Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Staying Put

The one thing I hear most from other people about my job is,"I don't know how you stay behind that thing all day and never leave." The one thing I hear from most operators is, "You won't believe how many Dolly Grips just leave when the shot's over, and then they come back and I have to explain the next one to them." It's hard to stay there all day. Typically, you go from blocking rehearsal, to discussing the best way to do it, to laying a surface, to rehearsal, to shooting, to tear down, to blocking rehearsal. During the lighting and building phase, your camera buddies get to leave. You are the one guy who never can (except during the three favorite phrases: "Sticks," "High Hat," "Private Rehearsal").
It ain't easy, but this is what separates a lot of real Dolly Grips from the part timers. It can be grueling and tedious and sometimes infuriating but it's all part of it. I don't know how someone can leave all the time and know what's going on. I like being part of the process and making decisions about the best way to do a shot. Once I take myself out of that equation, I'm invariably screwed. Any time I've left and not been there for the discussion and set up, I've had problems with the shot. No matter how good the key grip is, if I'm not there to be in on the process, I've just made things harder for myself and had to redo what was done in my absence.
On dolly intensive days, I usually allow myself two breaks (not counting lunch). I take one in the morning at a slow period (actor discussion, lock offs, waiting on actors) and one in the afternoon. I just pick someone I trust to watch the thing for 10 minutes while I get away. There have been days when I literally never left except for lunch. It's hard, but this leads to the operator, DP, and director trusting you. They know they can count on you to be a calm voice of reason when things are starting to get a little wacko. There's also nothing like that chorus of PA voices shouting your name when they discover you're outside and they need you.
A lot of Key Grips count on you to be their eyes and ears when they're out doing something else too. The DP knows if you can't personally take care of whatever it is he wants done, you'll see that the grips know about it.
So, Stay Put (We always said this in the South, meaning, "stand still". I don't know if they say it anywhere else.)


The Grip Works said...

I started my working career as a commercial diver doing underwater maintenence on oil pipelines on the ocean floor in the North Sea. I started in the film industry as a rigging grip, and moved into Dolly and crane work, before starting as a Key Grip about 12 years ago. I have to say that a good dolly grip is the workhorse that any key grip has in his arsenal of crew. A dollygrip is a joint between the Grip and camera department, and is often the first person the DP or Operator will turn to simply because he is right there. It is therefore critical that he is right there. A good, concientious and professional dolly grip is a huge asset to any crew, especially to the Key Grip.

Anonymous said...

This was a great post. This is the kind of thing I love reading.

great comment too, grip works

D said...

Well said, Gripworks. Excellent comment.
Thanks Eric. Glad you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Very good Post D!

It's really hard to support the Camera people when you don't know what's happening. The only way to know what's happening is to stick to their heels.

I find it harder to have breaks in betwheen shots because I loose my focus with to much hanging around. That was one of the main reasons for becoming a dolly grip.

I did electricians work when I started in the business but I couldn't stand the breaks....

Greetz Dan