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Film Industry Terms – A

Film Industry Terms – A

Film Industry Terms – A

Like many other industries, the TV and film industry have their own terms and acronyms to describe key parts in the filming and production process. If you plan of becoming an actor or enjoy a varied career as an extra, you’ll need to know what some of these terms mean. In this series, we take a look letter-by-letter at some of the most common terms used. We’re going to start at the start with the terms beginning with A.


This is a type of film that rejects typical narrative in favour of using a more poetic form such as colour, motion, sound and so on. By doing so, it gives the film an avant-garde feeling. There are many different examples of films like this over the decades but take a look at the British film You be Mother for what it means in action.

Absurd or Absurdism

This is a term adopted from the stage, literature and philosophy by the film industry and means what you think it does! Essentially, it refers to when a filmmaker adopts an extraordinary style in ordinary settings. So something bizarre happening on a ‘normal’ residential streets or presenting something so unrealistic and meaningless in a setting that we can all identify with. There are many examples of absurdism in the movies, like the film, Life of Brian.


An act is the main division within the plot of a movie etc. Films differ from the stage in that they are divided into plot points – that is, where there are dramatic changes – rather than acts.


This is something everyone will be familiar with. The actors are ready on set or location land the director shouts action and everyone starts to move, talk and act. But what else does it mean?

  • Action sets off a series of movements that become a series of filmed events that drive the film from the start to its conclusion
  • As we have seen, it is what the director shouts when they want the process of acting in that particular take to start
  • It is also a description of the main component in action films, especially fight scenes or ones with lots of action


This describes a movie or TV film that is made highlighting another art form. In other words, a film based on a book or a stage play.

Ad Lib

This is where dialogue is improvised by actors during a performance. It can be unscripted or deliberate. Not everyone is comfortable ad libbing but when you know your character well, you should have no problem putting words into their mouth. Some of the most iconic lines that make movies memorable were ad libbed by actors.

Alan Smithee

The name that is given to a film when the director doesn’t want to be associated with the final product as they feel their vision has watered down or changed. The Shrimp on the Barbie from 1990 is one such film.

Alternate ending

You may be asked as an extra or actor to film more than one ending to a film or series. There are many reasons why this happens, one being to stop the ending being leaked before the film is shown. The 1982 film Blade Runner had different endings filmed.


By angling the camera in different ways, the director (and thus the audience) can see the action from a different perspective because by doing so, it can make the delivery of the message or sequence even more powerful.

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