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  • Writer's pictureGiles Gough

Production Tips: The 7 things to say with every shot

It goes without saying that communication is vital when filming anything, and being able to communicate clearly in an organised manner helps the workflow and productivity of a film crew. Get your communication right and you will all finish on time and be able to chill after with a tingling sense of relief. Get it wrong and minutes will stretch into hours as people’s energy wanes while you’re still trying to get the perfect shot. With this in mind, here’s seven phrases that will help to make shooting run smoothly and who usually says them.


Usually said by the director on smaller projects, this may seem painfully obvious but it is really important. If you don’t say this, you will later have to trawl through loads of footage when the camera has started recording, but people aren’t ready, wasting valuable time and disk space.

Camera rolling

This means the camera is recording. I’m probably showing my age here, but this phrase originates from when they used film exclusively, or in my day, mini-DV tapes, the word ‘rolling’ relates to the spools of tape ‘rolling’. Every TV programme I’ve ever worked on said this and as a result, it filtered into my own filmmaking. I have no idea what Generation Z would say instead, so for now, I’m sticking with this delightfully archaic bit of phrasing.

Sound rolling

This just means that the sound is recording and it is usually said by your sound technician as they press record. You might not think it’s necessary to have someone recording the sound separately if your camera also records sound, but trust me, it’s worth it. Microphones on cameras are rarely as good as you would like them to be, so it is definitely worth having a boom operator or lapel mic if you have the equipment, or at the very least, record the audio with your phone.

Scene X Shot description (Clap)

Spoken by the clapper loader, this is definitely the most vague phrase I’ve mentioned here, and that’s because this changes with every shot. If you have done your homework, you will have numbered the scenes before you started shooting, often an essential task if shooting multiple scenes in the same location. Numbering the shots can be tedious, so I prefer them to have simple description of what’s in the frame, so it will match up with your production notes at the end. So for example if you’re shooting an establishing shot of the main character’s house, it may read as “Scene 3: Est shot house wide”. My clapper loader has an infectious sense of humour, and to keep herself entertained, she likes to put in jokes or funny lines in the shot description. It lightens the mood and makes everyone smile! The last thing the clapper loader does is to bang the arm on the clapper board. The reason for this is that the short, sharp sound helps us to sync up audio and visuals when editing later.


Almost always said by the director, this is the cue for the actors to start performing. On bigger scenes, you might have a separate cue for the extras (or background artists as they’re sometimes known) and the main actors, but for smaller scenes one ‘action’ will usually do. If it’s a particularly sensitive scene, you may want to make your actors feel more in control, so the slightly softer ‘In your own time’ might work well.


This is the word used to stop the shot, actors stop acting, equipment stops recording. It’s a little bit of on-set etiquette that the director is the only one to say ‘cut’. This is generally because even if an actor has fluffed a line or there’s a technical problem, it might be quicker to simply keep recording while you adjust the problem. It’s also kind of one of the ways that directors show they’re in control of a set, so if you yell ‘cut’ when you’re not the director, you may end up stepping on some toes. Obviously, if you’ve made a mistake let people know, but let the director decide whether to cut or keep rolling.

Good take/OK/Bad take – reason

The last thing a director says is an indicator of whether they’re happy with the take. ‘Good take’ means you’re happy and you’re ready to move on. ‘OK’ means just that; it filled all the requirements for the shot but somehow, just didn’t sparkle. You’ll use this take if you have to, but you’d rather not. ‘Bad take’ can be called for a number of reasons, the actor fluffed a line, there was a technical problem, or there were external sound problems, like a plane flying overhead. It’s sometimes a good idea to be quite sensitive when telling the production assistant why it’s a bad take. If the actor’s not quite delivering what you want, it might sound better if you say that the scene was “not quite right” rather than “the actor did the line wrong”! Nobody wants their mistakes shouted out across a crowded room!

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