The Language Of Film Industry Executives


I hope you all read the trades to be informed of the film activities occurring both in LA and the rest of the world. I stumbled across this quaint post which Variety magazine published to help readers unravel the mysteries of their language. Here we go:

  • 30-mile zone — Within a union-defined 30-mile radius (often measured from the Beverly Center in West Hollywood), a production company can shoot without paying travel expenses or a per-diem (daily personal allowance)
  • a.d. — assistant director; “Alan Smithee’s career began as the a.d. on Warners’ ‘Gypsy.’ “
  • above the lineIndustry term: Industry term for movies and TV budgets. The line refers to money budgeted for creative talent, such as actors, writers, directors, and producers.
  • ACE — America Cinema Editors.
  • ADG — Art Directors Guild.
  • ad-pub — relating to the advertising and publicity department of a motion picture studio
  • AFI — American Film Institute/ Australian Film Institute
  • affil — television network affiliated station
  • AFTRA — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. National labor union representing performers, journalists and other artists working in entertainment and news. “SAG’s elected leadership looks to be holding out hope for a merger with AFTRA.”
  • Alphabet web — the ABC television network
  • AMPAS — Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  • ankle — A classic (and enduring) Variety term meaning to quit or be dismissed from a job, without necessarily specifying which; instead, it suggests walking
  • anni — anniversary; “American Movie Classics scheduled a night of Elvis Presley pics in observance of the 20th anni of his death.”
  • arthouse — motion picture theater that shows foreign or non-mainstream independent films, often considered high-brow or “art” films; ” ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ was one of the biggest hits ever on the arthouse circuit.”
  • ASC — American Society of Cinematographers.
  • aud — audience
  • Aussie — Australian; “The Aussie government will vote next week on budget allocations for indigenous film production.” (See also: Oz)
  • ayem — A Variety coinage meaning morning (a.m.)
  • b.f. — an abbreviation for boyfriend, usually used in reviews (also g.f.– girlfriend)
  • B.O. — box office or box office receipts
  • backdoor pilot — Not a Variety creation, pilot episode filmed as a standalone movie, so it can be broadcast if it is not picked up as a series
  • BAFTA — British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
  • BFCA — Broadcast Film Critics Association.
  • biopic — A Variety coinage meaning biographical film; ” ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter,’ about Loretta Lynn, is one of the most successful biopics ever produced.”
  • bird — A Variety term for satellite; “The proposed channel would be carried by an Asian bird to be launched next spring.”
  • biz — shorthand for business or “the business” — show business; “Alan Smithee started out in the biz as a grip” or “Alan Smithee was promoted to VP of biz affairs at Par.”
  • Blighty — Britain; ” ‘Bean’ is one of the biggest hits to come out of Blighty.”
  • blurb — TV commercial; “Ridley Scott started his career directing blurbs.”
  • boff (also boffo, boffola) — outstanding (usually refers to box office performance)
  • bow — (n.) opening or premiere; (v.) to debut a production; “The pic’s bow was in January”; “The Nederlander Organization will bow its revival of ‘Wonderful Town’ next year.”
  • busted pilot — Each year, the nets order about 20 pilots a piece (about evenly split, half comedy, half drama), which are then cast and filmed for consideration for the fall skeds. But only about half a dozen pilots are picked up to become the premiere episodes. The other pilots are never heard from again — and are rarely ever seen beyond network boardrooms.
  • cabler — cable network or cable system operator
  • CAS — Cinema Audio Society.
  • CDG — Costume Designers Guild.
  • Chi (also Chitown) — Chicago; “The Goodman Theatre in Chi has spawned a number of today’s more accomplished actors.”
  • chirp — to sing; “Cybill Shepherd chirped a few showtunes during her new nightclub act.”
  • chopsocky — a martial arts film; “Chopsocky star Chuck Norris will make a guest appearance on ‘Seinfeld’ this season.”
  • Cincy — Cincinnati; “The touring ‘Phantom of the Opera’ company did strong biz in Cincy before moving to Chi.”
  • cleffer — a songwriter; “Jay Livingston was the cleffer on many Bob Hope films.” (See also, tunesmith)
  • click — a hit; ” Disney click ‘The Lion King’ is slated to air on ABC this season.”
  • cliffhanger — a melodramatic adventure or suspense film or TV show; usually a serial with a to-be-continued ending
  • coin — money, financing; “Coin for the production was raised through pre-sales to foreign territories.”
  • Col (also Colpix) — Columbia Pictures; “Alan Smithee had a three-pic deal at Col before he inked with Paramount.”
  • commish — commissioner, commission; “The director lauded the local film commish for helping find locations.”
  • competish — competition; ” ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ outdistanced the competish at the weekend B.O.”
  • confab — convention or professional gathering; “TV programming execs gather annually at the NATPE confab.”
  • conglom — conglomerate; “Miramax was a privately owned company until it was acquired by the Disney conglom.”
  • corny — A term in common usage meaning sentimental, obvious or old-fashioned, out of it
  • crix — critics; “While the director’s last film was a flop with auds, the crix were in his corner.”
  • d.p. — director of photography
  • deejay (also d.j.) — Commonly used term originally coined by Variety meaning disc jockey
  • DGA — Directors Guild of America, the union of film and TV directors, assistant directors and unit production managers.
  • diskery — record company; “The artist signed a five-album deal with the diskery last year.”
  • distrib — distributor; “Paramount is the distrib on the project, which will begin lensing in May.”
  • distribbery — distribution company; “Two former studio execs are forming a new distribbery based in New York.”
  • doc, docu — documentary; “The new Neil Young doc has scored well with the critics.”
  • dramedy — A TV show that could be labeled both a comedy and a drama, usually an hour long. Also, a film or theater show that could be labeled as either — or perhaps fails at both
  • ducats — tickets
  • emcee — master of ceremonies
  • exec, exex — executive, executives; “Fox execs declined to comment about the recent shakeup.”
  • exhib — exhibitor (movie theater owner)
  • Eye web — the CBS television network
  • f/x — special visual effects (or VFX)
  • fave — favorite; “Johnny Carson was a longtime fave with latenight auds.”
  • feature — motion picture over an hour in length
  • feevee — pay TV
  • fest — film or TV festival; “Alan Smithee’s new film will bow at the fest.”
  • first-look — a deal wherein a particular studio has the first option on a filmmaker’s projects
  • flop (also floppola) — failure at the box office (also Crappola)
  • four-wall — a theater rental contract where the producer assumes responsibility for all of the expenses of a show and gets all of the revenue, especially used in Las Vegas
  • Frog web — the WB television network, named for its mascot, a dancing frog from a Looney Tunes cartoon.
  • FYC — for your consideration; “It used to be that studios would take out ads for just about anyone who had ever made a hit movie for them — or had FYC guarantees written into their deal memos.”
  • Gallic — French
  • Gotham — New York City; “Film production in Gotham has been on the rise for the past several years.”
  • green LitIndustry term: Process that follows after a script has been developed and moves into production
  • greenlight — the go-ahead for a film to be made; “The Bruce Willis project was given the greenlight last week.”
  • hardtop — indoor movie theater
  • headliner — the top act or performer on a vaudeville or revue bill
  • helm — (v.) to direct a film or TV program; helmer(n.) a director
  • HFPA — Hollywood Foreign Press Association (They present the Golden Globes.)
  • hike — to increase, raise or promote
  • history playIndustry term: Play dealing with a historical subject
  • hold overIndustry term: When a director decides to use an actor for an extra day not originally scheduled
  • hoofer — dancer
  • horse opera — Western film
  • hotsy — strong performance at the box office
  • HQ — headquarters
  • huddle — (v.) to have a meeting; (n.) a meeting
  • HUT — Homes Using Television, a common television industry term for households watching TV
  • H’w’d — Hollywood
  • hype — manufactured promotional buzz; hyperbole
  • hypo — to increase or boost; “Producers are offering discounted tickets to hypo the show’s word of mouth.”
  • IATSE — International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (union) (also referred to as just the IA)
  • IFP — Independent Feature Project.
  • IMA — Institue for the Musical Arts.
  • impresarioIndustry term: Entertainment entrepreneur
  • in the canIndustry term: Phrase meaning the director has the take he wants
  • indie — independent film, filmmaker, producer or TV station; “The new film festival will showcase indies.”
  • infopike — information superhighway (Internet)
  • ink — to sign a contract
  • insertIndustry term: Pick-up where a short segment of script is reread from one point to another
  • in-the-roundIndustry term: A theater in which the audience is seated on all four sides of a central stage.
  • INTV — Association of Independent Television Stations
  • Italo — Italian
  • jingleIndustry term: Short phrase of music usually with lyrics used in commercials
  • kidvid — children’s television
  • Kiwi — New Zealander
  • kudocast — Variety term for an awards show
  • LAFCA — Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
  • laffer — comedy
  • laugh trackIndustry term: Audience laughter that is recorded to be played back when a TV show is aired
  • legit — legitimate (live) theater. The term seeks to differentiate serious theater (think Shakespeare, think O’Neill) from vaudeville or burlesque
  • legs — stamina at the box office
  • lense — to film a motion picture
  • longform, long-form — TV programming that is longer than an hour in duration; a TV movie or miniseries
  • made-for — a TV movie (made-for-television movie)
  • MAHG/MUAHS — Make-up and Hair Stylists Guild.
  • major — one of the eight major film studios (Disney, MGM, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Dreamworks, Universal, Warner Brothers).
  • megaplex — a movie theater with more than 16 screens
  • meller — melodrama
  • mini — A television miniseries
  • mini-major — Big film production companies that are supposedly smaller than the majors although such companies as Miramax, LionsgateΒ  and New Line compete directly with the big studios
  • mitting — applause
  • mogul — the head of a major studio or communications company; from the title of the all-powerful emperors of India;
  • moppet — child, especially child actor
  • Mouse (also Mouse House) — the Walt Disney Co. or any division thereof, a reference to the company’s most famous animated character, Mickey Mouse
  • MOW — Not a Variety creation, this stands for movie of the week
  • MPA — Motion Picture Association (international arm of Motion Picture Association of America, MPAA, representing the interests of the Hollywood studios abroad)
  • MPAA — Motion Picture Association of America (represents the interests of the major motion picture studios)
  • MPSE — Motion Picture Sound Editors
  • MSO — multisystem cable operator, the powerful companies that own large local cable operations
  • multici — Multicultural
  • multiplex — A movie theater comprising more than two screens but less than 16
  • n.s.g. — not so good
  • NAACP — National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
  • nabe — a neighborhood theater
  • NABET — National Association of Broadcast Engineers & Technicians (union)
  • narrowcast — network or programming aimed at a specialized audience; the opposite of a broadcast
  • NBR — National Board of Review.
  • net — network
  • netlet — fledgling networks UPN and the WB; any network with less than a full weekly schedule of programming
  • niche programming — TV programming or channels targeting particular demographics or interests eg Ski Channel
  • nitery — a nightclub
  • nix — reject, say no to; as in the famous Variety headline “Sticks Nix Hick Pix,” meaning that audiences in rural areas were not interested in attending films about rural life.
  • NSFC — National Society of Film Critics.
  • nut — operating expenses to be recovered; “On Broadway, most shows need to operate at 60% of audience capacity to cover their nuts.”
  • NYFCC — New York Film Critics Circle.
  • NYFCO — New York Film Critics Online.
  • O&O — Network-owned and -operated TV stations
  • o.t.t. — over the top
  • oater — Western film, referring to the preferred meal of horses
  • OFCS — Online Film Critics Society.
  • off-net — network TV series repeats sold into syndication
  • one-hander — a play or movie with one character
  • Oz — Australia; “The film has performed well in Oz and New Zealand.” (See also: Aussie: pronounced Ozzie)
  • ozoner — drive-in movie theater (See also: hardtop, passion pit)
  • P&A — prints and advertising, the often-sizable expense that goes on a film’s financial ledger after production is complete; “The film’s budget has soared past $65 million, and P&A costs may add another $30 million.”
  • p.a. — personal appearance
  • pact — (n.) a contract; (v.) to sign a contract
  • paper — any wordage on a project; logline, treatment, draft etc.
  • Par — Paramount
  • passion pit — drive-in theater, so called owing to their privacy factor and romantic allure for teenagers
  • payola — bribery or under-the-table payments
  • Peacock web — the NBC television network, named for its colorful mascot
  • pen — (v.) to write
  • percenter (also tenpercenter) — agent
  • percentery (also tenpercentery) — talent agency; tenpercentery (top 10%)
  • perf — performance
  • PGA — Producers Guild of America
  • pic(s) (also pix) — motion picture(s)
  • pinkslip — to lay off or fire from a job
  • pitch — Not a Variety creation, anything from a one-line description to a two- to three-page treatment of an idea, and as such, is not yet a script, nor is it a “spec;” “Felines of Death — “It’s ‘JAWS’ with paws!”
  • plex — multiplex theater or cable channel
  • post-production — stage at which editing, scoring and effects are executed on a motion picture or TV production
  • pour — cocktail party
  • powwow — a meeting or gathering
  • PPV — pay-per-view
  • PR (also p.r.) — public relations
  • praiser — publicist
  • praisery — public relations firm
  • preem — (n.) an opening-night or premiere performance; (v.) to show a completed film for the first time
  • prep — to prepare
  • pre-production — stage at which a motion picture or TV project is prepared to go into production
  • pre-sales — Territorial sales of planned motion pictures to distributors worldwide; usually conducted to raise funding for lower budget, independent pictures
  • prexy (also prez) — president
  • product — completed film or TV productions
  • productionIndustry term: This involves building sets, designing costumes, measuring and fitting actors for costumes, and rehearsals
  • promo — sales promotion
  • pubcaster — government-owned broadcaster
  • put pilot — A deal to produce a pilot that includes substantial penalties if the pilot is not aired; a virtual guarantee that a pilot will be picked up
  • Q rating — ad research rating that gauges how easily a celebrity is recognized
  • R&B — rhythm and blues
  • reissue (also re-release) — a film released again by a studio after its initial release
  • rentals — portion of film grosses that goes to film distributors; also refers to videocassette rentals
  • rep — (n.) a representative; (v.) to represent
  • retro — retrospective
  • reup — to renew an employment contract
  • RIAA — Recording Industry Association of America
  • SAG — the Screen Actors Guild, the union for film and TV actors
  • scatter — the TV network commercial time left over after upfront (before season) sales are made
  • scribbler — writer
  • scripter — screenwriter
  • SDMM — Set Designers and Model-Makers Union
  • SDSA — Set Directors’ Society of America
  • seg — segment or episode of a TV series
  • sellout — sold-out performance
  • sell-through — prerecorded videocassettes priced lower to be sold rather than rented
  • sesh — session or meeting; also a time frame, such as a weekend
  • sex appeal — a term coined by Variety now in common usage meaning to be attractive to audiences owing to sexual aura
  • shingle — A small business, often set up by an actor or established player at a larger company
  • showbiz — show business
  • showrunner — executive producer of a television series
  • shutter — to close a legitimate play or musical
  • sideman — A member of a band or a session musician
  • sitcom — a term now in common usage originally coined by Variety, shorthand for situation comedy TV series
  • sked — schedule
  • skein — a TV series
  • sleeper — a film or TV show that lacks pre-release buzz or critical praise, but turns into a success after it is released, usually due to good word-of-mouth
  • soap opera — radio (now TV) serial originally sponsored by soap companies
  • sock (also socko) — very good (usually refers to box office performance)
  • solon — an authority; someone in the know; from the ancient Greek wise man, Solon
  • spec script — a script shopped or sold on the open market, as opposed to one commissioned by a studio or production company
  • spec(s) (also spex) — TV special(s)
  • spesh — a television special
  • sprocket opera — film festival
  • SRO — standing room only; a sold out show
  • STCPDS — Story, trailer, cast, production notes, downloads and stills — the basics of every movie Web site ever
  • strip — a five- or six-day-per-week TV series, usually in syndication
  • sudser — soap opera
  • suspenser — suspense film
  • syndie — syndicated television programming, those sold to stations, rather than provided by one of the networks or netlets
  • tabmag — tabloid-style TV magazine show, e.g., “Hard Copy”
  • tap — to select or name
  • (the) Coast — Hollywood, Los Angeles; “NBC’s New York-based Robert Wright will fly to the Coast for meetings next week.”
  • (the) Hub — Boston, Massachusetts
  • (the) Lion (also Leo) — Variety-ese for Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) Studios, so referred to because of the company’s legendary “Leo the Lion” logo
  • (the) o.o. — the once-over; to examine something; “Sylvester Stallone gave the script the o.o. before passing on it.”
  • telefilm (also telepic, telepix) — feature-length motion picture made for TV
  • tentpole — Movie expected by a studio to be its biggest grossing blockbuster of the season, usually summer. Often the pic is the start of, or an installment in, a franchise
  • terp — to dance (as in Terpsichore)
  • terper — dancer
  • theatrical — feature-length motion picture
  • thrush — female singer
  • title role — Not a Variety creation, the lead part in a movie or other production for an actor that is named after the title of the film
  • tix — tickets
  • toon — cartoon
  • topline — to star; to be billed above the title of a show or film
  • topliner — a star of a particular show or film
  • topper — the head of a company or organization
  • tubthump — to promote or draw attention to; from the ancient show business custom of actors wandering the streets banging on tubs to drum up business
  • tuner — a legitimate musical
  • tunesmith — songwriter
  • turnaround — no longer active; a project put into “turnaround” has been abandoned by one studio and may be shopped to another.
  • twofers — coupons that discount admission price to “two for” the price of one
  • two-hander — a play or movie with two characters
  • two-wall — a theater rental contract where the host property and artist share expenses and share revenue, expecting to recoup from the success of the show
  • tyro — in general, someone new to a field or activity; in Variety, a first-time director, writer, etc.
  • U — Universal Pictures (compare to U., which refers to a university)
  • unspool — to screen a film
  • upfront — commercial time sold in advance of the TV season
  • veep (also veepee, VP) — vice president
  • VES — Visual Effects Society
  • vid — video
  • VOD — video on demand
  • voiceover — offscreen narration
  • warble — to sing
  • warbler — singer
  • web — network
  • weblet — fledgling networks UPN and the WB; any network with less than a full weekly schedule of programming
  • WGA — Writers Guild of America.
  • whammo — a sensation (bigger than boffo)
  • whodunit — a mystery film (or show)
  • wicket — box office (usually foreign)
  • wrap — to finish production
  • yawner — a boring show
  • zitcom — a television comedy aimed at teenagers
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