There’s a hand-signal for that #360


The Floor Manager from Hell:  Photo by M. Daniels

True Story

While serving as Floor Manager during one of our weakly productions, I was asked by the director to tell the talent to wind up the Q & A session we were filming. Not knowing the correct hand signal for “wind it up,” or even that there are prescribed hand signals for just about any broadcast eventuality, I stood and gave the Talent the only signal I could think of—a slow draw of finger across throat. Fortunately, the Talent made the right choice, to wind up the interview with the appropriate “thank you for being here today” to his guest and a “see you next week” to his audience. This was a savvy and miraculous choice on the Talent’s part as I had given him the signal to cut the scene abruptly.

Determined to never be undone by my ignorance of floor manager cues again, I soon discovered a list of the basic hand signals Floor Managers use to silently communicate with On-camera Talent–with pictures–in the Television Production Handbook (Zettl 1) All On-camera Performers, Directors and Floor Managers should familiarize themselves with these frequently used signals:

  • Ready to Start—Raise flat hand above head
  • Cue to Start—Point to the Talent
  • Speed Up—Point at Talent and rotate index finger clockwise
  • Slow Down—Stretch an imaginary rubber band between two hands
  • Wind Up—Raise hand above head, extend index finger and rotate
  • Cut—Drag finger across throat
  • Thirty-second Warning—Form a + with index fingers or forearms
  • Fifteen-second Warning—Hold up fist
  • Move Toward Camera—Bring open hands toward self
  • Move Away from Camera—Pushing motion, palms out
  • Move to Another Performing Area—Walk with index and middle finger
  • Stop Moving—Extend both hands up, palms out
  • Well done, Stay—Okay sign
  • Speak up—Cup hands behind ears
  • Tone Down—Index finger to lips
  • Closer to Mic—Move fist toward mouth
  • Keep Talking—Talk with hand, close thumb to fingers and open again

For flash cards depicting these moves check out:

I strongly advise, before performing the duties of Floor Manager or On-camera Talent  during a live show or taping, that you learn these basic signals.  Unfortunately the cues are not thoroughly standardized across the industry.  Some cues vary from one school of thought to another and there are many more cues to accommodate more complex productions, but learning the ones listed above will be a good start.

Directors give instructions to the Floor Manager through a headset and the Floor Manager relays the Director’s instructions to the talent by using these silent cues. Unless the talent is connected to the control room via IFB (interruptible feedback) system, the Floor Manager is the sole connection between the Director and the On-camera Talent.

“Small gestures can have a big impact.” –Julianna Margulies (3)


  1. CRAM; Floor Manager Cues:
  2. Zettl, Herbert; Television Production Handbook, San Francisco State University, Twelfth Edision; 2015:  Pages 332-5
  3. Margulies, Julianna; Brainyquotes:

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