Set Terminology for MUAs

Take time to scroll through this list and get familiar with the terms below. I've tried my best to keep things simple, to the point, and include more commonly used terms you will hear - or that may apply to you as a MUA.  Things can get very overwhelming but this will give you a head start and get you familiarized with this side of the industry. 

Assistant Director (1st): You can easily mistake this person for the Director, they are often shouting on set and giving talent their cues. Pay attention to what this person is saying to understand what is happening with the shot.  

Assistant Director (2nd): You will interact a lot with the 2nd AD. They are usually in charge of making sure cast and crew are where they are supposed to be. They often may not be on set, but working behind the scenes with producers etc. 

Assistant Director (3rd): Often works with the 1st AD and works closely with talent/crew.

Background Action: The cue for the background actors to start their action.

Behind/Watch Your Back: This means someone is carrying or moving a large piece of equipment behind you. Get out of the way.  You can also say this on set when you are moving behind people to avoid any collisions. 

Blocking: The actors/talent/background work out the movements and positioning of the scene. The camera is not rolling. Do not touch up makeup or hair during this time, give the talent time to do this uninterrupted.

Boom/ Boom Mic This is the microphone attached to a long pole that the boom operator holds on set. 

Call Sheet: A call sheet is a very important spreadsheet used to indicate everyone’s contact information, call time and locations for the day. Make sure to review this as soon as you receive it to ensure you know where to go and when. 

Call Time: You need to be on set for your call time. Each department will have a different call time so pay attention to this. Always arrive earlier than what your call time indicates. The saying goes: 'If you are on time then you are late'.

Camera right and Camera left: This refers to the point of view from the camera. If you are told to fix hair on camera left , when you approach the talent you will be fixing hair on your left  - their right shoulder.

Casting Director: Responsible for casting the Actors.

Close Up: This refers to a close shot of a point of interest. This could be the face, hands, nails etc. If you know a close up is going to be shot ensure your makeup/hair is camera ready for this kind of shot. 

Confirmed Booking: Once you have a confirmed booking from your client you are making a commitment to work for them on the date specified. You should not be taking any other work on this date.

Continuity: A sequence that is filmed over more than one day or one shot. It is essential that MUA’s take pictures and notes regarding the makeup application to ensure continuity. You may shoot the same scene one week later and the makeup/hair must be identical. Take photos with your phone and make clear notes so you will be able to exactly replicate makeup/hair.

Craft Services: Where you find food and drinks on set.

Crossing: What you say out loud on set to indicate you are stepping through the shot in front of the camerasNever cross a set when the cameras are rolling. 

Cut: When the director yells ‘cut’ talent stops what they are doing and the cameras/sound stop recording.

DOP: Director of Photography (or Cinematographer). Works with the Director supervising the Camera and lighting department to set up the shot. They are responsible for determining the look of the film, in terms of style, rather than just the process of recording it.

ETA: MUA’s are always asked what the ETA is. Meaning when will the talent be ready for set. Likely if you are being asked what your ETA is, that means hurry the hell up.

Eye line: The direction the talent is required to look in for the shot. Never stand in anyone's eye line while filming is happening. It can be extremely distracting to your talent. When you are on set, stand to the side so you are not making direct eye contact with any talent while filming.

Establisher/Establishing Shot: A general view of the location/building/scene.

Final Checks/Finals: This is your cue to go on to set to get everything right before shooting begins. If no one cues you for finals you can say 'finals for hair/makeup' or 'going in for finals' before the camera begins rolling to make sure your talent is camera ready. Of course making sure you are going on set at the appropriate time. 

First Hold: This occurs when a client is holding you for a specific date for work. You remain on hold until you are confirmed. If you receive an offer from another client for the same date you will notify the client from your first hold and they can either confirm or release you from the booking. 

First Positions/Ones: The talent’s starting position for the first take of a scene 

From The Top: Cue to start the scene from the beginning

Gaffer: Head electrician.

Gel: Gels are placed over the lights for a different colour effect and can affect how your makeup looks on camera.

Grips: Crew members that are lighting and rigging technicians. They build and maintain any equipment that supports the camera. 

Hard Out: The crew/talent need to be completely finished on set by a specific time

Holding Area: Where main talent or background actors are held before going on to set. You may be required to do makeup on background talent in the holding area.

Honey Wagon: The toilet. Usually on a trailer. Usually gross. 

Hot Spot: If someone tells you there is a ‘hot spot’ on your talent’s face, this usually means there is a shiny/sweaty spot on the face that needs to be taken care of. 

Insert: Close-up shots of important items/actions in the scene. Pay attention to what the shot is in case you need to do any hair/makeup finals. 

Key: This refers to the person in charge of makeup/hair (sometimes both).

Last Looks: This is your last chance to get your talent and background makeup and hair ready for camera before shooting, 

Location/On Location: Where filming takes place. You may be shooting at more than one location, refer to your call sheet for this information.

Long Shot: Full length shot with some of the background.

Losing Light: Usually on an outdoor shoot, this refers to the amount of natural light available to get the shot. If you are ‘losing light’ on set you have to move quickly because the sun is setting and you will run out of the adequate amount of light you need to get the shot.

Master Shot: Wide shot that covers the main action throughout.

Mid Shot: Shot of the top half of the body.

Nightshoot/Overnight: When you shoot overnight. 

One More For Safety: This refers to a retake of the last shot, there is always one more after the ‘one more’.

Pan: The camera moves from left to right, or right to left. 

Pick Up: A small part of a scene which has been missed or needs to be reshot that the crew will go back to complete.

Production Office: The headquarters behind the set, usually managed by the Production Manager.

Props: Objects on set. 

Prosthetic: An artificial body part, applied in the make-up dept.

Reset: Moving the camera to a different position or changing the lens of the camera.

Reverse Shot: A 180-degree angle from the last position of the camera.

Rolling/Roll Camera: Do not do anything while the camera is rolling. Cell phones should be off and away. You cannot make any noise or step onto set when the camera is rolling. You should also avoid walking back and forth on set during this time, it can be very distracting to your on camera talent. 

Runner or PA: A PA/Runner supports the AD’s and Production Office. 

Set: Where filming is taking place.

Set Bag/Set Kit: This will contain the products you will need to take with you to set to touch up talent and background actors.

Soundstage: Located inside a studio where the set is constructed. 

Speed: The Camera is on and has reached its required speed, you will hear “rolling” right after. Do not step onto set when the camera is speeding.

Stand By: This is a warning that filming is about to commence. 

Stepping In: What you say on set to indicate you are stepping on to set. Never step on set when the camera is rolling or the photographer is shooting. You can also say 'going in' before stepping on set. As previously mentioned do not go on set while filming, during blocking, or when the talent is receiving direction or feedback from the directors. 

Take: Filming of a particular sequence. 

Talking Head: The talent is filmed usually from the waist up, news reporter style. Pay attention here, makeup and hair will be front and centre.

Tear Sheet: Refers to a print ad, story, or editorial in a magazine that you will include in your portfolio. Tear sheets are digital now but when magazines were in print your 'tears' referred to sheets of paper actually torn from a magazine. 

TFP : Refers to Trade for Print , or Time for Print. This usually means no one is getting paid. The payment is the final photo/photos. This type of shoot can also be referred to as a 'creative' or 'portfolio' shoot. 

Test Shot: When the photographer takes a shot of the model/talent to determine if the lighting, positioning, makeup etc. is working for the shot. You will make the appropriate changes (if any) once the test shot is reviewed. 

Test Shoot: A team of people (photographer, model, MUA, stylist) working on a photo shoot for their portfolios. This also refers to photoshoots that are arranged for new models to be photographed to generate images for their portfolios. 

Tracking Shot or Dolly: The camera moves smoothly forwards or backwards by running on tracks.

Wrap: This indicates the end of the filming day.


Photo cred: Faye Blais, on set with The Lovelocks xoxo