Film Industry Terminology


For a new digital video filmmaker the American film industry can feel like a complicated place with its own set of social rules and jargon. If you wish to break the barrier from home to professional filmmaker it is important to learn some of the most common film industry terms so that you have an understanding about what many executives and co-workers are talking about.

Green Light

Green lighting means that a studio or financier is going to fund and start the project. After you pitch a project to a studio executive you often wait for them to give you the go ahead, which means that they will go ahead on your project. If you are successful, then you have a green light.


When pitching a particular film project the executives will often ask you about the ambiance of a particular scene. This is just a more specific request for stating the mood or feeling in that scene.


One word that is often used in film but not in other story-based art forms is anti-climax. This is simply the falling action that occurs after the climax in your video’s story arc.


One of the film industry’s new buzzwords is CGI, and you would most likely be asked about this if your proposed video project requires any special effects. CGI, which stands for Computer-Generated Imagery, refers to 3D computer graphics to create images for your film that can replace filmed images or action.

Big 5

When talking about major film studios you may hear about the Big 5. This refers to the five media corporations that control much of the media, including film that is distributed in America. This includes Disney, Viacom, Time/Warner, News Corporation, and Bertelsmann A.G.


Movie studios are often looking to produce a franchise, which is a film that can be used as a jumping off point for a whole series of products on different platforms. This can be a film that will inspire several profitable sequels, toy lines, clothing lines, amusement park rides, and other items.

Product Placement

When discussing how to fund your film project the concept of product placement may be brought up. This is when a company gives you a certain amount of money so that their product is used in your film. This can be anything from the product being in the background of the scene to its use being integrated into the plot.


Distribution is exactly what any filmmaker is ultimately looking for, and means how the film is going to be shown. This can be anything from Movie Theater and DVD release to Internet and pay-per-view.


Music always adds to a film project, and so there might be a discussion of using a score. A score is background music used in a film, often produced originally for that film and done so by chartered musicians.

Shooting Schedule

Since filmmaking is an expensive and risky process, whoever is funding and distributing your film will most likely want to know how long it will take for you to actually be filming. This is commonly referred to in the industry as a shooting schedule.

Feature and Short-Subject

If you were going to produce a film that has a full length, such as one that is traditionally shown in theaters, this would be called a feature. This often has a standard running time of one to four hours, but usually is between ninety and a hundred and fifty minutes. If it is a short-film, running from one to forty five minutes, it will be referred to as a short subject. These terms are true both for documentary and narrative films.

Just a Few

These are just a few terms to get you started, but it will take a little bit of time in the industry before you become fluent in this language.

About shaneburley