Best Boy Electric
Sometimes credited as the assistant chief lighting technician, the best boy (so called whether male or female) of the electric (lighting) department is the second in command under the gaffer. This role is not to be confused with the best boy grip, under the key grip.
The best boy is a supervisor responsible for ensuring that all required lighting equipment and appropriate personnel are on set for each shot—his or her most important piece of gear is a phone, not a pair of gloves. This person assists the gaffer in ordering expendables, arranging for gear rentals, and hiring electricians. When necessary, he or she is tasked with firing crewmembers. He or she also maintains detailed records with receipts for all expenditures of the electrics department. The best boy oversees the loading and unloading of vehicles and informs the crew which instruments and accessories to pull for every scene. On set, the gaffer and the director of photography will decide how a scene should be lit; it is then the best boy’s job to take those marching orders and lead the crew of electricians through pre-rigging the set, selecting the right lighting instruments, and ensuring that there is enough available power. This person is responsible for returning rental gear, signing off on the crew’s hours, and monitoring the department inventory for maintenance and repair.
Skills & Education
A best boy, like any electrician, must have a firm understanding of electricity, color, mathematics, and the lighting instruments used on set. Courses in film and television production, electrical engineering, and color theory are helpful. Experience as a set electrician is required to move up to a role as best boy. Work on student films and independent productions can build your résumé toward larger studio projects. These technicians are not certified electricians, but can be members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which offers an apprenticeship and journeyman program, as well as training toward certification with the Entertainment Services and Technology Association under the Entertainment Technician Certification Program.
What to Expect
To succeed as a best boy, you must be a highly skilled electrician, an excellent communicator, and organized enough to supervise several tasks at once. On set the hours can be long, work stressful, and conditions uncomfortable. One week you may be shooting in the Mojave, the next freezing your tail off in Toronto. You must be flexible and able to roll with the punches. The upside is that you have a front-row seat during principal photography. With experience a best boy can move up to gaffer, or land best boy gigs on bigger productions.
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