What’s Your Twenty?
EXT. COUNTRY ROAD -- EVENING
LP (pronounced el-PEE), an exhausted production assistant  drives a 15 passenger van of equally exhausted actors and film crew at the end of a very long day. In the rearview, a tiny police cruiser grows until its flashing lights fill the entire mirror. The van pulls over.
A collective groan fills the van. LP opens the glove compartment and pulls papers out frantically. He checks other pockets, nooks, crannies in the van. He is obviously missing something.
As the officer walks toward the car, a demanding voice bursts from LP’s walkie talkie.
LP, what’s your Twenty?!...
When you’re working on a film or television production and you hear your name called over the walkie talkie followed by the question “What’s your twenty?”, someone who needs you is trying to pinpoint your exact location.
“What’s your twenty?” is standard CB radio terminology for “where are you?”, and the answer could be anything from “I’m right behind you” to “I’m ten one hundred”  to “I just got pulled over”.
Don’t worry, you’ll understand any confusing terms, at least as well as I do, as you continue to read this column.
I chose “What’s your twenty?” as the title of this column because as an aspiring director of feature films (and who isn’t these days?), I’ve decided to document my journey, and as I go along, I’ll be checking in here to let you know what MY twenty is - my exact location on the path from the bottom of the film business to (hopefully) the top.
You’ll get to read about my ups and downs, learn some of the things you’ve always wondered about filmmaking (what is a “gaffer” anyway?), and hopefully get a feel for what it’s like to work in “The Industry”.
So, expect to hear about my experiences in the world of film and television, my reactions, my mistakes, my thoughts. Expect my philosophical tangents, pics from my own productions and some clips of work that I’ve done. Feel free to ask questions and respond to anything I’ve written.
Thanks to TheTwoCents.com for giving me the opportunity to get this out there.
Here’s to becoming a director!
 Production Assistant (PA) – An entry position on a film set. Good PAs work incredibly hard. Need someone to drive actors and crew to and from the film set? Need someone to stop people from crossing a busy street because they will interfere with the shot? Need someone to help with office work? Need an extra set of hands for just about anything? The production assistant is there.
 Ten One Hundred – Another CB phrase adopted by the film industry. If someone is “Ten One Hundred”, they are unavailable at the moment because they are peeing. “Ten Two Hundred” is also a bathroom term. I’m sure you can figure that one out… I’ve been on sets where these terms were shortened to “Ten One” and “Ten Two”
Cinematographer – Also known as the Director of Photography, or DP, the cinematographer determines a film’s “look”. In addition to doing much of the actual shooting of the film (including framing the shots as well as any camera movement), the cinematographer determines how a film is going to be lit to create the intended mood. It probably wouldn’t do to have The Godfather lit in the same way as Forest Gump.
Film sets have a sort of military hierarchy. At the top are the Director and the Cinematographer. Supporting the Cinematographer are two departments, the Grip Department, and the Electric Department.
Electric Department – These are the people responsible for everything electric on a film set. They have the obvious immense task of setting up lights and running electricity to those lights, but they are also consulted if, say, a coffee machine needs to be plugged in on set. They know if a particular circuit is at capacity, or if there is room to plug in that “one more thing”.
Grip Department – These are the people responsible for most of the equipment that does not get plugged in. While the electric department may be in charge of lights, the grip department is in charge of placing the stands for the lights or securing the lights to something other than a stand. The grip department is also responsible for securing the camera to places like a dolly, or a car.
Gaffer – The head of the Electric Department.
Key Grip – The head of the Grip Department.
Dolly – A dolly is a wheeled platform used to create very smooth camera movements. The camera is placed on the dolly and pushed or pulled to create motion in a shot. Some dollies run on tracks, like a train, some dollies can be placed directly on the ground.
CLICK HERE FOR THE "What's Your Twenty?" GLOSSARY