Gaffer (filmmaking)

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:[1] 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.[2]

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.


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary accessed 15 May 2009
  2. ^ Mary Eunice McCarthy, The Hands of Hollywood, 1929: 61.