Saturday, June 14, 2014

Track Laying: A Primer

  Ok, so if you search over the last few years of this blog,you will find a few track posts. I think it's time to revisit this.  Mainly because I seem to be working with a lot of young grips lately who don't know how to do it. Track laying is the most basic of grip jobs. It's literally the easiest but creates the most stress. Everybody calm down. Track laying is not a great mystery. Here's what you do. Lay it out. Leave four feet for the chassis on whichever end it's on,. I connect it all together at this point, but some don't. Find the highest point on the track. Whichever side it's on is now called the HIGH RAIL. All that matters is that you bring the track up level with THE HIGH RAIL. Don't fill it yet. All that matters is the joints (where the track fastens together) and the ends (the ends). Then go side to side and bring the low rail up to it. That's it. That's all there is. Now sometimes you go LAY OF THE LAND. All this means is that it is still straight, but not level to the world (Earth). La y it out. Find the highest point. Get down on your knees and sight down it and make it straight to eye. Then get a level and go side to side at each joint and bring each joint up level with the high rail. That's it,  Don't fill it until the dolly grip says, " Pack it." And that's all there is to it.
The Captain has spoken,
Lay it straight,

Saturday, June 07, 2014

It's June Already

  Hi everyone. It's been a while and I apologize but it's been a madhouse around here. Between the work, a three year old son, a daughter starting college, a wife, three dogs and two cats, and an aquarium full of beetles that all need attention, I have little time or energy to devote to the site. Oh yeah, I have to cut the grass too. The last figure on the logo for Dollygrippery should be a guy pushing a lawnmower. I'm now in the midst of a new tv series which I shall leave next week to start a forty day movie for HBO.
  Now, I have a couple of orders of business to get out of the way. A website called Talenthouse has contacted me and asked me to spread the word about an offer they are presenting in conjunction with Spotify. You make a video for Spotify showcasing the power of music and you can win stuff. The details are at this link. Sounds like a good deal. The winner can get 12 months of Spotify Premium, a paid media campaign, and up to six large in cash. Check it out.
    The next thing is an interview I did with The Anonymous Production Assistant in which I discuss my languishing career, the danger of wearing flip-flops on set, and how to become a Dolly Grip. Also, I use the word "generally," a lot. Like, a lot. You can also learn how to talk Southern. It's at this link. While you're at it, check out the interview with my pal, Michael Taylor from Blood, Sweat and Tedium, here.
  I know that there has been a paucity of tech talk on the site lately. I plan to get back to it soon, when I have the time to give it the attention it demands. I don't want to half ass it at three in the morning so I'll wait until I have the time to devote to it. Also, as always, give me some ideas of what you would like to see. Ask questions or if you have an idea, offer to guest blog. Help me out. All right, I just got in from a split day on a Friday so I'm done.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Holy Sh&*t!

I just looked up and it was May already. I know I haven't been very good about posting lately, but.....I have no excuse. In the last month I've done an entire movie, part of a tv series, and then come back to finish a movie I started the year before, so it's been a little crazy. In between this I've graduated a daughter from high school and tried to wrangle a three year old boy who will not be tamed. Next, I start a small movie in June followed by a bigger movie in mid-June. All this really leaves little time to post, but I will try.Here's the short of it- Always have a low mode, always have a riser, flat stock sux, keep an extra Chapman bolt around, check for flares, not crazy about the Hybrid 4, although I love the new rotating offset, remember the rule of thirds, know your eyelines, etc etc etc.

Friday, April 25, 2014


  It's been a while, guys. I'm sorry. I've just had so much going on and to be quite honest, the whole Sarah Jones situation just kind of took the interest out of it for me. But, I'm here now and a post was suggested to me by my Best Boy the other day that got me thinking. I was slated to start a movie a while back. It was a huge (I mean really big) studio movie and the DP had some reservations, having not worked with me before. I got a call from the operator who said that they had not been particularly pleased with their last two dolly grips and he asked if I could possibly use a laser on crane shots. I'm a strict sightline guy. I have no time for looking down at laser marks when I'm swinging a crane arm (especially a Technocrane) around. I've done it the same way for over twenty years and I've done fine. Being the upstanding, set-in-my-ways dolly grip that I am, I said "absolutely," (Hey, I've got a daughter starting at Florida State). I tried it for about three days and then abandoned it and you know what? The DP didn't notice. Guys, sightlines work. You can't watch actors and camera while you are swooping around and also glance down at a laser mark on the ground. Trust yourself. Use the Force. If you have any sense at all of where the camera should be, you don't need them, If you don't have a sense of where the camera should be then it's time to develop it. Lasers, while they have their place and are a tool in your toolkit, can become a crutch. Let them go. Plus, they just show everyone how far off the mark you are. The Captain has spoken.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Fisher Open House

  It's that time of year again. Every year JL Fisher hosts an open house at their facility at 1000 W Isabel St in Burbank. It's a great time to meet with old friends and make new ones over barbeque and beer (Beer!). It's one of the few days that is set aside for Dolly Grips alone. They put on a great event and really pull out all the stops. Please try to attend this year. It's on May 17th from 9AM until 4PM. You won't regret it. Tell Frank I said Hi!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


  Thank you to all who have sent their slates in to Slates for Sarah. You are now part of an industry-wide movement that has covered the globe in just a few days. Together, we can ensure that Sarah's death wasn't in vain. Let's keep it going.

  I attended a Celebration of Sarah's Life last Sunday, organized by Local 600. The room was packed. Grips, Camera people, electricians, and others from all departments of the industry, along with her family, there to pay their respects. The love for her was palpable.The sense of togetherness and resolve in the room was something I have never seen in my twenty-five years in the film industry.  Slate  pictures continue to pour in from around the world. We all stand together and say, "Never forget, never again." If you wish to be a part of this, please visit and take the pledge. They aren't going to look out for us. We have to look out for each other.

  While you're at it, visit my friends at Stop and Care.

  I will return with another post shortly. I'm working long days and with everything going on it didn't seem right to return to business as usual. Thanks again.

We miss you, Sarah.....

Friday, February 21, 2014


  As most of you have heard by now, a young member of the Atlanta film community, 27 year-old Sarah Jones was killed yesterday when a train struck her while she was working on a film called Midnight Rider.
  Unfortunately, I didn't know Sarah as well as I could have. I seem to be saying this a lot lately  about those taken too young. She came in often as an additional second AC on several jobs I was working on. I would say "Hi," she would say "Hi" back and we would each head toward our respective labors. I can distinctly remember two things, which aren't much, but are all I have: I remember meeting her, and I remember the bacon. We were on a darkened stage when we met, and I noticed the new girl with a large toolbelt. I walked up (apparently I was in a rare social mood), stuck out my hand and introduced myself. She said, "Hi I'm Sarah." She was friendly, and full of the promise we all had at that age, starting an adventure that she expected never to end. Then there was the bacon thing which I noticed but never asked about. She had a shirt that said Bacon is nature's candy or something along those lines. I thought it was funny as I have often called barbecued ribs nature's candy, which they are. Then on the last job we were on together I noticed that she had a sticker on her toolbelt that also mentioned bacon with a picture of two pigs. That's it. That's all I have. One thing that is apparent over the last two days, though, is the love that the Atlanta film community has for her. Our hearts are broken.

  I don't know all the details of what happened, and try to reserve judgement until the facts are in. I do know that, according to the lead detective on the investigation, the company did not have permission to be on the tracks. I have done countless train shoots. I've rigged cameras on trains, done dolly shots next to the tracks, crane shots of approaching trains and pushed Peewees down the aisles of passenger cars. I do know one thing, you never shoot on a live track without a representative of the train company there. You don't approach the tracks or a train unless they know you are there and you have permission to do it. These situations are tightly controlled. And I suspect one other thing. No one said "No." In this business, we are put in a lot of dangerous situations. A certain amount of risk comes with the job. We regularly shoot in caves, mines, boats, high speed cars, helicopters, and any other dangerous situation a writer can dream up. In these situations we trust that the groundwork has been laid, discussions have been had and meetings held by the higher ups who we often call "the adults" or the "grownups." We call them that for a reason. We count on them to worry about the details of making us safe while we focus on making the movie. All we ask is that if we are put in a situation, that we know the risks. ALL of them. And sometimes, someone has to say "No." As a Dolly Grip, the safety of the immediate camera crew on any given shot is my responsibility. I've earned that through experience, as has my Key Grip. No one said "No" for this girl and those injured in this senseless tragedy. Instead, corners were cut and permissions were broken and a 27 year-old girl who just wanted to do a good job was put in a position from which there was no escape. To get a freaking shot. And that's why we are here, guys:  To say "No" for those who don't know they can. As a forty something Dolly Grip who's been around the block a few times, I would have said, Hell no to being on that trestle on a live track without a rep or permission. As a twenty-something young grip with something to prove and trying to make an impression on "The Adults," however, you can bet your ass I would have moved the camera up there myself and stood by it to yank it out of the way if a train came. It's up to us not to let the creative minds override common sense just to get a cool shot. It's up to us to look out for each other and for those who haven't been around as long. To say "No" for them. Because often they don't know they can. When the time came, no one said "No," for her.  Now, all that's left is an endless sadness and anger, and lawsuits, and finger-pointing and we are still without a friend and co-worker who was doing what she was told, trusting the adults that it was OK.

 To a young lady with a bright future cut short, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't make it a point to get to know you. I thought I had more time. I'm sorry that no one was there to look out for you. I'm sorry for your parents. I can't imagine losing a child, especially to something as ultimately meaningless and stupid as a movie. I'm sorry for my colleagues who were lucky enough to know you better than I did. I wish you could see how much they loved you. I'm sorry for all that was taken from you because no one said, "No." You deserved better. From all of us.

PS: For those of you who knew and loved her, please leave any good memories you have here in the comments. I didn't take the time when she was here, but I can do it now.