Isn’t focus-puller the silliest job ever?

by - 2012/02/22 14 Comments Directing & writing, Production

Ian (Director) and Joris Kerbosch (Director of Photography)

Today meeting with Joris Kerbosch (Director of Photography) and Ian. We went extensively over the script (“Ian, what’s this film about, for real?”), and already discussed plenty of practical filming issues – Joris brings in so much experience! Joris also had his wishlist of important people to add to his crew. On the top of his list: the Focus Puller!

Me: “So… eh, focal pulling can’t be done by some local monkey?”

Ok… now I’ve learned that there’s much less good focus pullers than decent DP’s around. He’ll not only “keep things in focus” but will be operating the camera itself in general; with Joris also running around to work with gaffers (light) and grips (cranes, dollies). Assuming we can find all of these… luckily there’s Rob Tuytel – our Film Academy connection!

Joris and Ian will be meeting next week again to visit some locations in town. I can only give Joris final answers on crews in 2 weeks… when we know a bit more about final budgets.

  1. J. says:

    Pulling focus with a fixed camera between non-moving objects isn’t that hard, but when things start moving you need someone who masters the art really well!

    If you can, get an electronic follow focus so the focus puller can walk around instead of needing to hug the camera, especially when going handheld or using unmanned rigs.

  2. David Jordan says:

    Yes, focus pulling is very important when working with sensors the size of those in the RED Epic or larger as in full frame DSLRs, especially when working with the better prime lenses and wide apertures. It can be quite challenging keeping action in focus when both subjects and camera are moving. Anyone can learn to do it pretty well with practice, but for a production the size of Mango, please get someone good.

  3. Simon says:

    if you haven’t done so already you should bring a CGI supervisor in asap to discuss how to make things as easy for the cgi artists later on. Things as light probes, shadow plates, clean plates, references etc really really helps.

    • ton says:

      We have several experienced vfx supervisors lined up, people who work for studos (R&H, Weta, MPC) but also one who works 4 doors away from here at Filmmore.

  4. J. says:

    No worries, just read some older posts you’ll see Ton has very well taken care of this. :)

  5. PhysicsGuy says:

    The film industry has very weird names for equipment and people. Very confusing.

  6. Focus Puller says:

    Silliest Job ever? Really. Well i always did say i joined the circus. I arrived here via google. Quite accidentally while looking for something else focus puller related. No idea what this “project” is about but clearly you (the author of this post) know little about professional film making as it relates to the technical expertise and techniques required.

    Best of luck. I hope it looks good.

    I’ve worked on over 20 feature films and tv series + god knows how many commercials (maybe over 200?) and music videos over 15 years. Just try any of those jobs without a silly position like “focus puller” especially a good one. Which are even rarer!!! We work for years at our art. oh yeah I was also a clapper loader for many years. How’s that for silly. See, it’s a circus : )

  7. jon g says:

    Focus pulling silly?
    pulling between non moving objects easy?

    obviously not many focus pullers on here that have learnt their trade the hard way or through the system

    A. on film where you cannot keep doing take after take unlike digital.

    B not on a major movie with a hollywood director and more important hollywood producers who will sack you the next day when an A list actor complains that, It was soft, or you keep getting in their eye line, and i’ve even seen a top puller sacked for putting down too many marks.

    If you’re a focus puller you have to turn up on set, and pull focus, whether its a 18mm at T5.6 or more likey zooming in on a 24-290 at 2.1 on the track with no rehearsals.

    Last week on a macdonalds commercial, our first shot was tracking in on 100mm anamorphic express lens, wide open, with a 1 dioptre so all your markings mean nothing on the red epic with 6 clients sitting watching.

    That’s why focus pulling is not easy.

    This quote is from Oliver Stapleton, a British Cinematographer, he’s been around. See what he feels about focus pullers !!!

    The 1st AC (or Focus Puller) has one of the hardest jobs on the set. And it’s one of those jobs that are never noticed until it is wrong. Then you get an almighty bollocking, or you get fired. . . .Focus Pulling not only involves what it sounds like, but also the Focus Puller “runs” the department, in the sense of taking care of all the camera gear, and making sure that everything is tickety-boo. I have my own camera, so it’s treated very well! A focus puller relies heavily on the Operator to tell him if the shot is out of focus – after all only the operator is actually looking through the lens.

  8. Acilio says:

    @Focus Puller and @jon g
    Ton was just poking fun at his own lack of knowledge about the focus puller job description. He was not trying to diminish it’s importance.

  9. Miguel Malheiros says:

    He could only be “ironical”.

  10. Roger Bowles says:


    Just stumbled across this, bit late to the game – but it comes up pretty high when googling focus puller!

    It’s obviously raised the hackles of a couple of working 1st ACs and I can understand why – we’re not always appreciated!
    But the film and television industries are merging, there’s lots of new money and people coming into the business, and newbies have got to find their feet. And in the long run it’s all a new opportunity for us!

    While we in the camera department often have good reason, I think we are often perceived as a bit bolshie and difficult, and impressions last. Let’s be nice, give people the benefit of the doubt (I’m sure the intention here was to be witty and self-effacing), and try to patiently explain what we do and what we can add. It’s a great job after all!

    I stuck a post on my site about what a focus puller does which why I came to stumble on this thread. Check it out here:

  11. KurtD says:

    Hi guys where are you based, I am trying to get into the movie business, I am helping as an Assistant producer for Fakers movies, also Production crew on Pirates of the south, and TV pilot All that glitters, also I hope to help out as the Assistant producer to a 1949s remake of the classic White heat with James Cagney, I am needing to learn about Depth of Field and Depth of Focus also the job of Focus puller, if you are near London I would like to come and help out also learn more about this crucial job.

    Thank you kindly



    everybody has a vision but
    some people dont had a film

  13. K BANU CHANDAR says:

    I m a focus pullar in INDIA, i m working in ANAND CINE SERVICE INDIA , if u guys need focus pullar or u need any help for focus pulling plz call my number 9500123045, I was experienced past 13years so call me if u need help, take care guys