Actor Tools | Acting Dictionary A – Z

Acting Dictionary

The acting industry runs on specific terminology, for actors in the business, knowing this terminology will prove to be useful. Here is a list of some of the Actors’ Vocabulary:


ACT: One of the main sections of a Screenplay or a play

ACTING PROCESS: Specific choices an actor makes to bring the character to life

ACTION: One of the key words a Director says to start the scene

AD LIB: Dialogue in the scene that has been improvised

ADJUSTMENT: An artist’s pay is being increased above the base rate

ADR (screen): Automated Dialogue Replacement – dialogue that has been added in post-production

ADVANCE: Money that has been paid in advance to secure somebody’s work

AGENT: An artist’s/performers representation in the business responsible for negotiations and other business deals

AISLE (stage): A walkway that goes through two different seat areas

ART DIRECTOR (screen): A person responsible for designing a film set

ASIDE (stage): A line delivered to audience that isn’t meant to be heard by other performers on the stage

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (screen): Director’s assistant, often referred to as A.D.

ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER (stage): Stage Manager’s assistant

AUDITION: An artist’s tryout for a role/job where demonstration of skills is required


BACK TO ONE: A direction for performers to return to their starting reading/scene positions

BACKGROUND (screen): People who work in the background of the scene, often referred to as Extras

BACKSTAGE (stage): Part of the theatre not being seen by the audience, like dressing rooms

BEAT: A pause of varying length in the scene, usually to emphasize an emotion or a thought

BEAUTY SHOT (screen): The last shot on a TV show, which is then used to run the credits

BELT (stage): A style of loud and full tone singing in Musical Theatre productions

BEST BOY (screen): Assistant to a Gaffer

BILLING (screen): The list of names in the Opening Credits

BIO: Short for “Biography”, a short description of performers or other people working on a production

BLACK BOX (stage): When theatre room is surrounded in black curtains and audience are in the same room with performers

BLACK OUT (stage): An immediate shutdown of all stage lights

BLOCKING: A rehearsal of physical actions taken by actors during a scene, including entrances and exits

BLUE SCREEN (screen): Filming with a large blue screen in the background so that special effects could be added in post-production

BOOK (stage): A script for a play, musical’s libretto

BOOKING: Employing an actor and scheduling them for a role

BOOM (screen): A set-microphone at the end of a long pole to use over performers’ heads so as to keep it out of the shot

BOX OFFICE: Commercial success of any production/performer based on profits and audience’s size

BOX OFFICE (stage): A place where tickets to a production are being sold

BOX OFFICE MANAGER (stage): A person in charge of ticketing and reservations

BREAK A LEG: A term used among actors before performance or audition which means “Good Luck”

BREAKDOWN: Production’s description by Casting Directors privately passed on to Talent Agents to find performers to attach to the project

BREAKING CHARACTER: Stepping outside of the imaginary world of performance

BROADWAY: Most famous theatrical district in the world based in New York City

BUMP: A one time payment for additional services

BUY OUT: A flat fee for a production that will not return any Residuals



CALL SHEET (screen): A list of Cast and Crew with the day’s filming schedule

CALL TIME: The time by which someone has to be on the set or stage; start of the day of shooting

CALLBACK: A second round of Auditions for the same role the performer initially went for

CAMERA CREW (screen): A team in charge of everything to do with the camera

CAMERA LEFT/RIGHT (screen): Indicates the side of the shot where the performers are kept, from the Camera Operator’s perspective

CAMERA OPERATOR (screen): The person responsible for operation of the camera and looking through the lens during a Take

CAMERA READY (screen): Description of anyone who is completely ready to appear on camera, dressed for the part and in make-up

CAP: Performer completing their section of the scene

CAST: All actors and performers in a production

CASTING: The process of actors being chosen (cast) for the role, done by the Casting Director and/or Director, Producer

CASTING DIRECTOR: The person responsible for Casting, in speech often referred to as C.D.

CASTING NOTICE: Similar to Breakdown, except this one is available to the public and is often listed on casting websites

CATERER: The person responsible for all the food on the set or stage

CATTLE CALL: Auditions that are open to all types of actors: professionals, amateurs, Union members and non-Union

CATWALK (stage): A very narrow walkway on the ceiling of a theatre where lights and scenery are hung from

CHANGES: Different performers’ outfits worn during a production

CHARACTER: The person who is going to be played by an actor during a production

CHEAT (screen): An angle where an actor is being positioned to better accommodate the camera

CHECKING THE GATE (screen): Checking the lens of a camera

CHIEF ELECTRICIAN: A person in charge of an electrical team, sometimes referred to as Gaffer

CHOREOGRAPHER: A person responsible for arranging movements and creating dances for actors to perform

CHORUS: A company of singers and dancers, OR songs and dances performed by those people

CINEMATOGRAPHER (screen): Someone in charge of the Camera Crew, often referred to as Director of Photography (D.P.)

CLOSE-UP (screen): A close shot of an actor, from forehead to the chin, often marked as C.U. in the Screenplay

CLOSING OFF (stage): An actor’s action of turning away from the audience; opposite of Opening Up

COLD READING: During an Audition, reading of the Sides that are completely new to the actor

COLOR COVER (screen): A Stand-In wearing the same color as the principal actor

COMMISSION: A percentage taken from an actor’s paycheck by a Talent Agent or a Manager

COMPANY (stage): The whole Cast and Crew of a stage production

COMPOSITE: 3-5 different photographs of an actor to show off their various looks, sometimes referred to as Comp Card

CONTROL BOOTH (stage): A small room/place in the theatre from where all technical things, lights and sound, are controlled

COPY (screen): A Script for a production that’s for TV, usually a radio Voice Over or a Commercial

COSTUMER: The person responsible for costumes

COVER SHOT (screen): An additional shot that might be of a different angle to a Master Shot done for editing purposes

CRAFT SERVICES: A table with food and snacks, cared for by Caterer

CRANE SHOT (screen): A shot of a scene from above, often with the camera hanging on a crane

CRAWL (screen): The ending Credits

CREDITS (screen): Appearance of names involved in the production, OR list of actor’s experience on their Resume

CREW: All people involved in the production except for the actors

CUE: A signal for an actor to act/begin

CURTAIN (stage): A screen of cloth on stage that separates the audience from the performers

CURTAIN CALL (stage): The time at the end of a stage performance when all actors come out to take their bows

CUT (screen): A cue to cease the action of the scene, usually given by the Director

CUTAWAY (screen): A short scene showing something other than the person in the previous shot (e.g. what they’re reading)


DAILIES (screen): A raw footage that has been shot that day and is yet to be edited

DAY PERFORMER: The person hired to work on a production on a day-to-day basis, not on a contract

DEMO REEL/SHOWREEL: A short footage that showcases performers’ skills

DIALECT: A regional accent that is often adopted by actors to make the role more believable

DIALOGUE: A verbal exchange among at least two actors

DIRECTOR: The person responsible for all components of the production

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY (screen): The person responsible for Camera Crew and filming process, makes decisions with the Director

DOLLY (screen): A piece of equipment used on the camera to allow for more mobility

DOLLY GRIP (screen): The person from the Crew responsible for working with Dolly

DOUBLE: A person who is used in a place of a principal actor; not to be confused with Stand-In

DOWNSCALE: Performers who appear in casual and regular clothing

DOWNSTAGE (stage): Part of the stage that is closest to the audience

DRAMATIST: The person who writes plays, also known as Playwright

DRESS REHEARSAL (stage): A principal rehearsal just before the show with the Cast in full costumes

DRESSERS (stage): People responsible for helping performers to get in and out of their costumes during the show

DRESSING (screen): Various items and props used on the set to make the scene look more realistic

DRESSING ROOMS (stage): Rooms in the theatre where actors change into costumes

DROP (stage): Fabric that is hung on the stage and often used in the actual show

DROPPING CUES: Actors forgetting their lines or missing the Cue


EIGHTEEN TO PLAY YOUNGER (screen): Someone who is 18 years or older, but can played a younger role

ELECTRICIAN: The person usually responsible for all of the lighting part

ENSEMBLE: A group of performers in the production

EQUITY: Trade Union to protect all kinds of performers in the business by regulating pay and working conditions

ESTABLISHED (screen): When a person or object has been established in the shot in a specific position or doing a specific action

ETHNIC TYPES: Referring to the race of a person which is most often not Caucasian

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: The person responsible for the business side of the production, including funding

EXIT (stage): A stage direction for an actor to leave the stage

EXT. (screen): Short for “Exterior”, used in a Screenplay to indicate a scene outside

EXTRA (screen): A non-speaking role in the production that is used in the background to create an atmosphere of the scene


FEATURE (screen): A film that is of full length

FEATURED (stage): Second to Lead role in a stage production, similar to Supporting in films

FIELD REPRESENTATIVE: A representative of the Union that is responsible for making sure that standards are upheld

FIRST A.D. (screen): Short for “First Assistant Director”, the person responsible for giving most of the directions on the set to the Cast and Crew

FIRST TEAM: Principal actors

FORCED CALL: When the Cast and Crew have to work in less than 12 hours after they have finished

FOREGROUND CROSS (screen): When an Extra crosses in front of the camera or principal actors

FOURTH WALL (stage): An imaginary wall between the audience and actors on the stage during a show

FRONT OF HOUSE (stage): Area of theatre and people who deal with the audience, like Ushers, Box Office, etc.

FX / SOUND FX (screen): Special effects


GAFFER: Head Electrician, also known as Chief Electrician

GOLDEN TIME (screen): 16th hour on the shooting day; Extras receive Base Pay for every single hour spent on set past this point

GREEN ROOM (stage): A room where performers relax before going on stage

GREEN SCREEN (screen): Same as Blue Screen, except the screen is of green color; the choice of Green Screen is more common than Blue

GRIPS (screen): Crew that is responsible for moving the equipment around the set


HAND PROPS (stage): Objects held by performers used to tell a story

HEADSHOT: A photograph a performer to showcase their look

HOLDING (screen): A room/area where Extras are staying while not working on the set

HOLDING BOOK: When a member of the crew assists performers by giving them their lines

HONEYWAGON (screen): Truck trailer close to the set that hosts bathrooms and changing rooms

HOT SET (screen): A set that is ready for filming

HOUSE (stage): Means audience in the theatre, OR could be short for Front of House

HOUSE LIGHTS (stage): Lights that are used to light the auditorium

HOUSE MANAGER (stage): The person responsible for anything to do with the audience

HOUSE OPEN (stage): When the audience are being seated before the show and performers can no longer appear on the stage


IMPROVISATION: Coming up with actions and/or lines on the spot without any preparation

INDUSTRIAL (screen): Film, Short or a video clip used for educational purposes only

INSERTS (screen): A shot that is used in the footage during post-production

INT. (screen): Short for “Interior”, a term used in Screenplay to indicate a scene taking place inside


LIBRETTO (stage): A book or script of a musical or opera production

LIGHTING DESIGNER (stage): The person responsible for show’s lighting

LINE PRODUCER: The person responsible for keeping the Director on the budget and on the schedule

LOCATION (screen): It could refer to the stage, set or an area where the filming is taking place

LONG SHOT (screen): A shot that exposes most or all of actor’s body, often abbreviated as L.S.

LOOPING (screen): Tool used in post-production to correct dialogue that has already been shot, OR use of audio/music on the loop


MARK (screen): A designated position where an actor has to stand in order to be at a perfect angle/lighting for the shot

MARKER (screen): A command used along with a Slate Board to indicate a visual cue for the camera

MARKING OUT (stage): The process of marking out the stage to indicate where the props and furniture is going to stand

MASTER SHOT (screen): An important shot that comprises principal actor(s) and background to create a scene

MATCHING ACTIONS (screen): When an actor has to match their previous actions for another shot after they have been Established

MATINEE (stage): A performance of the show that takes place in the afternoon

MEAL PENALTY (screen): A payment to actors and Extras if the production doesn’t break for meals at least every six hours

MIXER (screen): The person in charge of the Sound Crew, responsible for the quality of the sound

MONOLOGUE: An longer speech used by a single actor without breaks for Dialogue, often used for Auditions

M.O.S / S.O.C (screen): Short for “Motion Only Shot” and “Silent on Camera”, where the shot is taken without any sound or Dialogue

MUSICAL DIRECTOR (stage): The person responsible for musical effects of the show, usually works with the Director and orchestra


NIGHT PREMIUM: An additional pay for people working past 8 PM.


OFF BOOK: The term that refers for when actors must have all their lines memorized, not reading them off book or off script

OFF-BROADWAY: New York City theatres that aren’t located on Broadway

OFF-CAMERA (screen): A Dialogue or Monologue performed by an actor who isn’t in shot, often abbreviated as O.C.

OFFSTAGE (stage): Stage’s area that the audience cannot see

ON BOOK: The term that refers for when actors are still using their scripts in rehearsals; opposite to Off Book

OPEN CALL: Same as Cattle Call; long days of general Auditions available for anybody

OPENING CREDITS (screen): Credits shown in the beginning of a film or a TV show

OPENING UP (stage): An actor’s action of turning away from the audience; opposite of Closing Off

ORCHESTRA PIT (stage): A sunken area of the theatre in Front of House where the conductor and musicians are located

OUT OF FRAME (screen): A term that refers to a performer who’s outside of camera’s field of vision

OVER THE SHOULDER (screen): A shot that is focused on one actor while being filmed over the shoulder of an actor opposite them

OVERDUBBING (screen): Technique of using one audio track/sound on top of another

OVERTIME: The term refers to the time after 8 hours of work

OVERTURE (stage): The introductory music during a musical show to give the audience a feeling of what’s to come


PRODUCTION ASSISTANT (screen): The person responsible for a big variety of things during a film production, often abbreviated as P.A.

PAN (screen): A sweeping camera shot/movement that goes from one end to the other without any cuts

PANTOMIME: A pretend speech when Extras in the background are imitating real conversations; same as Ad Lib

PER DIEM: A fee paid to the actor to cover meal costs that weren’t initially cover by the Producer

PERSONAL PROPS (stage): Props that actors carry with them in their costumes

PICK UP: Starting from a designated place in the scene that isn’t the very beginning

PICKING UP CUES: A term that refers to performers acting on their Cues faster than they previously have

PICTURE’S UP (screen): This line is shouted when a cue to shoot a scene is coming

PILOT (screen): A first episode of the TV show that is produced in order to sell the whole show

PLACES (stage): A command from Stage Manager which means all actors have to take their designated positions before going on stage

PLAYBILL (stage): A pamphlet, booklet or program that contains information about the show, OR a poster of the show

PLAYWRIGHT (stage): A person who writes plays and dramatic literature, also known as Dramatist

POST-PRODUCTION (screen): The stage that the production enters to start the editing process after all the filming has wrapped up

P.O.V SHOT (screen): Short for “Point of View Shot”, where the shot is positioned in the way to indicate Character’s perspective

PRE-PRODUCTION (screen): The stage that the production is in before all the filming begins (writing, casting, location scouting, etc.)

PRESET (stage): When a prop or costume is placed on the stage before the show begins

PRINCIPAL: Actors with speaking parts

PRODUCER: The person responsible for the business side, as well as financing and supervising the production

PRODUCTION COMPANY: The firm that is making the production happen

PROFILE: Performers’ view from the side

PROMPT (stage): A person who follows the play by the book and gives actors the line when they forget; similar to Holding Book

PROP MISTRESS / MASTER (stage): Someone who’s in charge of all the Props

PROPS: Objects and items used by performers on the set and stage; not the same as costumes

PROSCENIUM (stage): Arch that frames front of a theatre stage


READING (stage): Reading and demonstration of a new play to an audience with little to no actions

READ-THROUGH (stage): A first reading of the play by the cast that is going to perform on the show

REAR OF HOUSE (stage): Area in the back of the stage, usually used to store props and furniture

REHEARSAL: Time of practice and Blocking before the actual performance either on stage or in front of the camera

REPERTORY THEATER (stage): A theatre group that rehearses several plays at a time

REPRISE: Repeating the performance

RESIDUAL (screen): A pay that performers get every time the production they were a part of gets rebroadcast

RESUME: A list of actor’s information, including Credits, personal details, special skills, etc.

REWRITE: Editing of the Screenplay or a play

RISER (stage): A platform on the stage that creates different levels

ROLL OVER (screen): A command given by the Director to Cinematographer and Mixer to start rolling

ROLLING! (screen): A command then given by the member of the Crew to start rolling the cameras and sound

ROOM TONE (screen): Recording of a sound on location, sometimes referred to as Wild Track

RUN (stage): The number of times that the stage show has been performed

RUNNING-TIME (stage): The time it takes to run through the stage show, including intermissions

RUN-THROUGH (stage): Rehearsal where the whole show is being run from the beginning to the end

RUSH CALL (screen): Last minute booking of performers or Extras


SCENARIO: An outline of the plot

SCREENPLAY (screen): A written piece of material by a Screenwriter used for a film or TV, also known as Script

SCREENWRITER (screen): The person responsible for writing a Screenplay to film

SCRIM (stage): A drop of special material used to for setting the scene

SCRIPT (screen): A written piece of material for film or TV, sames as Screenplay

SCRIPT SUPERVISOR (screen): The person responsible for tracking all the changes made to the Script

SECOND ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (screen): The person responsible for dealing with things that have to do with actors and Script revisions

SECOND TEAM (screen): The Crew that’s ready for Stand-Ins coming in

SECOND UNIT (screen): A small group of filmmakers that film less important shots not involving principal actors

SEGUE (screen): A transition from one shot to the other

SELECTIONS (screen): Wardrobe of actors or Extras

SET: Either location where the filming takes place or a stage where a theatrical production is being staged

SET DESIGNER (stage): The person responsible for stage’s set design

SET-UP (screen): The time of camera changing the position

SHORT (screen): Refers to Short Film, which is a film of shorter length, usually made on a lower budget by aspiring filmmakers

SIDES: Part of the script, usually a couple of pages, that is used during an Audition

SKINS: List of people working who have been booked for that particular day

SLATE (screen): A quick statement to the camera of performer’s name, and any additional required details before the Audition begins

SLATE BOARD (screen): A chalkboard with a clapper on top used as a visual Cue for the camera and to mark the shot being filmed

SOLILOQUY: Monologue that usually represents the inner workings of one character’s perspective

SOUND DESIGNER (stage): The person responsible for designing sound directions during a staged show

SOUND EFFECTS (stage): Noises used to accompany a scene on stage

SPEC (screen): People who arrived on the set when they’re not booked, OR a Screenplay that has been written without arrangement

SPEED (screen): A old-fashioned command from a Crew member to indicate that everything is ready for filming the scene

SPIKE (stage): The same thing as Marking Out

SPIKING THE LENS (screen): The term that refers to an actor looking directly into the camera during a Take

SQUIB: A small device that simulates a bullet-shot on the body and similar effects

STAGE DIRECTIONS (stage): Script giving actors specific directions for actions on the stage

STAGE FRIGHT: An anxiety during the performance

STAGE LEFT (stage): A Stage Direction for the actor to move to the left, from actor’s perspective

STAGE MANAGER (stage): The person responsible for running the whole show

STAGE RIGHT (stage): A Stage Direction for the actor to move to the right, from actor’s perspective

STAGE WHISPER (stage): Whisper during a show that isn’t supposed to be heard by the audience

STANDBY: The command for actors to be ready for their Cue for action

STAND-INS (screen): Performers used in the place of principal actors while adjusting cameras and lights

STEPPING ON LINES: A term used for when one actor cuts off another actor, not to be confused with interruption

STRIKE (stage): Taking apart the stage set

STUDIO (screen): A room or a building where the filming on the Set takes place

STUNT COORDINATOR: The person who’s responsible for coordinating all Stunts performed by actors

STUNT DOUBLE: The person who performs all the Stunts instead of the principal actor

STUNT: Physical actions that are considered dangerous

SUBMISSION: Submission/suggestion of actors for roles

SUBTEXT: The true feeling behind the words that a character is saying

SUMMER STOCK (stage): Repertory Theatre that produces shows during summer time

SW (screen): Implication of an actor commencing work on that particular day; term used on the Call Sheet

SWF (screen): Implication of an actor beginning and finishing their work on that particular day; term used on the Call Sheet

SWING (stage): A performer in a musical show who substitutes for chorus that cannot perform; similar to Understudy


TAKE (screen): A shot that is being taken

TAKE 5: Five minute break

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR (stage): The person responsible for supervising construction of a stage set

TECHNICAL REHEARSAL (stage): The first time the play is rehearsed at the location it’s going to be seen by an audience

TELEPROMPTER: A device that allows for the reader to look right into the camera while reading the Script

THREE BELLS (screen): An indication to be quite on the set during the filming of the scene

TIGHT SHOT (screen): A shot that focuses on a single subject and allows for very little to no extra space around

TILT (screen): When movement of the camera vertically

TIMING: Best moment for an actor to do something or say something

TOPPING A LINE: A term refers to an actor responding with a line that is more powerful than the one delivered before them

TRACKING SHOT (screen): A shot taken with a camera on the move

TRADES: The type of media that is about the entertainment media, also known as Trade Papers

TRAP (stage): An opening on the stage where something or someone can be hidden

TREATMENT: More detailed explanation of the story or plot

TROUPE (stage): A theatre company formed by a group of actors

TURNAROUND (screen): Shot from a different direction, OR the time between finishing work and starting it the next day

TWO-SHOT (screen): A shot of two actors


UNDERSTUDY: An actor who learns one or more roles to substitute in case principal actors cannot perform

UNION: Unions are responsible for protecting performers’ rights, regulating pay and working hours

UPGRADE (screen): Usually refers to individuals being promoted to being a more significant part of the production

UNIT PRODUCTION MANAGER (screen): The person responsible for managing production’s costs, often abbreviated as UPM

UPSCALE (screen): The term refers to performers and Extras that come in nicely dressed; opposite of Downscale

UPSTAGE (stage): Area of the stage farthest away from the auditorium


V.O. (screen): Abbreviation for “Voice Over”

VOICE OVER (screen): A term used to indicate an off-camera directions, narration, commentary, etc.


W (screen): Implication of an actor working on that particular day; term used on Call Sheet

W/N (screen): Implication that an actor will be working on that particular day, but no time has been decided yet; used on Call Sheet

WAIVERS: A Union’s approvement to deviate from the contract

WALKAWAY: Break for meals when the Cast and Crew can go on their own to eat

WARDROBE: An actor’s clothing for the performance or filming

WARDROBE ALLOWANCE (screen): Payment made to actors who use their own Wardrobe during the filming

WARDROBE FITTING: An appointment when actors are trying out Wardrobe and costumes

WEATHER PERMIT CALL (screen): During unplanned weather conditions, the production can dismiss actors 4 hours after the Call Time

WRANGLER (stage): The person responsible for the younger cast members

WRAP (screen): The end of the filming for the day or the whole production

WRAP PARTY: Party that takes place after the production has been finished and Wrapped



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