“Act alive people! This is the Martini! And camera! Before the slurpasaur devours fake shemp, make sure you’re ready for the cowboy shot!”
Are these the rantings of a lunatic? Well, they very will might be—you know how some directors are. But that’s not why it sounds like gibberish. It’s simply the vocabulary of our industry, and it’s wonderfully nutty.
Sure, you’ve heard of a honey wagon. Or a RomCom. But what about nuke the fridge?
We’ve put together a list of some of our favorites from the loony lexicon of film. Picture’s Up!
10-1 – When you go to the restroom, #1.
10-2 – We’ll let you do the math on this one.
Abby Singer – Slang for next to the last shot. It was named after Abner E. ”Abby” Singer, an assistant director who, when asked how many shots were left in the day, would always seem to answer, “This, and one more.” – Joyce Wadler, “Where’s John Ford When You Need Him?” The New York Times, February 2, 2005,
AKS – An abbreviation for a collection of “all kinds of stuff”, like a toolbox.
Alan Smithee – When a movie is so terrible even the director doesn’t want to be associated with it, they use this as their nom de plume. It was first used in the 1969 film Death of a Gunfighter.
Babies – Small tripod legs.
Back in – Your break is over and you’re back at work.
Bogies – Unwanted people in the shot.
C47 – A clothespin.
Choker – A tight, tight close-up showing only the eyes.
Chopsocky – This refers to the wildly broad martial arts films made in Hong Kong during the 1960s and 1970s. The theory is that it’s an amalgam of chop suey and sock—as in punch hard.
Cowboy Shot – A shot from the mid-thigh up. It comes from spaghetti westerns, where the cowboy was framed so you could see his low riding guns.
Crafty – A craft services person. You figured that out.
Crossing – When you walk in from of a camera, this is how you tell the camera operator.
Dirt – A sandbag.
Dogme 95 – A term coined in 1995 when Danish director Lars Von Trier co-founded the Dogme 95 movement. It created what it called an “indisputable list of rules” which it named “The Vow of Chastity”. Among its dictums: The camera must be hand held, shooting must be done on location, and sound must be captured with the images.
Dumb Side – The right side of the camera, looking in the same direction as the lens.
Fake Shemp – When Shemp Howard of The Three Stooges died suddenly in 1955, the remaining Stooges had a problem. They still had four shorts to deliver on their contract with Columbia. Fortunately, they had enough extra footage where Moe and Larry could cobble together the films. But when continuity called for Shemp to be in the shot, they used a stand-in who would only be seen from behind, or obscured in some way. Used thusly, “I can’t have lunch with you at The Ivy on Thursday because I’m shemping on the new Spielberg thing.”
Flying In – When someone is on their way to the set.
Gary Coleman – A small C-stand.
Hot Points – When you’re carrying something that could clobber somebody, like a dolly track or C-stand, this is what you yell.
J-Horror – From the genre of Japanese horror films that focus on psychological horror.
Kill the Blond – Kill, as in turn off. Blond, as in a 2000-watt spotlight.
MacGuffin – First used by Hitchcock at a lecture he gave at Columbia University in 1939, it refers to the pretext of a story which puts the plot in action, but which isn’t important or relevant to the plot. Hitchcock defined it as the catalyst.
Martini Shot – Final setup of the day.
Nuke the Fridge – A moment in a film that is so incredible, everything after it is dull by comparison. It was born out of the film “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, when Indy survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator. The term has come to refer to the moment when you realize that the thing you’re watching is not as good as the installments that came before it. In TV, it’s called “jumping the shark”.
Off Book – When an actor has their lines memorized.
Rhubarb – Otherwise known as “walla”, it’s the indiscernible background chatter of extras.
Robohack – Reporters with the technical chops to edit their own stories.
Second Sticks – Tells camera that the clap of the slates didn’t work the first time and is required again.
Slurpasaur – Take a lizard, glue on some ears and spikes, film it, then enlarge it so it seems to be the size of a dinosaur. That’s how they did it in the old days. And that’s what you would call a slurpasaur.
Stinger – An extension cord.
Strike the Baby – Remove the small movie light, usually a 750 -1000-watt club with a special lens on the front.
Tubthump – To promote.
Vorkapich – This refers to a montage sequence and is named after Slavko Vorkapic, a director and former Dean of the USC Film School. He was a master of montage, pioneering the use of kinetic editing, tracking shots, lap dissolves, optical effects and graphics, whose influential work can be seen in Manhattan Melodrama, Crime with Passion and Meet John Doe, amongst other classics.
Window Shot – Like the Martini, this is the last shot of the day. It’s origins go back to the dawn of filmmaking, when the cast and crew was paid daily. After the shot wrapped, everyone went to the window to get their payment.
Have you got other crazy movie terms that we’ve missed? Please post them on our Facebook page!