From Oct 8, 2007:
I recently was asked how to become a Dolly Grip. Since the only experience I have to draw from is mine, I will use that as a model. One answer, "B" Camera. Once you have been a set grip for a while, you will probably be asked to push B camera sooner or later. The important part of this statement is, "once you have been a set grip for a while." It's very important to put your time in in this area. Learn lighting, learn rigging, learn when to keep your mouth shut. We all put our time in, and there are no shortcuts. Gripping is like no other job in the world so it takes a while to learn all these things. These things are like the core curriculum you learn in college before you get to start concentrating on your major. You can't learn this stuff in six months either. Knowing how and where to set a flag will serve you as a dolly grip, as will knowing the fundamentals of set rigging. It will also give you the confidence to take charge when it's needed. The best dolly grips I know are also the best set grips I know and any one of them could key a movie tomorrow if they needed to. When you get a chance to push B camera, use that opportunity. B camera tends to involve a lot of "park and shoot" along with the rare boom or adjustment. Use this to learn what the dolly can and can't do. Watch your operator and learn lenses. Ask the A Dolly Grip questions. Help him/her lay track. Learn heights and when you need a low mode or a Lambda head. I was very lucky in that when I made the transition from B camera to A camera, I was on a series that I had been on for several seasons and I was allowed to make mistakes (and I was awful). The cast and crew by this time were like family and were all on my side. This ain't always the case, so practice. When you have free time (lunch, down time) practice doing compound moves. See if you can hit a mark with the chassis and boom at the same time smoothly. Do it over and over until it's effortless. You'll know when you're ready. Sooner or later, the A Dolly Grip will need a day off or will lay out all night and call in with the gin flu. You're up. If you've put the time in, you will have more confidence and you will nail it. People will notice that you stepped up and delivered and sooner or later you'll get a call. I know I sound all serious and make it sound like rocket surgery but there really is a lot to learn if you want to be effective. Apart from all the areas I've covered in other posts (heads, cranes, lenses, movement, surfaces, technique, dollies, eyelines, wheels, blah, blah blah), grips have to know engineering concepts, lighting, hundreds of pieces of equipment, problem solving, how to drive a condor, knots, and on and on. The more of these you know, the better you'll be.