Movie Terminology Glossary: B


A low-budget, second tier movie, frequently the 2nd movie in a double-feature billing. B-films were cheaper for studios because they did not involve the most highly paid actors or costly sets, and were popular with theater owners because they were less expensive to bring into their theaters while still able to draw revenue.

Back Projection

AKA: Rear Projection
A photographic technique whereby live action is filmed in front of a screen which the background action is projected on. Originally used for scenes occurring in vehicles. Contrast this with a matte shot.

Fictional Movie(s): Postcards from the Edge (1990)

Background Artist

AKA: Scenic Artist, Backgrounds
A person responsible for designing or constructing the art placed at the rear of a set. See also matte artist.


AKA: Back lot
A large, undeveloped area on studio property used for constructing large open-air sets or for filming wilderness scenes.


Many countries have either government or official movie classification boards who are responsible for determining the suitability of a movie for release in their country or region. These boards occasionally block the release of a movie either in theaters or on video. Often, a banned movie will find its way around a ban by means of bootleg distribution. See also censorship.

Behind the Scenes

The off-camera goings on associated with filmmaking.

Factual Movie(s): Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)
Fictional Movie(s): Postcards from the Edge (1990)

Below-the-Line Expenses

All physical production costs not included in the above-the-line expenses, including material costs, music rights, publicity, trailer, etc.

Best Boy

AKA: Assistant Chief Lighting Technician, Best Boy Grip, Best Boy Electric
The chief assistant, usually of the gaffer or key grip. In charge of the people and equipment, scheduling the required quantities for each day's work. The term originates from promoting the crew's 'best boy' to supervising, allowing the gaffer and key grip to stay on set and carry out the cameraman's lighting needs. The origin of the term is from "pre-union" filming days when the line between Grip and Electric departments was less rigid. When the head of either department needed another body temporarily, he'd go to the head of the other department and ask him to "lend me your BEST boy". By default the 2nd in charge of either department came to be known as best-boy. This term may also have been borrowed from early sailing and whaling crews, as sailors were often employed to set up and work rigging in theatres. There are no "best girls" per se; female chief assistants are also called "Best Boys".


AKA: Top Billing, Diagonal Billing, Equal Billing
A great deal of importance is placed on the relative sizes, positions, and order of names and the movie's title in printed publicity material as well as the opening credits. Generally, higher positions designate higher importance. Additionally, there is significant given to names which appear before or above the actual title of the movie. The person whose name is shown first in the credits or whose name is at the top of an advertisement is said to have received "top billing". If more than one name appears at the same time or at the same height, they are said to have "equal billing", with the importance of the people concerned decreasing from left to right. In some movies with a large number of stars, the publicity department must go to great lengths to satisfy the demands of various parties. "Diagonal billing" is where a different name appears first, depending on whether the material is read from top to bottom, or from left to right. In some extreme cases, multiple stars in the same movie have each demanded top billing, in which case an equal number of differently-billed advertisement have been created.

Biographic Picture

AKA: Biopic
A filmed story of a person's life story.

On the web: List of Biographical movies at the IMDb.

Bit Part

A small unimportant role, usually lasting only one scene.

Black and White

Indicates that the images have no color. The first movies were black and white (as color film stock hadn't been invented), but in more recent times many films have been shot in black and white either for artistic reasons or because it is cheaper. Some films are shot using color film stock with the final print in black and white.

Black Comedy

A comedy in which the humour is derived from subjects which are typically considered "serious", or for which humour is usually considered as unsuitable. Common examples are death, war, suffering, and murder.

On the web: A list of black comedies at the IMDb.


The make up technique of making an actor, usually white, to resemble an African American or at least a caricature thereof such as in the final scene of The Jazz Singer (1927). There were also equivalents for Asians (Yellowface) and Native Americans (Redface). It was a standard practice in the early 20th century for the casting of actors in non-white roles and abandoned when it was recognized to be an insult to minorities which also cheated them of casting opportunies.


AKA: Blacklist
A list of filmmakers or actors who have either been formally or informally discriminated against, due to their personal, political, social, or religious beliefs. In 1950s America, McCarthyism resulted in numerous filmmakers being blacklisted.

On the web: Search for blacklisted people., Titles involving Blacklisting


AKA: Hit
A movie which is a huge financial success. In common usage a "blockbuster" is a movie that has a box-office of more than $100 million upon release in North America.

On the web: IMDb Box Office Charts


A process during which the director and actors determine where on the set the actors will move and stand, so that lighting and camera placements may be set.


See also out-take. A take of a scene not used in a movie, usually because of an on-camera mistake made by the cast or crew.


A process whereby actors work in front of an evenly lit, monochromatic (usually blue or green) background. The background is then replaced in post production by chromakeying, allowing other footage or computer-generated images to form the background imagery. See also greenscreen.

Body Double

AKA: Photo Double
For some shots, a director may consider that a particular actor's body may not be suitable for the impression desired. In these situations, the actor is "doubled" (replaced) by a person whose body is more suitable. Typically, body doubles are used for shots requiring nudity or depictions of physical fitness. Contrast with stunt double and stand-in.

Body Makeup

Makeup applied below the neck or above the wrists.


A movie which is a financial disaster. Exception: in the United Kingdom, when used with "down" (e.g. "went down a bomb"), the term means a rousing success.

On the web: IMDb Box Office Charts

Boom Microphone

AKA:Boom Mic, Boom, Fishpole, Giraffe
A long pole with a microphone on the end. The boom is extended out near the actors. Ideally, the microphone at the end should be placed in the camera's safe area.

Boom Operator

A member of the sound crew who operates the boom microphone. See also sound recordist.


An unofficial and illegally copied or distributed version of a movie, often of a substandard quality. Bootleg videos are often available for movies that have yet to be released in a particular country, or have been banned.

Bounce Board

A large white card made of foam or posterboard used to reflect soft light and for the soft key and fill.


AKA: Gross, B.O., BO
A measure of the total amount of money paid by cinema-goers to view a movie.

On the web: IMDb Box Office Charts

Breakdown Script

AKA: Breakdown
A detailed list of all items, people, props, equipment, etc required for a shoot on a day-by-day basis. Recording such lists aids in continuity and allows optimization of the time of actors and the crew.

British Academy of Film and Television Arts


British Film Commission

The British Film Commission (BFC) is a government-funded organisation established in 1991, as an initial point of contact to assist in the making of international and domestic film and television throughout every stage of production in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It is now known as the UK Film Council.

On the web: Official Home Page

British Film Institute

The BFI exists to promote greater understanding and appreciation of, and access to, film and moving image culture in the UK.

On the web: Official Home Page

British Society of Cinematographers


On the web: Official Home Page


Slang for the US Dollar.

IMDb Box Office Charts

Bundesverband Kamera (German Society of Cinematographers)


On the web: