There’s an amusing story by Randy Kennedy in yesterday’s NY Times about the excruciatingly extended end credits in today’s movies (the credits for Return of the King lasted over nine and a half minutes!); I’m posting it here for the final exchange in the discussion with Rick Sparr:

Since he has been in the movie business for so long, one last question was asked of him. Does he know what a second second assistant director does?
“It really doesn’t matter to us,” Mr. Sparr answered. “If it comes from legal and it’s the way they want it, that’s all we care about. We don’t care what it means.”

Anyone curious about what it means can visit the Film Crew and Set Terms list at IT; as it happens, a second second assistant director is “Assistant to the Second A.D. In England, is known as the 3rd A.D., which is probably less confusing unless you’re a 2nd 2nd. ”


  1. I think in the comic book and science fiction convention business they’re known as “gophers”.:)

  2. So what’s a “best boy”?

  3. I believe a “best boy” is, essentially an electrician. I knew a best boy once. For reasons unknown to me, he wore a kind of bandolier of clothespins. He was extremely un-smart.

  4. The best boy is the assistant to the gaffer, who is the chief electrician.

  5. The best boy is what the best man was before he grew up. The best man is of course, the one who may win (“may the best man win”) and the one who is for the job (“the best man for the job”) and the groom’s visual echo up at the altar, and embarrassor-in-chief at the reception.
    The second second assistant director undoubtedly needs assistance from time to time. That’s where the two assistant second second assistant directors step in, the first assistant second second asistant director handling the more weighty tasks, while the second assistant second second assistant, the “SASSA” (in England, called “the slave”) does the scut work.
    SSA’s are sometimes heard to say thing like: “Is the skim milk in this mocha organic? Get me a SASSA right away!”
    The SASSA, as far as we know, assists himself.

  6. It’s the production assistants who are gophers. I worked as a P.A. once and no, I wasn’t credited.

  7. I’d much rather sit through 9 1/2 minutes of credits, than 20 minutes of previews. Last movie we say had, I think, 21 mintues of previews.
    And I think more movies should have the little shorts at the end of the credits, like ‘Pirates of the Carribean’ did.
    Or at least do a better job finding production assistants with interesting names.

  8. OK, you people have brought my brain to a bubbling boil of creativity. Herewith two modest suggestions for increasing the viewership of end credits:
    1) Match each credit with a short clip of that person performing the credited actions: the groomer grooming, the gaffer gaffing, the second assistant second second assistant sucking the first assistant second second asistant’s toes. While this would materially increase the length of the credits, it would also make them a great deal more interesting — indeed, more interesting than most of the movies they follow. In fact, I predict a shrinkage of “feature” movies by, say, 60%-70% to accommodate the ever more popular credits, which would make the movies themselves more watchable, eliminating pointless reaction shots and those quarter-hour tying-things-up sequences at the end where we know everything that’s going to happen. Win-win, people! A million-dollar idea, and you heard it first here at LH!
    2) Utilize the magic of instant electronic communication and digital media to allow the audience to insert their own names into the credits as they are screening! The software would, needless to say, block credits that might be confused with those denoting actual participation in the movie, but within those limits people could be as creative as they liked. “Fred Blotznick — Laughed at random throughout.” “Sally Maronella — Tried to trip loud woman heading up aisle to restroom but missed.” People would compete for most amusing credits, standing up to take a bow when others laughed. I can’t believe I’m giving these ideas away!

  9. I’m in full-whimsy today…
    but, seriously,
    “If Sally goes a-tripping, if Blotznick laughs,
    How can we tell the gaffer from the gaffes?”

  10. Y. Annette Huckell says

    Give up! It’s a futile! I’ve worked on a number of productions and no two have defined the various jobs the same way. Like many things in this business, titles often depend on politics and vanity more than on the work itself.
    There are a few basic rules that most people follow. The placement of the word “assistant” is crucial. An “assistant director” is a director, although a lesser one. A “director’s assistant” is often the director’s personal lackey. If you’re determined to have a definition, I recommend visiting the union websites. for directors, and for assistants.
    P.S. Thanks for a great blog LanguageHat!

  11. I can’t believe I’m giving these ideas away!

    Just planting this gratuitous comment here to draw attention to this post, from when LH (the blog) was young and merry and all hearts were light, as opposed to the Modern Era of Indogermanischenquellenforschung and Chomskynihilipilification.

  12. I no longer give ideas away, I auction them on eBay. They generally only turn out to be worth two cents, but it’s the principle of the thing.

  13. Umm, there’s this thing called “transaction costs” ….

Speak Your Mind