Thursday, July 31, 2008

Skate Wheels Etc,

Hi guys,
I'm still on nights so posts are a little skimpy. A discussion was started on skate wheels in the comments of the last post. Continue it here if you like. For newcomers, the older posts tackle everything from dance floor to Lambda Heads so if you're looking for info on these subjects, try the older posts. At some point , I will go in and rename and categorize them better so that it's easier to find a specific topic. The floor's open, I'm going to work so talk about whatever.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

2nd Unit Cont'd....

30' Techno, 50' Techno, 3 cameras, 300 extras. But it went really well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2nd Unit

I start a second unit tomorrow night on a very large movie. It's with a Key Grip and DP I've never worked with. The Best Boy is an old friend of mine who called me for the gig. Anyway, I always dislike starting from scratch with guys I don't know and who don't know me. The first day is always like an audition. I always fear the infrequent but occasional personality clash (which has actually only really happened once in 20 years, but is always a possibility). A buddy of mine was supposed to push on it but decided he didn't want to be locked in to a 2nd unit for 3 months. I'll take it cause I've got nothing steady until possibly October anyway.
One of the music videos I did about 3 weeks ago is giving us money problems. They only sent half of what they owe and supposedly will send the rest later this week. I smell a rat. What is it with these guys? They made the budget and hired the crew and they decided to shoot a 16 and then a 20 hour day and now they don't have the money (or decency) to pay what they owe? I have never understood this mentality which seems to run rampant in the world of music videos. If we were plumbers and they didn't pay us they would expect to be taken to court (or the parking lot) immediately. But since it's the film business they think we're somehow so priviledged to work on their crap that they can't pay us the full amount even after a month? Gee, I wonder if the director got paid? If you want to hire people for free or only pay half of what you owe, take that crap to craigslist.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

To Connect or Not To Connect

I've been working lately as a third, partly to get a little time away from the sled (and it's fun to set flags, something I had forgotten), and partly just because I'm in between jobs and I still have to make a mortgage payment. During this time, I've had a chance to observe other Dolly Grips at work, something I haven't had a chance to really do in quite a while.
I know a lot of you are of the "don't connect the track until it's level" school and that's cool. Everybody's got their system. After our earlier discussion, I thought I was in the minority because I actually connect it (preboxing is the key) and then level, usually by eye on long runs. A lot of guys still connect it first. I think it's about half and half. It's interesting to see the different ways guys have of laying track. A good friend of mine, who is presently pushing on Terminator 4 has recently gone to the dark side and switched to colored pads rather than wedges. I don't even want to know what he does first as I have disowned him and no longer speak to him (of course, I'm kidding). I'm just afraid he'll bring it up in one of our frequent phone conversations and it will get....awkward.
By the way. If you've been behind the dolly for 10+ years, and you go back to set gripping, it hurts. I'm not 25 anymore. Although I still try to throw a sandbag on my shoulder and grab a Mombo (stupid). My left arm will never be the same.
I remember, when I was a very young and virile grip, being proud of the fact that I could pick up a stack of 10 c-stands and carry it. If I saw someone doing that today I would berate them extensively. This reminds me of a story.......
When I was in high school I worked as a laboror for a brick and block mason. I weighed all of 140lbs soaking wet and got a daily ass kicking. Years later, I was a successful Dolly Grip and during some down time decided it might be fun to go back out on a Saturday and stack some brick. So, I called my old boss (whom I hadn't spoken to in 10 years) and asked him if I could come out and play. Bad move. I soon remembered why I had abandoned a career in the masonry arts. That's a little what I feel like now when I show up with my girly tool belt (yes, as discussed earlier, it's my wife's belt) as a dayplayer and all the regulars are asking, "Who's this guy?" Anyway, I have had the pleasure of watching some really old school Dolly Grips and I'm always up to learn a new trick or two.

PS- I tried carrying ten c-stands and one of the guys, who couldn't have been more than 25, berated me. (There's nothing quite like being yelled at by a 25 year-old who was still trying to get a date to his 6th grade Valentines dance when you were carrying c-stands).

Find a Door and Stand In It

Ever been to Vegas? There is a phenomenon that goes on there that I like to call the "moving block." It consists of crowds of tourists walking slowly through the casinos in throngs that take up the entire walkway as they stare about slackjawed. It is maddening. This phenomenon has a similar effect seen in film companies sometimes. Usually it shows up in one of two groups: extras, or directors and actors (there is a subgroup consisting of hair, makeup, and wardrobe and actors that I'll just assume is part of the larger groups for brevity's sake.) We've all been there. The 1st AD yells "Grip and electric's set!" then instead of actually making this so, the director decides to have a motivation conference with actors in the center of the room. Or, the extras wander aimlessly in clusters of befuddled wonderment at the frantic energy exploding around them. They seem to be deaf to calls of "Move or bleed," "Free dental work," or the ever popular, "Get the ##$& out of the way!" They'll even watch you, dumbstruck as you close in on them with a ten foot steel piece of track, wide eyed, yet unmoving as you approach.
After a couple of minutes (and a close call or two) I go to the 1st AD, who's merrily recounting some bit of tomfoolery with his 2nd and ask him to please remove the unnecessary personnel from the set. This usually works as he suddenly snaps awake and realizes that this is eating into his schedule. Unbelievably, there have been times when even this didn't work, at which point I start proclaiming loudly, "Double time's coming guys, this can take as long as you want it to." When this doesn't work, I simply go to my Key and explain the situation and tell him that I'll be sitting down on set until I have room to work without killing/maiming anyone with a piece of track. He will smile and nod. I'll pick a conspicuous place to sit down and invariably the 1st will spot me and ask if I'm laying track. I'll tell him I'm not doing anything until I have room to do it safely. This has always worked.
To me, apart from a safety issue, it's a matter of respect. When the actors and director are doing their thing I'm quiet, respectful and professional. I give them room to work. We should expect the same from them. Can you imagine who would get the boot if you happened to brain some actor in the head with an 8 footer because they were in your workspace?
Another favorite of mine is when the PA won't let you back on set. They've been told to guard the door and I've just run out to grab something and suddenly there's this 22 year old bruiser bodily stopping me (let me preface this by saying that PA's have a very difficult job and we'll all be working for them one day. I'm not talking about the veterans who are our best friends, but the newbies who haven't taken the time to learn to distinguish between the operator or dolly grip and the wandering extra) I try to explain nicely that I have to actually move the dolly during the shot and this has no effect. Depending on my mood, and what hour we're into, I'll give them a dismissive wave and brush them aside, or yell (I'm not proud of this one, but after 18 hours on day 5 you should know who everyone is).

Anyway, this is one thing that has driven me nuts for years so I thought I'd bring it up.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

ah - here we go...

Hopefully this is readable. You may not want to see the specs as it is a little mind blowing...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

An opportunity.

I've had an exchange of emails with Horst B over at TechnoCrane; he's looking into the future and is looking at the next great crane. They are hoping to start working on the prototype this fall with a roll out some time in late 2009...

The next beast? And I mean beast... the ST100. If I can I figure it out, I'll post the PDF he sent me with the specs they're hoping to deliver.

As it stands... 12' + of rise in the main column. At full stick, the top of the crane is 27' from the ground with a max lens height of 107' (!). Over 80' of travel on the arm alone!

Other than The Jolly Green Giant operating this behemoth, I can't wrap my head around how one would use this crane. What kind of base? You'd almost want to have it truck based (a la Titan).

In my conversations with Horst, he's graciously allowed me to bring the topic here and open it up to discussion. What would you like to see in Techno's next crane. Any suggestions on how to deal with the ST100 from an operator's point of view. Over time we can pull together thoughts and ideas and send them to Horst for review.

Monday, July 07, 2008

New Video

Check out the video called "My Russian Grips." I want to work with these guys. The other one just keeps popping up . It's a bunch of idiots jumping into thorns. I fear for the future of our country. I couldn't get it to go off, so you might as well watch it.

"Crane Operators"

I've noticed an interesting phemomenonon the internet over the last few years. There seems to be a train of thought (mostly among the uneducated on feature film production) that crane operators are a separate entity entirely from Dolly Grips. To demonstrate what I'm talking about, you can go to, type in "dolly grip" and then go to the discussions page. Granted, there are some operators such as "Jimmy Jib" guys who are their own thing. I've seen them on commercials and music videos and it's actually a relief to see them show up sometimes because they do it all themselves and it's a nice break. A jib isn't a crane though. I also noticed on an industry discussion board (mostly frequented by younger types still trying to break in) that another person who said she was a grip wanted to know how to become a crane operator and talked as if it were entirely separate from Dolly Gripping and even the Grip Dept. The only thing I can gather from all this is that these are people in another market than feature or television production (commercials, videos, etc). A lot of this also may have to do with the rise of the Technocrane and the techs who come with it. Some of them are very bad operators, and some are incredibly good. On commercials, a lot of times I, and other Dolly Grips I know will just let the techs do the move if we know them and know they're good. Movies are different, though. On a movie, I already have a relationship with the DP and director that will span a number of weeks or months. I'm familiar with their style and I also want to protect my moves (which sounds kind of strange, but you feature guys know what I mean). I was a little peeved at the Wikipedia page I mentioned before because one of the posts was left by someone who obviously had no concept of a Dolly Grip or the multiple abilities he or she brings to a production, and had apparently never seen one in action. I take pride (as all of you do) in being able to operate many types of platforms and being able to land a crane on a dime consistently. How many of us have "scraped the paint" on a car racing past or experienced that home run feeling when a camera lands at the exact split second on the exact inch of real estate we aimed for.
Dolly Grips and Crane Operators are one in the same.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Off Topic - Gear gone to Heaven

In a time long ago, I was a Key Grip. Pretty much a second rung guy, but still a medium sized fish in a medium sized pond. Out of all the gear I owned, my prized possession was my trailer. A 45ft moving trailer that I lovingly restored, added more belly bins to and was the talk of the town for a number of years. The photo is from the ad from which I found it. It was at the start of the move from rental house owned 5 & 10 ton trucks to personally owned trailers. Personal gear packages where and still are nowhere to be found, as no one has been able to compete with rental house prices & inventory, but trailers were one way one could make some money.

I took out my first loan (even prior to first house purchase) to purchase and outfit this trailer and was able to pay back the loan pretty quickly. That trailer was my workshop & my home away from home with a comfy office and bed for my lunch time naps. I always preferred to have a place to change into rain gear or cold weather gear without having to empty the truck first and maybe even a cold beverage at the end of the day.

As a grip, losing gear is frowned upon. It does happen - loaning your c-wrench to a locations PA to deal with propane heater tanks and never see him or the wrench ever again, or your personally painted pony clips showing up on electrician's belts all over town.

Fast forward a number of years later; the industry has taken a turn & times are tough. I've got a family & home. I'm forced to sell the trailer to a rental house who will give me the best bang for the buck. I keep an ear as to where and what the trailer is doing - it does one feature, then sits for the next year, which is not great for a trailer, so the rental house ditches it from it's inventory. I lost track of the trailer there.

Until over the weekend.

Five years later, I trip across my trailer! It's part of a traveling mall carnival. It's in pretty good shape. I couldn't get right in and see what condition was in, but it seemed to be more than road worthy.

Nice to see it's getting good use and in a "happy" place! My trailer had run off and joined the circus.