I just finished my Advanced Rigging class (2 days, 6 hours each). For those of you not in a West Coast local, a few years back all the studios got together and decided that the techs who worked on their shows needed some kind of official safety training. The result was the safety passport training program. It's a series of classes offered to below-the-line employees that are required within a certain amount of time to remain elegible to work. You get a nifty little "passport" and a new sticker in it for every class you complete. Right off the bat, the grips and electrics had a whole battery of classes they had to finish before a certain date. Things like High Fall Protection and Aerial/Scissor Lift Rigging. Even Script Supervisors and DP's had a series of classes to take. Mostly things like Hazard Communication and General Safety. I actually think that in spirit it's a good idea. In execution, however, it sometimes gets a little dicey. Things taught in one class are refuted in another. Some things they teach you to do are entirely unsuited for the film industry. These classes also led to a large number of sightings of grips and electrics driving condors with a harness on and the basket three feet off the ground. I'll never forget during a condor rigging class, the instructor informed us that no one was ever to be under a condor with a 12x12 frame rigged on it. He then proceeded to show us the proper way to rig a frame horizontally off the basket to be deployed over the set. I asked about the incongruity of this and was told not to ask. The Advanced Rigging Class I finished today, though, was really well taught and I learned way more than I ever wanted to about rigging. We had mathematical formulas for calculating center of gravity and sling angles and wind resistance. I did trigonometry for the first time in years (and was as bad as I remember). I really enjoyed our instructor and came away with a new respect for Key Riggers. Generally, we enter these classes under protest and groan through them as we're taught things we've been doing twenty years. But we also learn the things we've been doing wrong for twenty years, which is a little jarring. Anyway, to recap, the classes are a good idea, just a little disjointed in how they fit together. Maybe this will help get the grips out of the "unskilled labor" category. For those of you who haven't taken the latest one, you have until November 30 and they are filling up.
By the way, Michael over at hollywoodjuicer.blogspot.com is running a great series on making a pilot from the ground up. Check it out.