20 Filmmaking Terms Every Aspiring Filmmaker Needs To Know


20 Filmmaking Terms


20 Filmmaking Terms Every Aspiring Filmmaker Needs To Know

This  little resource is particularly for true aspiring filmmakers. Those of you who didn’t go to film school and who may have zero film credits to your name BUT you are dying to launch your dream, bet BIG on yourself, and enter into the world of filmmaking.

To boost your confidence, you need to know lingo when it’s dropped while you are in negotiation to work on your first film and while you are actually in the throws of working on a film.

These 20 filmmaking terms will give you a frame of reference and allow you to feel somewhat ready (because it will still be a little zany and nerve racking working on your first film) to tackle your first real world introduction into becoming a badass filmmaker.

To keep this easy and organized to read through, this post is divided into three categories: Directing, Writing, and Technical.

These three areas shape films and television. They work in concert during pre, actual, and post production.


Call Sheet

A listing of which actors will be required for which scenes, and when they will be required. 

Shot List

List given to the film crew of all the shots to be filmed during that workday. 

Cut To

It is the transition between shots or scenes while filming. It is often used to help intensify character changes and emotional shifts.  

Establishing Shot

A shot, usually from a distance, that shows us where we are. A shot that suggests location. Often used at the beginning of a film to suggest where the story takes place. For example, if our story takes place in New York, we might use a shot of the Manhattan skyline as an establishing shot.


Unedited rough cuts of the day (or from the previous day) which the director reviews to decide if a re-shoot needs to take place. 


Sequence of pictures created to describe each scene in the film production. Usually indicates camera angle and movement, blocking of actors, and size of the frame. 



It’s the one or two sentence summary of your film that not only conveys your premise, but also gives the reader emotional insight into the story as a whole.


An abridged script; longer than a synopsis. It consists of a summary of each major scene of a proposed movie, and may even include snippets of dialogue.


Many scripts will use the parenthetical (beat) to interrupt a line of dialogue. A “beat” suggests the actor should pause a moment, in silence, before continuing the scene. “Beats” are often interchangeable with ellipses “…”


The text in all CAPS at the beginning of a scene that briefly describes the location and time of day.

For example:


Note: sometimes sluglines are abbreviated to something as simple as “LATER” or “BEDROOM” to maintain the pace and flow of a sequence.


Voice Over. This abbreviation often appears beside a CHARACTER’S name before their dialogue. This means the character voices that dialogue but his or her moving lips are not present in the scene. Voice-over is generally used for narration, such as in the beginning of The Mummy. Or a character’s inner thoughts said out loud such that only the audience will hear.

Shooting Script

The final script which is used for the actual filming. 

Spec Script

If a writer finishes his/her own screenplay outside the studio system (it isn’t an assignment) then sends it to the studios for consideration, it is a spec script. 



A mechanism on which a camera can be moved around a scene or location. Simple dollies involve a tripod on wheels. Dolly shots are moving shots. 


Chief lighting technician who is responsible for designing and creating lighting plan.

Boom Microphone

A long pole with a microphone on the end. Controlled by the “Boom Operator.” 


COMPUTER GENERATED IMAGERY (CGI) The use of 3D graphics and technology to enhance special effects.


Is supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot. In fiction film, it is a technique used to indicate simultaneous action or flashbacks.


Person responsible for the set-up, adjustment and maintenance of production equipment on the set.

Remember these 20 terms because you will hear them tossed around often as you embark on your filmmaker journey.

Did we miss any?

Share terms that you think aspiring filmmakers should know in the comments.

Happy Filmmaking!


CJ Childress is currently in pre-production for a silent short film, a commercial, and several photography projects. She is also trying to figure out how to be the cinematographer for Beyonce’s next video as she writes this post. You can follow her on INSTAGRAM.


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