A gaffer is the chief lighting technician on a film set and is the head of the electrical department.
The term has been used for the chief electrician in films since the 1930s. The Oxford English Dictionary has a citation from 1936: Gaffer. 1580s, "elderly rustic," apparently a contraction of godfather (cf. gammer); originally "old man," it was applied from 1841 to foremen and supervisors, which sense carried over 20c. to "electrician in charge of lighting on a film set." The term has been in use since no later than 1929.
The gaffer is responsible for managing lighting, including associated resources such as labour, lighting instruments and electrical equipment under the direction of the director of photography.
- Oxford English Dictionary accessed 15 May 2009
- Mary Eunice McCarthy, The Hands of Hollywood, 1929: 61.
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