What is a Best Boy in Film Job Description and Duties Explained - Featured

How many times have you watched a movie’s end credits and asked “What’s a Best Boy?” Among the many credited film crew members on a production, the Best Boy title might be one of the most curious, simply because the title indicates so little. You probably have questions like “What is a Best Boy?” and “What does a Best Boy do?” And luckily, we have answers.

Watch: How Grip and Electric Departments Work

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Defining Best Boy

Let’s define Best Boy

We hate to tell you this upfront, but there are actually two Best Boys. Not only that, but while their job is vital to a production, it is not something ludicrous and otherworldly. Before we jump into the key responsibilities of the job, let's being with a quick definition.

BEST BOY DEFINITION

What is a Best Boy?

A Best Boy is the assistant to either the Gaffer or Key Grip on set. This means that there are two types of Best Boys: one for electric (Gaffer) and one for lighting/rigging (Key Grip). As the assistants, they are effectively the foreman for their respective departments. And in case you’re wondering, both men and women can be “best boys" but the title doesn't change.

Why are they called “Best Boys?”

The etymology surrounding the term is not very concrete. It’s one of those things that would be said on various sets and the name eventually stuck. One popular theory is that the term was used as a short way of describing the Gaffer’s first lighting assistant, which would mean getting someone’s “best boy” on the set.

Best Boy Job Description Includes:

  • Helping the Gaffer with electric equipment on the set.
  • Assisting the Key Grip with lighting arrangements.
  • Ordering and maintaining inventory.

Before going any further, we want to provide you with a quick one minute video on the Best Boy definition. Due to its brevity, it makes for a great reference in case anyone is dying to know, "What is a Best Boy?"

What is a best boy and what does a best boy do?

The video mentions both types of Best Boys; we will now be going into those the specifics of those two roles, starting with “electric” before covering “grip.”

Best Boy Job Description

What is a Best Boy Electric?

This is probably the most open of the Best Boy roles, as it deals with any and all electronic equipment on set. Movie sets have a lot of electronics around; this is the Gaffer responsibility to make sure the safety protocols are closely followed.

Here's Miguel Sanchez, Best Boy Electric, on the various his various duties and responsibilities. As he explains, the job requires a variety of skills — from physically moving heavy equipment, to the hiring and budget of his crew, to being the go-between for various departments. 

Duties and Expectations of the Job

Safety is a key part of the job. This not only means “safe from harm” but also “safe from doing harm,” as the Gaffer must ensure no one gets harmed from the electronics. You can get some insight from the following video below, which breaks down both Best Boy Electric and Best Boy Grip job duties.

The duties of Gaffers and Key Grips

It all starts when the Gaffer gets an order from the DP as to the wishes of the director. The Best Boy can then relay the orders to the rest of the electric crew. From here, they must ensure everything is safe and in order, after which they can report back to the Gaffer.

Hiring a film crew, no matter the size, means hiring a Gaffer, a Key Grip and their Best Boys. Any additional crew will depend on the production. With larger productions, for example, you may have a 2nd or 3rd unit, each with their own Gaffer and Key Grip.

Best Boy vs Key Grip

What is a Best Boy Grip?

The other similarly named title — Best Boy Grip — is a bit more specific, as it mainly involves the lighting of a set and what will be filmed. Similar to the situation with the gaffer, the DP will speak with the Key Grip and let them know what the director wants in the given moment. From here, they will let their Best Boy Grip know so that they can all get to work on setting up the lighting.

With the help of the Grip crew (which, again, can vary in size), the lighting is set-up to the wishes of the Key Grip, from the DP and the director. This process from the lighting department works to complement the Gaffer’s work, as both departments have to satisfy the DP and director. 

So, if a director wants more light in a scene, the Gaffer and crew work to set the camera up just right so that the Grip crew can get the lighting just right for the scene.

You can take a look at the job process of in the video below, which looks at a set and features interviews with the crew featured.

A day in the life

So while there are two types of Best Boys, they ultimately have to work in tandem to get the job done. To say it another way: the job of one Best Boy complements and helps the job of another. Best Boys are the managers who help filmmakers get their vision across and finish their movie on time, along with the help of the main Gaffers and Key grips.

Up Next

Gaffer job description and duties

Being a Best Boy means being on set and getting things done. But who do they report to? As you learned here, the Gaffer is in charge of all the electrical needs on a film set. Let's take a look at everything they're in charge of. Our guide to the jobs and duties of a Gaffer will help give you a sense of what it's like and what the job entails.

Up Next: Gaffers explained →
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