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As head electrician or chief lighting technician, the gaffer is the head of the electrical department, responsible for overseeing all things electric on the set. He or she designs and executes the lighting plan for a film or television production. He or she and the crew of electricians provide, set up, and strike (take down) all the lights. He or she also coordinates with the director of photography to develop the particular look required for a scene or effect.

You will need a background as an electrician to do this kind of work. As gaffer, your main job is to make the scene look the way the director and the director of photography envision it. You will have to know how lights work and what they can and cannot do. You will need to understand the different lighting requirements needed to make a room eerie, cheerful, calm, or tense. You will need to have a very good understanding of the film stock or video equipment that is being used, as well as the lighting equipment and techniques. You also must be good at taking charge and delegating responsibility. You are also responsible for accurately estimating the time it will take to do each setup so that the actors and others working on the project can be scheduled to come in at the right time.

The gaffer will light the scene and let the actors walk through it. You must be very observant, noting the shadows and what works and what does not. Then you make the necessary changes for the scene, and the scene is ready to be shot.

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