I like to believe I’m a copywriter who understands my client’s industry and business, but what exactly is the difference between a gaffer and a best boy?

Fortunately film critic, Antonia Quirke has made a series for BBC Radio 4 – Quirke’s Cast and Crew, where she explains who does what in the film industry. In the first episode, Gaffer & Best Boy, she talks to members of the film crew responsible for all things electrical.

He who controls the light

So, we discover, it turns out the gaffer is the chief lighting technician. The term ‘gaffer’ comes from the days when light panels in the ceiling let in the natural light during filming, and the pole used to move the panels around was called the ‘gaff’. So, the man who controlled the gaff was called the gaffer, the controller of light.

She who controls the words

Writing words that sell means having a clear idea of who your customers are. For more than four years, I’ve been writing about one key element in the lighting system used in film and TV production – the electronic ballast.

As a copywriter, only half the job is the writing. The other half is knowing enough about my client’s specialist product, and consumer psychology to be able to craft sales messages.  Every day I will be writing newsletters, articles, blog posts – targeting the people in these occupations, the gaffers, cinematographers, best boys and grips.

I’ve always known what their challenges are, as a consumer segment in a well-defined global niche market.

Now, however, when sending an invitation for a Garage Sale in Hollywood or a product demonstration at Cine Gear at Paramount Studios, I’ll be able to picture the person: a man squinting at the sun, waiting to give the signal…

Light, Cameras, Action!