A gaffer in the motion picture industry and on a television crew is an electrician, sometimes head of the electrical department, responsible for the electrification (and sometimes the design) of the lighting plan for a production's grips. The term Gaffer originally related to the moving of overhead equipment to control lighting levels using a gaff. The term has been used for the chief electrician in films since 1936 according to the Oxford English Dictionary. However, a book on motion picture production from 1929 refers to the chief electrician as the gaffer. The gaffer's assistant is the best boy.
Sometimes the gaffer is credited as Chief Lighting Technician (CLT).
Gaffers are responsible for managing lighting including associated resources such as labor and electrical under the directions of Director of Photography (the DP or DOP) or, in television, the Lighting Director (LD).
The DP/LD is responsible for the overall lighting design, but they may delegate some tasks to gaffers. The gaffer works with the key grip, who is in charge of some of the equipment related to the lighting. The gaffer will usually have an assistant called a best boy and, depending on the size of the job, crew members who are called "electricians", although not all of them are trained as electricians in the usual sense of the term.
The gaffer, or chief electrician, works with assistants who are known as grips. The grips manage cables, position lighting fixtures and install dolly tracks.
Gaffer tape is but one of the many types of tape that a gaffer, key grip, or any other member film crew uses in a variety of situations. Other types of tape include paper tape, pressure-sensitive tape (also known as snot tape), electrical tape, J-LAR, and cloth tape.
- Oxford English Dictionary accessed 15 May 2009
- Mary Eunice McCarthy, The Hands of Hollywood, , 1929: 61.
- Taub, Eric (1994). Gaffers, Grips, and Best Boys. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 153. ISBN 0-312-11276-9.
- David Elkins (2012-05-07). "FIM 1801 - Fundamentals of Cinematography: Ditty Bag Checklist, Years Three & Four: Expendables". University of North Carolina School of the Arts.