Bringing a story to life takes an entire team. Pre-production roles are essential in setting the vision for the project and getting all the necessary pieces in place to ensure success. Explore all the positions needed in the Toronto film industry, even before the cameras start rolling.
The story of a screen project, whether fiction or non-fiction, is at the root of it all. Whether a story is based on the news, a book, an essay, a column or an original script, story development is a priority in order to get people invested in the project and help carry it forward.
For Story Development roles, experience in creative writing, literature, script and fiction/non-fiction analysis, film studies, copy-writing and copy-editing are key assets.
The Guild representing screenwriters is the Writers Guild of Canada.
A Screenwriter writes scripts for screen projects. From feature films to short films, television series to commercials, the Screenwriter is responsible for creating the storyline, dialogue and characters that make up the script and is often attached to a screen project well before a full production team is assembled. They adapt the script through time and will often be called upon to do re-writes during production.
The Story Editor works closely with the Screenwriter(s) prior to and throughout the production making edits as needed. They ensure continuity in storytelling and narratives and make adjustments to fit a desired runtime.
A Script Reader is employed by a production company to read scripts that have been submitted or commissioned and make recommendations to the production heads as to which scripts warrant their interest. They read scripts and write a report on each one including a summary and an assessment of the viability of the project for the production company. Strong film industry and history knowledge, critical thinking and writing skills are necessary to become a Script Reader.
The Story Coordinator is responsible for formatting and proofreading the script, working on research reports and facilitating payment of Screenwriters and Story Editors. When revisions are made, they are tasked to add the revisions, check spelling, grammar and punctuation. The Story Coordinator keeps all drafts of the script throughout the project and creates and shares status reports on each version. They are called to liaise between Producers, Directors and Screenwriters. Strong analytical, organizational and writing skills are required to become a Story Coordinator.
A Researcher’s main responsibility is to fact check all elements of the story being developed whether fiction or non-fiction, to ensure it is accurate and well-researched. Sourcing archival materials, from audio, writings, photos or videos is often required to verify and propose modifications or additions to elements of the storyline. The Researcher is responsible for the negotiation of copyright fees and clearances and must keep track of any potential legal issues related to the use of borrowed materials. Strong research skills and experience working with rights clearance are key skills in becoming a researcher.
The Producers and Production teams are at the helm of getting a screen project equipped with the budget, creative workforce, space and logistics it requires to turn a script into a reality on screen.
Gaining experience in any/all facets of pre-production, production and post-production through training, through the creation of personal projects and through networking, is essential in developing experience that can lead to producing.
The Production Office is the administrative and logistics headquarters of a project. Experience in office duties, administrative tasks, report-writing and strong organizational skills are essential in succeeding in Production Office roles.
Industry group: Canadian Media Producers Association.
The Producers are at the helm of a screen project’s financing, team assembly and are responsible for all final deliverables. Producers are often involved creatively in a project and will have decision power over most aspects of the project’s outcomes. Developing knowledge of the industry’s landscape, key players and institutions, funding and distribution models is crucial in becoming a Producer. Most Producers have occupied various roles on and off set in the industry before taking on producing roles and are known multitaskers.
An Executive Producer is the Head Producer who oversees the creation of the screen project and who oversees the project’s financing and budget. An Executive Producer usually works for a production company but may have their own production company, and they oversee the work of the Producers. Executive Producers usually work their way up from various productions in other roles and must have an affinity for multitasking, financing models, relationship building and tap into their vast network.
A Producer or Co-Producer is in charge of making the project a reality and working within the budget. The Producer is often responsible alongside the Co-Producer in putting the financing together, and chiefly, putting the team together, from pre-production, production to post-production. They are considered an above-the-line Producer and usually work right beneath the Executive Producer. They assist with finances, casting and other high-level duties.
The Director and their team are at the helm of a screen project’s narrative and aesthetic vision. They work closely with the heads of all other departments and with the Producer(s) to bring the script to life on screen.
Gaining experience as a Director comes in many ways: by developing skills in other production roles, by directing independent projects including short films and student films and by seeking training. Roles like a Set Production Assistant, offer the chance to observe the life of a set and how a Director interacts with everyone. Building a resume of varied experiences is essential in developing one’s career as a Director.
The job description is provided by the Directors Guild of Canada – Ontario. The Guild representing Directors is the Directors Guild of Canada-Ontario.
The Director is the driving force in the dramatic and artistic aspects of a screen project. The Director visualizes and defines the style and structure of the script while guiding the technical crew and actors in the fulfillment of that vision.
The First Assistant Director (1AD) is responsible for breaking down all elements presented in a script, working with the Director and the Director of Photography to develop the shooting plan and schedule, and then making it happen on set. A 1AD must be a strong leader have an excellent mind for logistics, understand camera angles and techniques and have great communications skills.
A Second Assistant Director (2AD) must be an excellent organizer and communicator, as their function is to create the daily call sheet and all related preparation and shoot documentation in consultation with the 1AD and all department heads, ensuring that all required elements are reflected and scheduled for each day of the shoot.
The Third Assistant Director (3AD) works directly with the 1AD on set to make sure operations are running smoothly. 3ADs work closely with both principal and background performers, as well as the crew, keeping everyone informed of the needs of the set.
Typically, a Fourth Assistant Director (4AD) works at the trailers with and under the supervision of the 2AD. Generally, the 4AD manages cast while they are undergoing hair/makeup/wardrobe preparations, and keeps them informed of timing needs for set, while helping the 2AD with other administrative or communications tasks.
A Set Production Assistant (PA) must have a strong work ethic, a positive attitude and good communications skills. They are assigned many and all necessary tasks by the ADs on the set.
The Storyboard Artist sketches the script into a visual story. Prior to going to camera, Directors and Cinematographers start planning the visuals together with the Storyboard Artist to illustrate the vision. They create images for each shot anticipated and work on visual continuity throughout production. Extensive drawing, modelling and visual storytelling experience is required.
Virtual production is on the rise and its processes are significantly evolving the traditional production workflows of pre-production, production and post-production. The Virtual Production Director is a specialist in virtual production techniques such as previsualization, animation/VFX, virtual cinematography and set lighting. They work closely with the Director and Producer(s) to achieve screen content on a virtual production set with the crew (especially the Director of Photography) and are involved from pre-production all the way to delivery.
The Art Department is responsible for set designs, location selection and treatments and the overall look and feel of the project. Its creative heads work closely with the Director and Producer to make decisions on the aesthetic vision of the project.
Key skills for Art Department positions include experience on film and television sets and understanding on the various departments, experience in arts and crafts design, model renderings and building, woodcarving, 3D printing, special effects creation, costume, hair and makeup for film.
The job descriptions are provided by the Directors Guild of Canada – Ontario. The Guild representing Directors is the Directors Guild of Canada-Ontario.
The Production Designer (PD) is responsible for the visualization and generation of set design, sketches and renderings; location selection and treatments; and design concept relating to Set Decoration, Properties, Special Effects, Lighting, Costuming, Makeup and Hair. The PD collaborates with the Producer, Director and Director of Photography to realize all these elements in the visual style created for the production.
The Art Director (ART) co-ordinates the preparation and execution of all visual elements required for a production. An Art Director is the administrative and organizational heart of the Art Department and is responsible for developing and monitoring the Art Department budget, along with schedules for all related departments.
The First Assistant Art Director (1AR) is responsible for the conceptualization and creation of original on-screen featured elements during production, and should be able to: design and create drawings or files in any format for original sets and/or graphic elements; draw up modifications of existing locations to make a set; and work unsupervised in consultation with the Art Director and/or Production Designer.
A Second Assistant Art Director (2AR) may be assigned duties which include drafting, drawing floor-plans, measuring, surveying, photographing locations, assembling visual research materials, model making and graphic design. The 2AR may create original artwork under the supervision of the 1AR.
The Art Department Coordinator (ADC) works closely with the Art Director to assist with administration, procurement and budget tracking within the Art Department. An Art Department Coordinator may also be responsible for departmental clearances and product placement.
The Trainee Assistant Art Director (TAAD) is a learning position, and Trainees are to be directly supervised by senior members of the Art Department in all their tasks. This is ideal for emerging and aspiring art directors with some experience on sets.
The Casting Department is responsible for the selection of the performers. All Casting positions are non-union. For these roles, experience working with Actors and Performers in any discipline is a key asset.
Industry Group: Casting Directors Society of Canada.
A Casting Director is responsible for finding and selecting the cast/Actors for a production. They read the script, work with the Director and Producer(s) to analyze each character and assess the Actors they will need. They are responsible for hosting auditions, reviewing portfolios, headshots and cast submissions from Agents and Actors. Starting out as a Casting Assistant is the most direct pathway to becoming a Casting Director. Strong psychological analysis and a great sense of observation are key traits in a Casting Director.
The Associate Casting Director reports to the Casting Director and has experience working in a casting office or on productions. The Associate Casting Director is tasked with scouting talent through agencies, schools, showcases, personal accounts and by reviewing submissions – to bring to the Casting Director to consider. They will be key in organizing and scheduling auditions and running the office duties.
The Casting Assistant helps the Casting Director in all facets of their work and is required to multi-task from running the schedules, organizing auditions with the Associate Casting Director and confirming appointments, to running the office and administrative duties, collecting data and writing reports.
A Performer is someone hired to appear on-camera or whose voice is heard even if they are off-camera. Gaining experience as an Actor is key. There are several avenues: going to open casting calls, creating your own projects, acting in student films or theatre, short films or independent features and web series, voice acting and recording, as well as getting professionally trained. Building a resume of all relevant experience and working with Agents are important in building one’s career.
The job description is provided by Intimacy Coordinators Canada. The Union representing Performers is ACTRA – Toronto.
A Principal Actor-Performer speaks, signs or mimes six or more lines of dialogue or performs a major role without dialogue.
An Actor speaks, signs, or mimes five or fewer lines of dialogue or whose performance is without dialogue.
A Host is a Performer who introduces or links segments of a production. Included among the categories of Host are Master of Ceremonies, Moderator, Quiz Master and Interviewer.
An Announcer delivers continuity or a message other than a commercial.
The Narrator or Commentator performs narrative material or commentary on or off-camera.
An Animation Performer voices a role or roles in an animated production(s).
A Vocal or Dialogue Coach who coaches Performers in either vocal or script delivery techniques.
A Dancer performs choreographed dancing, swimming or skating, either alone or with others.
A Choreographer creates and/or stages dance numbers.
A Singer is a Performer who sings either alone or with others.
A Model displays or physically illustrates a product, idea or service.
A Stunt Performer is specially trained and knowledgeable in the engineering of and performance of stunt work. This is a performance that would be considered dangerous if not performed by a Stunt Performer with such special training.
A Stunt Actor plays a character which may include up to ten words and who performs stunt work.
A Nondescript Stunt Performer performs a nondescript stunt or a general stunt that is not attributed to a specific character.
A Stunt Coordinator is responsible for the creation and engineering of stunts and hiring of Stunt Performers.
A Stunt Double is the physical double for a character they are assigned to double to keep the Actor playing that character safe.
A Stunt Rigger is responsible for the design, creation and engineering of rigging when a Performer is involved in the action.
A Background Performer is not required to give individual characterization or to speak or sing any word or line of dialogue.
A Special Skill Background Performer performs either alone or as a member of a team or group in a way requiring a level of proficiency or other physical skill even if required to perform in dress clothes or costumes.
A Photographic Double serves as identical photographically for a member of the cast during on-camera long shots and other scenes in which the Photographic Double is not recognizable.
An Intimacy Coordinator liaises between the Director, production personnel and Performers to implement protocols for scenes containing intimacy, simulated sex, nudity or high emotional content. Industry Group: Intimacy Coordinators Canada.
The Locations Department is responsible for scouting, finding and negotiating the utilization of non-studio production spaces. From buildings to street corners to retail stores to concert venues, the Locations personnel handle all facets of the production’s presence at these spaces. The Guild representing the Locations Department is the Directors Guild of Canada – Ontario. The job descriptions are provided by Directors Guild of Canada-Ontario.
Location Managers (LM) must possess a unique blend of creative and business ability. They are responsible both for finding filming locations fitting the Director and Production Designer’s vision through the scouting and selection process, as well as securing all required contracts, insurance, permits and operational needs for filming locations, all while working within a budget.
The Assistant Location Manager (ALM) works under the supervision of the Location Manager to secure location permits, support space rentals, etc. and works as a liaison on-set between the crew and the public. Good people skills are a must for this job.
The Locations Production Assistant (LPA) works on set to ensure that all plans are implemented effectively, that permits and neighbours are respected, and that the set runs in a clean and efficient manner.
The Accounting Department is responsible for handling all financial records, reports, payments and filings.
Although Film, Television and Digital Media Programs are useful, Accounting Department roles require skills and experience in accounting. Bookkeepers and Accountants are in high demand in the film and television industry. Their skills are applicable and will need to be complemented with sector-specific accounting knowledge such as tax credit applications and processing.
The Guild representing all Accounting positions is Directors Guild of Canada – Ontario. The job descriptions are provided by the Directors Guild of Canada – Ontario.
The Production Accountant (AUD) is responsible for the coordination, supervision and operation of the Accounting Department in accordance with standard industry practice and standard business procedures. This position requires organizational skills and administrative abilities corresponding to those required by a comptroller in any business organization. The AUD must also have an understanding of the work of other departments and an ability to communicate effectively with other department heads.
The First Assistant Production Accountant (1AA General) is a Guild member hired by the Producer(s) in consultation with the Production Accountant. The position of 1AA General requires organizational and administrative abilities normally required in the organization, maintenance and supervision of a Production Accounting Department. This position is bondable.
The First Assistant Production Accountant (1AA Payroll) typically processes the cast and crew payroll on a weekly basis. A strong understanding of collective agreements and pay structures is required, as well as knowledge of the required software to export all information to the payroll companies.
The Second Assistant Production Accountant’s (2AA) responsibilities include data entry, preparation of accounts payable, invoices and purchase orders, petty cash, payroll calculation and journals.
The Third Assistant Production Accountant (3AA) must be prepared to complete data entry, processing of cheques, filing, auditing petty cash envelopes and other duties assigned by the Production Accountant. This position requires a working knowledge of production accounting software, general computer literacy and knowledge of basic accounting procedures.
The Trainee Assistant Production Accountant (TAA) position requires familiarity with bookkeeping practices, literacy, computer literacy and a willingness to learn. A Trainee works under the direct supervision of senior Accounting staff.