from the Victorian era when the city lamplighters used a ‘Gaff’, a pole with a hook on the end, to light the gas lamps in the streets.

The Gaff is still an implementation used today to move objects.

In the case of the ‘Gaffer,’ this will include using the tool to move and control lighting on a filmmakers set.

The Gaffer is actually the ‘Chief Lighting Technician’ he/she would be in charge of and is responsible for lighting plans but they also have some creative freedom with the creation of lighting effects. The work they pursue is in the result of a set of instructions coming directly from the Director of Photography (DP) or Cinematographer. The gaffer and key grip -the gaffer's assistant- will carry out physical and technical activities that enable the DP's vision to be turned into reality.

Typically, depending on the size of a production a Gaffer could earn anything from $35-45K.

And there you have it, I hope this has cleared things up for you and I hope you won't be making any... gaffes soon ;-)

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