What does a focus puller do? In this post, we’ll explain what it means to pull focus, who does it and why, and we’ll cover all of the different types of focus available at a filmmaker’s disposal. We’ll also break down the other responsibilities of a focus puller in filmmaking.

Focus puller job description

Focus puller in film

The focus puller is an important position on a film crew. The duties of this position can begin in pre-production and they work closely alongside the cinematographer of the film. If you are somewhat familiar with filmmaking, you may be able to guess their primary responsibility from the job title but the job entails other duties as well.

If you encounter any other unfamiliar terms throughout this article, our ultimate guide to film terminology or cinematography terms are helpful resources for industry lingo.

FOCUS PULLER in film

What is a focus puller?

A focus puller is responsible for maintaining the focus of a shot in progress. This can entail keeping a subject in focus for a shot’s duration or racking focus mid-shot. They are part of the camera team and also share the responsibilities of organizing, loading, and unloading gear. Their primary role though is assisting the camera operator and DP when necessary. The focus puller is also commonly called the 1st assistant camera or 1st AC for short.

What does a focus puller do?

  • Responsible for focus
  • Part of the camera team
  • Works directly under the cinematographer

Job Description

What does a focus puller do?

The primary responsibility of a focus puller is to maintain and control focus within a shot as it is filmed. Outside of maintaining focus, the 1st AC assists the cinematographer, often beginning as early the pre-production stage. The 1st AC may help the cinematography choose lenses and order/prepare camera equipment for the shoot.

The 1st AC is a part of the camera team and will participate in all of the department’s shared duties. This includes loading and unloading equipment, and working with the DP to execute what they and the director have in mind. The 1st AC will also assemble the camera and take part in camera tests and camera rehearsals.

A 1st AC must have a thorough and comprehensive understanding of all of the different types of focus at a filmmaker’s disposal. For an overview of everything you need to know about depth of field, be sure to watch our Ultimate Guide to Camera Focus.

Depth of Field  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Capturing shallow depth of field, deep focus, and racking focus are all responsibilities of the position. Read up on our focus guides to be sure that you are prepared before taking on your first focus puller job.

Focus puller film position

How to become a focus puller

If you hope to become a focus puller, there are a couple of different approaches you could take to achieve that goal. The 1st AC is a part of a film’s camera team, so it won’t do you any good to get involved in an unrelated department.

The camera team is where you want to be and there are two main ways to get onto the team.

The most tried and true method for moving up the film production food chain is to start out as a production assistant (PA), the lowest rung on the crew totem pole. There are also specialized camera PAs on certain productions but not all.

The duties of a camera assistant  •  Focus puller in film

The 2nd AC  is sometimes considered an entry level position depending on the particular production. You may be able to start out as a 2nd AC and eventually step up to 1st AC. On smaller, low or no-budget productions, the 1st AC position may also be considered entry level.

If you want to jump right into the focus puller role, your best bet is likely to check for independent productions local to you.

Focus puller day rate

Focus puller salary

A professional 1st AC working consistently within the industry can expect to earn an average of approximately $100,000 per year. The focus puller day rate can fluctuate drastically based on the number of projects undertaken within a year and based on the size of those projects.

The low end of what a professional focus puller can expect as salary is around $70,000 with the high-end maxing out around $250,000 for a hard-working 1st AC who takes on many large-scale projects.

Of course, this number drops much lower for focus pullers working on smaller productions in the independent scene.

Focus puller in film

Find focus puller jobs

Finding focus puller jobs can be pretty simple if looking for indie productions, depending upon where you live of course. Mandy.com is a great resource for finding production jobs of any sort. Stage32.com can often lead to crew jobs if you are good at networking, which anyone hoping to work in the film industry would benefit from. Backstage.com also hosts a number of production gigs and good can be a good resource when searching for crew work.

Up Next

Discover more filmmaking roles

The focus puller is an important position on a film crew and can be an entry-level position depending on where you look. To continue through our series of the various filmmaking roles and positions, you can explore similar jobs like cinematographer, gaffer, or grip. Or you can jump over to our Film Crew Index to browse the entire range of filmmaking roles. Understanding what everyone’s role on a film set is will help make you a better overall filmmaker and a more efficient crew member.

Up Next: Explore more crew positions →
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  • Sam Kench is an internationally-awarded screenwriter, independent filmmaker, and film critic. Lover of foreign films; hater of American remakes.

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