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Lighting gaffers work in all genres of television, as well as in film. They form a vital part of the lighting department, reporting to the lighting director, director of photography or the production company in general. They are responsible for the practical and technical side of lighting, both in studios and on location.
Gaffers will take instructions from the head of department on the intended creative style and must help to realise that vision. They subsequently create a list of the equipment that is needed for the shoot, negotiating the fee and ordering it all in. Gaffers advise production teams on the best equipment and brief the lighting crew on how and when to use it.
Gaffers will usually be some the first people on the set, days prior to the filming, ensuring that the lights are placed and functioning accurately, according the plans set out by the lighting director and director of photography. Placing the lighting rig is very important and the gaffers are the main people to make sure that any additional lamps are added where appropriate. They must be around to supervise the entire shoot, along with the heads of department, staying on-hand to advise on any changes or alterations.
Another key responsibility of the gaffer is health and safety. Being in charge of all the electrics in the studio or on location, the gaffer must teach all members of the team about any potential hazards and must ensure the equipment is safe to use.
Gaffers must lead and direct not only their own team, but also all the other people on the set. It is vital that gaffers are able to communicate well with all the people involved in the production, so that they can explain hazards, or give out any important information when needed.