What does a focus puller do?
The primary responsibility of a focus puller is to maintain and control focus within a shot as it is filmed. Outside of maintaining focus, the 1st AC assists the cinematographer, often beginning as early the pre-production stage. The 1st AC may help the cinematography choose lenses and order/prepare camera equipment for the shoot.
The 1st AC is a part of the camera team and will participate in all of the department’s shared duties. This includes loading and unloading equipment, and working with the DP to execute what they and the director have in mind. The 1st AC will also assemble the camera and take part in camera tests and camera rehearsals.
A 1st AC must have a thorough and comprehensive understanding of all of the different types of focus at a filmmaker’s disposal. For an overview of everything you need to know about depth of field, be sure to watch our Ultimate Guide to Camera Focus.
How to become a focus puller
If you hope to become a focus puller, there are a couple of different approaches you could take to achieve that goal. The 1st AC is a part of a film’s camera team, so it won’t do you any good to get involved in an unrelated department.
The camera team is where you want to be and there are two main ways to get onto the team.
The most tried and true method for moving up the film production food chain is to start out as a production assistant (PA), the lowest rung on the crew totem pole. There are also specialized camera PAs on certain productions but not all.