What the heck is a grip, gaffer, or best boy?

This post will help you decode the meaning of those odd roles seen in closing credits, such as grip, gaffer, and best boy. Amaze your friends and dominate at movie-related trivia!

A screenshot showing a sample of the end credits from "Star Trek Into Darkness"
A sample of the end credits from "Star Trek Into Darkness"

Roles in film production explained

So, how often have you been sitting through the credits after a movie, asking yourself what those oddly named positions do in support of the film's production? Well, I have for years and finally decided to find out using what I call the digital age's Library of Alexandria, not the modern-day replacement in Egypt, the internet!

A quick search using Bing (I am really enthused with its new AI-enabled search capabilities), and I found a terrific infographic explaining each role on the No Film School website.

Key Grip and Best Boy -- What do they do?

The No Film School website was acting wonky as I wrote this piece, so I excerpted a couple of definitions for you. The links to the full story are embedded.

Grips and Key Grips - a definition

According to this informative site,

​When talking about film and TV crews, the key grip refers to the person who works with the gaffer and the cinematographer to supervise lighting, rigging, and the entire grip crew. Grips are technicians who build and maintain all the equipment that supports cameras. They are led by the key grip.​

Say, do you suppose the old admonishment to someone to "get a grip" stems from the movie biz? Interesting ponderable.


Since I love the derivation of words and have seen and heard many uses of "gaffer" outside movie credits, I was gratified to see the No Film School page provided the etymology of the word:

Etymologically, the word, meaning "elderly rustic", dates back to the 1580s and was used as a contraction of "godfather". Later on in history, "gaffer" extended to refer not only to "old men" but foremen and supervisors.

Additionally, the term "gaff" dates back even further to the 1300s and was originally used to refer to an "iron hook" used for rigging boats.

"Gaffer" eventually made its way into the film industry to refer to the moving of overhead equipment to control lighting levels using a gaff, then, finally, to the "electrician in charge of lighting on a film set."

I especially like the elderly rustic application...

Now on to the definition of a gaffer:

​As you now know, the gaffer is the head electrician in a movie crew. It's their job to manage the lighting, making sure the levels are appropriate for the desired effect in the scene. ​

See how much you're learning! One more, and then you are on your own to research further! You'll be equipping yourself with new material for your next social gathering or when confronted with a trivia contest outbreak.

Best Boys

I suppose this doesn't refer to training at an early age for an eventual role as Best Man. That's a bit too abstract, and as far as I know, there aren't any professional Best Men. So, how does No Film School define this role?

​To put it simply, a best boy is the right-hand person to the gaffer or key grip. Best boys come in two varieties: best boy electric (working with the gaffer) or best boy grip (working with the key grip). The best boy is the second-in-command and foreman of their respective grip and electrician crews.

How to create your own credits

If you happen to have a bug for videography and feel inclined to include credits, I came across another excellent resource on StudioBinder, entitled appropriately enough,

The Ultimate Guide to Film Credits Order Hierarchy (with Free Film Credits Template)

I snagged the featured image for this post from their website and found it fascinating reading. You may too!


Shorr, Arnon. “The Ultimate Guide to Film Credits Order Hierarchy (with Free Film Credits Template).” StudioBinder. StudioBinder Inc., April 5, 2020. https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/where-credit-is-due-film-credits-order-hierarchy-with-free-film-credits-template/.

Light, Jo. “What Exactly Is a ‘Best Boy’?” No Film School, October 31, 2019. https://nofilmschool.com/what-is-a-best-boy.

Hellerman, Jason. “What Is a Gaffer and How Can You Become One?” No Film School, November 16, 2020. https://nofilmschool.com/what-is-a-gaffer-job-description.

Hellerman, Jason. “What’s a Key Grip in Movies and What Does a Key Grip Do?” No Film School, November 30, 2020. https://nofilmschool.com/what-is-a-key-grip.