By Ernie Zárate
Motion pictures have been with us for more than a hundred years and in our country, for eighty years already. During this time, this industry developed its own language which may seem quite odd to people who do not belong.
Filming lights, for example are called from “brutes” to “babies” depending on their size. The ordinary workers in a shooting are called simply “crew” in the country, but are “grips” in the US of A because these men are supposed to have a good grip on the equipment they are handling lest they fall off from their hands. The piece of board on which are written vital info on shots taken is called “slate” internationally but sometimes termed “clapper” locally, although the person assigned to this piece of equipment is also called “clapper” (here it is “clapper boy”) because he is the one who literally claps the board before the director calls “Action!”
“MOS” is usually the term scribbled on a slate to mean “without sound”. You might say it should be “WOS” or “W/O S” to be correct about it, but this expression has been used for so long, it’s too late now to correct it. You see, most film workers before were Jews and they usually pronounce “with” as “mit”.
In the true and correct sense of the word, “actor” is neither male nor female although the female of it is “actress.” When a critic writes his comments about the portrayal of the actors in a play or movie, he refers to both the male and the female performers. That is why “The Screen Actors Guild” does not have to add “and Actresses” in its organic name.
Probably because of much legwork required, the person who delivers call slips, gets in touch with the actors about their schedules, and follows up their appearance on the set is known as “legman,” with no regard for gender–whether male or female. What is most irritating about the legmen of old was the way they described the costumes required: These were either simply “casual” or “elegant”. It was up to the actor’s imagination to determine which was really needed by the director or called for by the script.
“Prosthetics” is not limited to the application of latex and make-up on an actor’s face or body to distort it or make it look blemished, disfigured or otherwise horrible. It actually means “plastic surgery” or the process of making false limbs, teeth, or other parts of the body.
“Wardrobe” is usually known as “the person in charge of choosing costumes from the ones the actor brings” because, out here, the production people do not ordinarily provide what the performers wear in the movie.
What irritates most sticklers for the King’s English is the word “dialogue”. Among actors on stage, radio, movies and television, this is always mistaken for “lines.” “Dialogue,” as its prefix “dia-“ (between) denotes, requires two people. So it is quite wrong for someone to say “ Hindi ko pa name-memorize ang dialogue ko.” That would mean he would have to memorize the other person’s lines too. In fact there is a word, “trialogue,” which means “conversation or discourse between three people.” A “monologue” is the “speech by one person.”
“Daily Bread” is the pay received by daily-rate actors like members of the supporting cast, extras and stuntmen of a movie.
In the Philippines, movie and television walk-ons, bit players and persons used for “atmosphere” are not called “extras” anymore. They are now identified as “talents.” Having worked with these people throughout most of my adult life, all that I can say is: “I wish they had more of what they are now called.”
Going back to film lighting, here is a bit of information for those who handle that big and heavy lighting equipment known locally by the initials “HMI”: Technically, this means “Hydrargyrum Medium Iodide”. So please stop claiming it means “Hayun, Malaking Ilaw”.
Isn’t it amusing to realize that if one were to reverse the order of the syllables of the two-word phrase “show-biz,” one would come up with “bisyo” ? Could this be the reason movie people have a lot of vices?
With the giant strides being made in digital technology, I predict that in a decade or so, films will no longer be used in making movies. Digital discs will take over. What will happen to our “film” industry? What then will the “Film Academy of the Philippines” be called?
Editor’s addendum: Indeed, technology is moving in light-speed, giving George Eastmann, the inventor of the film, some sleepless nights in his grave. And sooner or later, the technocrats will be coining a new term for the medium but I guess the word “film” will remain with us for a long time.
Ernie Zarate is the famed character actor for his trademark patriarchal roles.