When Barney Is More Than a Dinosaur: Movie Slang

Talk Like a Local — By Alexi Ueltzen on October 14, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Hollywood culture fascinates the entire world. We “average” folks just can’t seem to get enough of the people we see on the silver screen. But despite the fact that everyone knows when Brad and Angelina adopt a new kid, or one of the Olsen twins goes to Starbucks, few people know about the behind-the-scenes of the filming process.

And the people who make it possible.

And the really, really weird slang they use when they do it.

What you say at home: “Turn off the light.”
What they say on a film set: “Strike the baby” or “Kill the blonde.” (“Baby” and “blonde” are both names for types of lights used on a film set)

What you say at home: “What a terrible movie.”
What they say on a film set: “Directed by Allan Smithee.” (A fictional name directors use when they no longer want to associate their name with the product.)

What you say at home: “Mute the swear words when the kids are around, honey.”
What they say on a film set: “Bowdlerize it.” (To purge any offensive, graphic or especially adult content of a movie to make it appropriate for mass consumption. And children.)

Some other choice terminology:

Gaffer: The chief lighting electrician (possibly from the early days of film-making when electricians held lights in the ends of long poles or “gaffs.”)

Best Boy: The second electrician. Not the Gaffer’s sidekick, or cabin boy, or “Robin.” Just the second electrician.

Obi light: Named for Merle Oberon, this is a light placed on top of the camera that highlights actors eyes and makes them sparkle on film. It’s called a “basher” on the East Coast. We have no idea why.

Barney: A blanket placed over the camera to muffle the noise of the moving parts inside. See also: a cheerful, purple, somewhat-creepy dinosaur who starred in an annoying children’s show.

Boff, Boffo, Boffola, Whammy, Socko, Hotsy: Names for films with an outstanding box-office performance. No, really.

Read about more film slang here and here. Have a term we left off the list? Leave a comment and let us know.

[Photo: garryknight/Creative Commons]

Tags: barney, film set, gaffer, Hollywood, movies, obi light, slang

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