To successfully bluff your way in the film world, you’ll want to steer clear of actually being on a film set at any time.
Let’s be frank: film sets are dirty, disorganised and often incredibly boring places (you should also be aware that because of runaway production costs, many ‘Hollywood’ sets are now in Canada, so your ticket to Tinseltown might be rather annoying and expensive oversight anyway).
Many studio moguls have achieved great power and success without ever having to sully their Gucci loafers by traipsing about set. In fact, this might be why they have achieved great power and success.
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of having strayed into the middle of the action, we recommend that you try to have at least some understanding of the following industry-standard jargon – as much as your limited attention span permits, anyway.
Above the line: This is commonly what most bluffers are, as ‘above the line’ personnel on a film set tend to have rather muddy qualifications. It normally refers to the star, the director, producer or writer. Everyone else, being ‘below the line’, not only lacks dignity, but actually has a proper job with some measure of accountability.
Blow job: This has nothing to do with private auditions on the casting couch. Rather, it is when you clean a camera lens with a can of compressed air.
Buff and puff: Again, this has nothing to with fluffers (adult films have their own fruity and eye-opening industry jargon). An actor being sent for ‘buff and puff’ is just about to have their hair and make-up done.
Chewing the scenery: An industry term for an actor being a ‘try-hard’. In many professions, going slightly overboard is a perfectly reasonable way of showing willing and, thus, climbing the career ladder. However, this is not popular in the acting world. If you’re employed to play a walk-on part, you should refrain from ‘developing’ your character with a limp or interesting hat. (Strangely, some ‘stars’ are famous for chewing the scenery too. William Shatner’s performance as Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series – with its trademark eye-rolling, hand-wringing, halting delivery and lengthy dramatic pauses – is a fine example of an actor going entirely over-the-top. Completely unnecessarily in his case.)
Clear the lens: This is Hollywood speak for “get the f*** out of the way!” This phrase is usually uttered by irate camera operators who are trying to line up a shot. You shouldn’t take it personally, as they often yell the converse: “Find the lens!” to encourage actors to figure out where the camera is. Which, as an actor, would seem to be a large part of their job; cameras tend to be rather large, intrusive things, which, you’d think, would make the task of identifying them quite easy.
Doris Day parking: The best parking space on the lot. It is, of course, de rigueur for all bluffers, in all places and at all times. In the unlikely instance that such a spot has not been provided, make your own placard with your name proudly displayed and plant it in the ground to stamp your territory, like a latter-day imperial colonist. This trick is as effective on a lot in Hollywood as in a car park at your local Waitrose.
Four banger: Sadly not a job title. A ‘four banger’ is a trailer with four dressing rooms. In Hollywood, the size of your trailer is indicative of your status on set.
Honeywagon: Despite its name, this is not a nightclub in provincial Essex. Bafflingly, on set, the Honeywagons are the crew’s washrooms.
Lewinskys: Kneepads used by stuntmen. You can probably work out where this name comes from.
Video village: If you actually have to be on set, the video village is probably the safest place to hang out. It is an area centred around a couple of monitors that actually show the action that is being shot. Many directors can be very territorial about who can sit in and be around their video village. Martin Scorsese is rumoured to erect a mirror on the top of his monitors to watch for encroachers. As a bluffer, such concerns are beneath you as your mindset rightly cannot countenance anything but a warm welcome wherever you may choose to roam. You should confidently approach the village, grab a chair (ideally not one with someone’s name on it), put on a pair of headphones and smile encouragingly at the other ‘villagers’. Every now and then clap loudly and shout at an annoying volume: “Darn tootin’! That’s a good one!” regardless of the action taking place in front of you.
Learn more Hollywood jargon with The Bluffer’s Guide to Insider Hollywood.