By Kierston Drier
Have you ever watched credits at the end of the film and been perplexed by the acknowledgement of the “Best Boy”? You’re not alone. Occasionally even people in the industry have the think for a few moments before the title and the associated job link up.
A Best Boy is a position held in the actual production of the film or television piece. Unlike Post or administrative-based production work (which tend to take place in offices and involve the planning, coordinating or finalizing the product) production work often takes place at ground zero- on the floor or location where the film is being shot.
The Best Boy is a member of the Lighting, Electric or Camera department. These are incredibly important departments and are critical to creating the ‘movie magic’ that makes everything on screen looks so highly polished and beautiful. The Best Boy position is essentially the chief or senior assistant to the Gaffer or Key Grip. While the heads of work with any of the aforementioned departments work with creatives to carry out the specific look of the scene they are shooting, the Best Boy must manage and maintain all the equipment, gear, scheduling and other managerial needs of that department. The best boy is, by and large, the second-in-command, and often swings between the needs to the camera, electrics and/or lighting teams. All teams are necessary in capturing the scene, and the teams must work closely together with sound communication in order to get the desired shot.
In essence, the Best Boy of these technical production departments lends themselves to their team in regards to all on-the-floor needs and requirements for the days’ work. They may coordinate with the Bests’ on other departments to ensure all departments have what they need for the days’ scenes.
It is unclear exactly where the term “Best Boy” came from. It has been thought to come from the pre-union film days, from the concept of sending the “best boy” from your department to another department to assist with department-specific needs. Unable to lend the key of the department to assist, the team would send their most trained, highly skilled worker, that they could afford to lose for short term assistant. This morphed into the “best boy” a highly-skilled position that often swings between departments understanding the needs of both.
Best Boys are skilled and highly revered jobs, they can take years of training and working to be accomplished enough to be a Best. It should be noted that they are many “Best Girls” and the position is sometimes referred to as simply the “best”. So next time you are watching a movie and something wonders allowed what a “best” is in the credits- you might be able to enlighten them.
Wikipedia (basic referral only)