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film industry terms - B

Film Industry Terms – B

Film Industry Terms – B

There are kinds of terms and jargon used in the during filming and staging of plays and films. So much so that we have created this A to Z guide so you’ll never be in the dark again.

B-Film, B-Movie, B-Picture

This refers to a second-rate movie. The term first came to prominence during the 1920s and usually referred to a film made by an independent producer. There are many examples but because how great a film is (or not!) is subjective, you can decide what is a B-movie or not. However, films like Teenagers from Out of Space is a 1959 film that has a high Rotten Tomato rating.


This refers to an action in the background, called the plane of action. As an extra, you may be performing action behind the foreground of the action. It is sometimes abbreviated to BG.

Background artist

This is the person who designs the visual background of a film scene. They can be referred to as a matte artist.

Back projection

This is a photographic technique that is still used today, although advances in technology mean that it is harder to spot. Originally, the back projection provided motion behind vehicles but today, the use of blue screens and green screens means that back projections can be anything from collapsing buildings to a tidal wave.

Back story

Every film or series has a backstory. It is the part of the film that the audience won’t see in detail. The opening scenes of a film will set the scene, giving several clues and hints as to the backstory of characters and the story itself. A backstory doesn’t apply to just film characters but to our favourite characters in literature and all artistic genres.

Based on a true story

This is when a film is based on events that have said to have happened in real life. A film may not be the exact replica of the actual events – for example, the details of the story of Braveheart are lost in time – so there will be some ‘artistic licence’. Directors and writers will also make changes so that the story is more commercial and appealing to the audience. A typical based on a true story film would be something like Erin Brockovich, a story of a single mother.


Actors refer to this as the length of time they wait or pause in a sequence of dialogue or action. A beat is usually one second. In a script, a pause will be noted by an ellipse or “…”.


This is the list of names of actors in a movie. As you would expect, the main star is top billing, the supporting actors second, third and fourth billing and so on. Some parts won’t get onto the billing score sheet, with names simply listed alongside their characters.

Black comedy

These are ‘funny’ with a wry look at life but based on situations in which we wouldn’t normally associate humour, like death or war. After Life by Ricky Gervais could be described as a black comedy. True to life and dealing with a sensitive subject, the dialogue and action bring bittersweet humour to the story.

Blocking a shot

This doesn’t mean that someone has got in the way! Instead, it refers to working out where the camera will go, how the lighting should be arranged, actors’ positions and so on. Blocking the shot is done for each shot or take and is something that the director does. They will often use stand-ins to work it all out before the scene is filmed.

There are many other pieces of jargon starting with B, like blooper (when something doesn’t go to plan) and body double but these are the terms we consider important, especially for any extra considering breaking into movies or TV productions.

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