Terminology for the Film Industry

This page features words and expressions you are likely to hear when discussing movies or TV shows. Prepare for exams like IELTS or TOEFL by expanding your vocabulary and learning from our helpful examples.


An award is a prize or other mark of recognition which is given for an achievement or to recognise greatness in a particular field. The most famous film awards are The Oscars, also known as The Academy Awards or the Palme D'Or which is given at the Cannes Film Festival.

Example Sentences

  1. I can’t wait to see the new Bong Joon-ho film. It has won a lot of awards.

  2. I don’t think awards are always a good predictor of how good a film is going to be.

  3. When we have finished making our film we will submit it to some local festivals. It would be great to win an award!


Sometimes critics or experts in a subject write in a newspaper or talk on radio, podcasts or TV about their thoughts and feeling about different films. Critics judge the artistic merit of a film and tell the public about it in the form of a review. A review might say how good or bad somebody thinks a film is or rate it out of 5.

Example Sentences

  1. That critic is so negative. He always gives good films bad reviews.

  2. I’ve heard that both these films are good. Let's read the reviews before we decide which one to watch.

  3. I never read reviews of the films I perform in. I think you can get too hung up on bad comments.


The Director of a film supervises the actors and other staff in a film. They often decide the overall atmosphere and look of the film, and the emotions and movement portrayed by the characters.

Example Sentences

  1. The Director wants you all to start fighting when ‘action’ is called.

  2. A bad Director can ruin even the most amazing performance.

  3. Quentin Tarantino is my favourite Director. I love all of his films.


A Producer is the person who secures finance for the film to be made and supervises the project from beginning to end.

Example Sentences

  1. I met a well-known Producer yesterday who offered to help me finance my new movie.

  2. The Director wanted to increase the budget for special effects, but the Producer refused.

  3. Many talented actors go on to become film Producers.

Lead Actor/Actress

A lead actor or actress is the person who plays the main character in a film. Sometimes we still use the term ‘actress’ to distinguish a male from a female actor, but it is becoming more politically correct to use the word ‘actor’ for both genders. You can also say ‘main actor’ to mean the same thing.

Example Sentences

  1. Who is your favourite lead actor?

  2. I have heard that Daniel Craig is going to be the lead actor in the next film.

  3. Do you think she can win the ‘best lead actor' award?

Special Effects

Special effects are illusions or tricks of the eye created by camera work, lighting, props or computer graphics. Special effects can be used to create crowds, make you believe someone is flying, or to change the appearance of a character, for example.

Example Sentences

  1. The budget for the film Avatar was $300million, most of which was spent on special effects.

  2. Before computers, special effects were created with camera tricks and lighting.

  3. The best kinds of special effects are ones that viewers don’t even notice.


A ‘genre’ is a style or category of art, film or music. Different genres of film include:

  • comedy

  • horror

  • romantic comedy

  • action

  • thriller

  • mystery

  • science fiction

  • musical

  • fantasy

Example Sentences

  1. My favourite genre of film is fantasy. I like escaping from my life and work, and experiencing another time and place.

  2. Do you have a favourite genre of film?

  3. Horror has been voted the best genre of film to see on a first date.


A Screenwriter is the person who is responsible for writing the script of a film and making any edits or changes. The Screenwriter writes the text and creates the story. The script in a film is called the ‘screenplay’.

Example Sentences

  1. The Screenwriter has decided to make two possible endings to the film.

  2. Screenwriters gather at networking events in order to find producers who are interested in making their screenplays.

  3. I wrote a lot of plays for the theatre before I became a screenwriter.


A budget is the amount of money available to make or create a particular film. Most Hollywood films have very big budgets - they cost millions of dollars to make. Small independent films have much smaller budgets.

Example Sentences

  1. Do you think it is possible to make a film with a budget of just £5,000?

  2. Some directors choose to spend a large proportion of their budget on securing famous actors.

  3. With such big budgets, it is extremely important that films make a profit.


A documentary is a genre of film which is made using interviews or pictures or real-life footage to portray factual events.

Example Sentences

  1. I watched a brilliant documentary about the climate crisis last night. I learned lots of ways that I can cut down on wasting energy.

  2. The documentary about the murderer was very frightening. I can't believe you could live next door to someone like that and never know.

  3. I don't like nature documentaries. I find them very boring.


When we talk about film, the 'score' refers to the music composed for the film. The 'score' refers to the instrumental parts or music used in the background to create an atmosphere in the film.

Example Sentences

  1. The score for the film creates an eerie and hunting atmosphere.

  2. The film score adds to the frantic action and movement in the film.

  3. I enjoy listening to film scores when I am at home. I think they are very relaxing.


Dubbing is another word for 'lip-syncing'. In a film, dubbing is a way of adding new dialogue; a different language; or sounds to the soundtrack of the film. In many countries, Hollywood films are dubbed into the native language by local actors to be enjoyed more easily, and to avoid using subtitles.

Example Sentences

  1. When I was young, I used to love watching Martial Arts movies that were dubbed from Chinese into English.

  2. You can tell the film was dubbed because the lip movements do not match the sound of the voice you hear.

  3. In many Nordic countries, films and TV are not dubbed into their native language.  Many locals credit this with the reason that their English is so good.


A Critic is a person who judges the merit of a film by writing or presenting a review or a score. A Critic is an expert on different types of films, and is invited to share their opinion with the public.

Example Sentences

  1. Nowadays everybody thinks they are a critic by giving reviews and sharing their opinions online.

  2. I think my dream job would be a film critic. You would get to watch the latest films all day and get paid.

  3. I really like him as a film critic. His reviews are very humorous and make me laugh.


A sequel is a film that continues a story from a previous film; or which takes place as a result of something that happened before. 

Example Sentences

  1. The ending of the film was perfect. I really hope they don't make a sequel.

  2. The new film will be a sequel to last year's Blockbuster.

  3. Rumours of a sequel are spreading, as the famous actor has been pictured in discussion with the producers.


A set is an artificial environment or closed area in which filming can take place. A set can include scenery and props. Actors are said to be ‘on set’ when filming. Don’t confuse this with ‘to be onset (by)’ something.

Example Sentences

  1. After spending two hours in make-up, the actors were on set for 10 hours each day.

  2. In old Hollywood films, you can see how sets were reused in many different movies.

  3. A team of carpenters, painters, electricians and art directors built the set in just two days.


A costume is the clothing an actor wears when they portray a character. On a film set, the place where costumes are kept can be called the costume department or wardrobe.

Example Sentences

  1. The actor's costumes contained so many jewels and diamonds that they had to be accompanied by security when they wore them.

  2. If you go to Wardrobe, they will give you a new costume to wear. Yours is soaking wet!

  3. Go to hair and make-up and then get to costume quickly. We start shooting in an hour.


To 'zoom' with a camera means to change from a long shot to close-up; or from a close-up to a long shot. Zooms are camera movements used to change perspective in a film.

Example Sentences

  1. When high-definition cameras were introduced, some actors refused to let the camera zoom in because they were afraid the audiences would see their imperfections.

  2. New cameras can zoom in to the tiniest details, making tracking animals and insects in the wild much easier.


A pan movement is moving the camera from left to right or right to left. These movements are usually used to reveal something we haven't yet seen or to track the action in a film.

Example Sentences

  1. The camera panning, tilting and zooming every few moments gave me a headache.

  2. The camera panned to the right to reveal the evil scientist hiding in the background.

  3. The actor walked to the car and the camera panned to follow him.

Establishing shot

An establishing shot is a shot used at the beginning of a scene or film to show where the action takes place. You might show the exterior of a house, for example, before cutting to the action inside in the kitchen. An establishing shot gives us more information about the location of the scene and the environment in which the action is happening.

Example Sentences

  1. An establishing shot of the house shows that the family live in a very rich part of town.

  2. Without an establishing shot, it is hard to tell where exactly the action takes place, which makes it hard to follow the story.


A ‘boom’ is a microphone attached to a large pole, so that the microphone can pick up sound while being held outside of the ‘shot’; and to avoid it being seen by the camera.

Example Sentences

  1. We found a scene in the film where the boom microphone can clearly be seen. It’s very funny.

  2. In the viral video, the man holding the boom knocks over hundreds of precious antiques when he drops the pole.


A ‘prop’ is any object held or used by an actor in a film or a play.

Example Sentences

  1. In the film ‘Dogville’, the Director decided to use minimalist set and props. This creates a very distinct style.

  2. In the historical film, the Art Directors replicated antiques from the period to create the actors' props.

  3. The funniest moments on set occur when props are not in the correct place, or they are missing.


A green-screen is a piece of green fabric or a green wall or room used as a background for filming when the background will be computer-generated after filming.

Example Sentences

  1. The actors found it difficult shooting against a green screen as they had to use their imagination a lot of the time.

  2. If we have a green-screen, we can create any background behind you.

  3. Weather forecasters use green screens to show maps and updates of the weather in the background.


Subtitles are used to show translations of the actors' dialogue so that it can be read by viewers who speak another language to the one spoken by the actors. Subtitles are an alternative to dubbing.

Example Sentences

  1. I hate watching movies with subtitles. I always get tired from concentrating so hard.

  2. Watching films with English subtitles is a great way to learn new words and phrases.


The ‘credits’ in a film are the names of all the actors, cast and crew who contributed to a film or worked on a movie. They can appear at the beginning or at the end of a film.

Example Sentences

  1. I was so excited to see my name in the credits at the end of the film. It was such a special feeling.

  2. The actor was annoyed that even though she featured in the film, her name did not appear in the credits.

  3. In some Hollywood films, contributors are being asked to pay to get a credit in the film.


Extras are background actors or people who make up crowds and people in the background of films and TV shows.

Example Sentences

  1. A new TV series is looking for tall women, and men with long hair to be extras in a new show.

  2. The film employed over 400 extras over 4 months of filming in the country.

  3. Some extras manage to make a career out of appearing in the background; particularly if they have special skills.

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