Thursday, December 24, 2009

This Week's Television Dolly Award Goes To....

The Middle. I watched this show kind of by accident and, aside from it being an enjoyable show, immediately noticed that the dolly was in the hands of  someone who knows what they're doing. Booms without topping out, really nice parallels with actors, and a steady hand. Normally, I wouldn't notice on a show like this (kind of a single camera sitcom in the vein  of  Malcolm in the Middle, although the work on Malcolm was also stellar) but it stuck out immediately as the work of someone who knows their business. IMDB lists Mark Pickens, a veteran Dolly Grip as the pusher. Nice work, Mark.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas!

And Happy Hannukah! We're down for two weeks and Dollygrippery would like to wish Happy Holidays to all our readers. We've somehow made it through another year of: mud, rain cold, heat, warped plywood, crappy track, finnicky actors, staircases, misplaced carrying handles, clueless directors, crane weights, smashed fingers, tightassed UPMs, infuriating contracts, crappy ratchet straps, bad coffee, lunch in parking lots, steep slopes, luma beams, flat tires, crying babies, late dues, stolen tools (and stolen cranes for some of us), tiny sets, narrow doors, rooms that are 15' by 11', extras in the way, PA's in the door, backlights on the frameline, stills photographers on the dolly, and 9 hour turnarounds. These have been offset by: great camera operators, sweeet arms, well laid floors, cool directors, car rigs, insert car days on the tailgate, funny actors, challenging crane shots, box rentals, per diem, smart UPMs, really good Key Grips, really good Best Boys, beer, great Grip crews, outstanding DPs, Libra Head techs, Technocranes, medics, electrics with a stinger (and a good joke), coffee trucks, wrap gifts, Ipods, stand-ins, paychecks, vacations, and new friends. Thanks to all of my Dolly Grip colleagues around the world. It's a pleasure to be in your company.

PS- I forgot to add "understanding wives."

Have a safe and Happy Holiday Season!


PPS- I have spoken to several Dolly Grips over the last few weeks who read the site but are reluctant to post. Please don't be reluctant to comment! I never wanted  Dollygrippery to be all about me. I wanted it to be a place where we all can communicate and share tips, stories etc. Also, if you have an article you've written or a list of tips etc., email it to me and you can have a guest post. Speak up!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Prep Days

We're about to start our third week (in a split, no less) and the first one was pretty tough. What made it tougher was the lack of enough prep. I got one day. One (10 hour) day to prep two dollies and make sure all the parts were there, set up all my carts, make sure I have all my little doohickeys that I need, and put an unfamiliar dolly through it's paces. My B Camera Dolly Grip came in on his day off just to help check in the PeeWee and that helped. But after he left, it was just me. Thankfully, he had already gone through all the lumber and track earlier, so that part was done, but by the time I left Chapman and got back to the stage, there was scant time left to go through it all, prep sliders, change out wheels, and all the other little things that make Day One go so much smoother. On top of this was one really big poke in the eye- I didn't like my dolly. And it was the only one in the shop. There were over 70 something other Hustlers already rented out and I had the last one. The problem-by now a familiar one to my readers- no feather in time on the "up." The amount I had to crack the arm before it was already moving too fast was way too small and unless I cracked it painnnfullly slowly- it just started with a tiny hard start. So, the tech (who's always gone above and beyond for me) tore it down and tried to tweak it and succeeded in getting it much closer to acceptable, but I was still doubtful. The fact is, they just didn't have anything left, and my order was called in later than anyone else's. Now let me say first of all, that Chapman has ALWAYS done whatever it takes to make me happy. They've flown techs in to backwoods Mississippi in the middle of the night and torn a dolly apart on the tailgate at lunch to make the arm right. I think this was a case of not enough prep, and a last minute approval.
 I then stood around the shop while waiting on approval to add on a 3' camera offset....for two hours. So, once that was done, I left and went to the stage to try and get done what I could.
  Once the shooting started, I realized the arm wasn't going to cut it. I had to think about every boom up I did and conciously micro manage the start to keep it from jumping- a killer on the timing. After a quick phone call, a new valve was brought in and installed and now the arm is sweeet. Anyway, this all got me thinking of the importance of prep days and what problems can arise from not having enough time just to make everything right. Features are usually no problem. They generally give at least two days and I've had as much as a week before. But a crappy half day after standing around at the shop all morning just left me in a really pissy mood all week as I tried to remember where things were and trade out things I didn't need while trying to get an uncooperative arm to work right.
I know, I should be thankful I'm working, and I am. I just don't like being shortchanged and disorganized the first day.
 A year or so ago, I posted a list of things to look out for when checking out a dolly. I would like to hear some of the things you all look for on prep days.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Back Home

That's a wrap on my last job and I get a marathon two weeks off before my next one. Yes, I'm going back to the tv show and I'm looking forward to reuniting with some good friends. One thing about a tv show is that when it's with good people, even with long hours and hard work, it's a little like coming home. I would like to have longer time off, but the way things are now, I'm glad to be working.
   The movie was good. It was a rom-com with the added novelty of three babies to liven things up. This had the added effect of ratcheting up the tension  while simultaneously increasing the size of my paychecks. Getting a 14 month-old to do anything on cue is impossible (unless crying is what you're after) and toward the end, a separate "baby unit" was created just for certain reactions. Otherwise, it was a completely positive experience (not to say the babies weren't great, they were sweet little girls, but watching an entire crew mug and wave at a screaming baby after 13 hours of "normal" work with adult actors, just so she'll look camera left and smile will throw anyone off the wagon).
  I must put in a word for the director on this one. This guy knew the difference between a Steadicam and a Dolly Shot. He wasn't one of these guys who will just throw up the rig because he thinks it's faster. The result was a lot of really fun dance floor work. Unfortunately, these days, a lot of really elaborate shots will become Steadicam shots because a Director either doesn't know any better, or has never worked with a Dolly Grip who can pull them off. This led to a lot of fun and challenging work for myself and our really great Camera Operator, who was a joy to work with. We also did some really fun Technocrane work, and my thanks go out to Kenny, our head tech, and Mike, from Cinemoves.
   One thing I learned, as hinted at in earlier posts, don't underestimate the power of roundy round. And be sure that you don't need a Peewee 4 before you put in the order. As a longtime Hybrid user, I had made it a point of pride to pull off shots without roundy, but it was a lifesaver on this one. I had made the decision, after consulting with the key, to just go with a Peewee 3 and use the savings in our budget to allow  more toys and flexibility with the other dolly. As a result, a lot of shots I would have used the Peewee 4 on, I ended up having to bring in the Hustler just because of the roundy. This is the first time I've ever not had the Peewee 4 and regretted it. It all worked out, though, and actually made for a little more challenging show, which in some ways was fun.
 The particulars: tools used- Hustler 4, Super Peewee 3, 50' Technocrane, 30' Technocrane, 15' Technocrane, Phoenix Crane, Fisher 23. Thanks also to B camera Dolly Grip Frank Boone for a fantastic job. This guy is a great Dolly Grip on his own, but came in as "B" on this show and really made my life easier.
     Anyway, I'm back home and gearing up for the next one. I hope to post more frequently now, and  may offer some guest posting opportunities to some of you guys if you're interested. Stay posted and drop a line anytime. We're always interested in any comments, ideas, or questions you may have.

D

PS- Unfortunately, I've had to enable word verification for comments because some jackass spam program has found us and is merrily selling Viagra and porn passwords through the comments section. I apologize for this. I hate it as much as you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Last Three Days

We're up to the last three days of the show, so the traditional Cutting Up of the Dance Floor for custom use has begun. Got a spot where your board is 3 inches too wide? Rip it!. There's something liberating about it. Where we used to do whatever we could to make the standard boards work (and they almost always did somehow), now we just custom build floors for whatever tight spot we find ourselves in. The whine of the tablesaw fills the stage with each new setup. We're also into some longer hours and six day weeks to try and finish before our lead actress goes back to her series. The B camera crew has become a second unit and a new B camera crew has come in. We've got two cranes working in various locales and I think a Technocrane coming in. It's been a great show, but I'm looking forward to it ending.
On another note, my track is awful. As I mentioned earlier, it's steel track and it's really badly made. The saving grace has been the Portaglides. They really take out the imperfections and once again, came through like a champ. (And no, I don't get anything for saying that. I don't think they even realize this site exists).
Thanks for all the great comments on the "Quirks" post. A lot of great tips were posted and that's what "Dollygrippery" is all about. I'll have some longer, more detailed posts after this craziness is over. Til then, keep the comments coming and stay tuned.
A quick hello to all my Dolly Grip brothers working here in Georgia. Dino,Tripper, Kelly, hope your shows are going well. GHB, Sorry we didn't have a chance to grab a beer while you were in town. Maybe we'll catch up back in LA.
I need some new pictures! Send me some! I'm going to put together a Flickr page of Dollygrippery photos of all of you in action when I get some down time so you can see them larger.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quirks

We've all got our own way of doing things. From laying track to how we like our boom control set up, Dolly Grips are a pretty diverse bunch. I enjoy watching other guys work when I dayplay or fill in on B camera on a show. I like seeing how other Dolly Grips set up their gear and their actual technique. As far as personal quirks go, I have a few: I dislike seat offsets. I think they are dangerous and over used. I rarely use pie pieces in dance floors. I've managed to make it through the last few years without ever using one until this show. I'm not even sure why I dislike them, I just do. (In the interest of honesty, I did break a 10 year streak and also use a seat offset for one shot on this show. My camera operator is a great guy and a fantastic operator; he's also 7 feet tall and there was no way out of it). I always use white one-inch gaffer's tape for my marks. I make the number one mark about four inches long and the number two mark about 10 inches long. If I have a bunch of marks and need to differentiate one of them, say the end mark, to keep from getting confused, I'll tear a piece of the tape in half so it's 1/2" wideand use it for that mark. I can tell by glancing at it that it's special without having to mark a number on it with a Sharpie. These are just a few of my things. What are some of yours?
I know I'm slow in posting these days. Again I apologize and hope to be back up to normal when this job ends.

PS I owe a quick apology to AJ. For some reason, I keep wanting to refer to her beautifully written blog as "The Hills Are On Fire" instead of it's real name The Hills Are Burning. I don't know why this is, but I have corrected it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Alan Rawlins Update

Last week, Key Grip Alan Rawlins, (and my boss of many years) of the Gentlemen Grips, had a little motorcycle accident while dirt bike riding with his grandkids. He crushed a vertebrae and is in a brace for a while but he's OK. Everybody moves up a slot. We wish him a speedy recovery. I've recieved several phone calls asking about him and just wanted to post this quick update.
D

Friday, October 16, 2009

Roundy Shot Redux

I'm not doing a good job of explaining the roundy shot from my previous post so I'll try it again.
Two rooms opposing on opposite sides at the end of a hallway. Opening frame is on an actor walking toward camera from the other side of the room we're looking into. Camera is just inside the room with the dolly itself in the hallway. As the actor approaches, dolly pulls back about four feet (that's really all you have) and as he passes camera, and crosses the hall, the dolly roundy's around, basically executing a pan with the actor as he passes. He stops in the doorway of the room across from the one he started in. Camera ends up 180 degrees from where it started over the actor's shoulder.
There, I hope that clears up the confusion. If it doesn't, let me know and I'll try it again.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Week Two (and Three and Four)

So sorry for my long absence. My lack of internet accessibility at my house here has brought me out to the local Starbucks on this Sunday morning where I will try and play catch up while my daughter ( who wears too much lip gloss) listens to her Ipod. The show is going well. It is a dolly intensive show, though, so I have little time during the day away from set. We do a lot of stand ups and sit downs which are my favorite (see Azurgrip's previous post). The dolly I'm using (my usual Hustler 4) has a sweeeet arm on it, although it is a little slow on the down for my taste. Quite frankly, my track is a problem. I have to use skates on every shot or it ain't happening. It's fairly new American track which makes me call into question the quality of their track in general. It's bowed. it's got ripples where the inserts were welded into the ends, the joints don' t match up. It looks like it was made by a bunch of blind half-wits. But, we're getting through it. When I lay it, I basically have to forget level and just concentrate on getting the bumps out of the joints, mostly by laying it in a gentle arc by eye. Luckily this is a rom-com, shot mostly in the city, so most locations are level anyway and there aren't any extreme or rural locations. I just go ahead and level it using the "Whiskey Stick" (4-foot level) and then refine it by eye to get the bumps out.










Now, to answer a question from my previous post where I described using your roundy gear to get you around in some tight spots, I have drawn a crude diagram on a Starbucks napkin. The camera is on the left, going from "1" to "3" and the actor on the right, walking from "A" to "C." As the actor approaches, the dolly backs up in roundy and then roundy's to the right as the actor passes, effectively performing the camera operator's pan for him, and ends up in an over -the- shoulder. I hope this helps make it clearer. I will try to get the picture as large as I can, but as we know, this seems to be my weak point in all of this.



Meanwhile, stay safe and stay tuned. I know I'm a little slow getting back these days but I'll get in when I can. If you haven't already, check out Blood,Sweat and Tedium or The Hills Burning(in my links section) Both have had some really great posts recently.



D

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Art of Dollygrippery.

On set the other day when the topic of "teaching the art of Dolly Grippery" came up. I also bring this up as I noticed that Local 80 in LA is running a course, which I'd love to take, however, I'm on the wrong coast right now.

SteadiCam has options for courses (Maine, thru SOA in Philly, Malibu Classic, etc) but we on the whole don't. Pushing dolly was something that I was thrust into. I had no "teacher", just an operator screaming at me. I started with a real dolly, not a doorway or some plywood with a stick, but an Elemack Cricket hydraulic (without the cable boom extension). Now a boat anchor, but back then a workhorse, as most productions couldn't afford the "new" Pee Wee I.

Most of the stuff I've learned has been the common sense stuff ie: put marks on the inside facing the shot so as not have to look away from the actors you're leading or mark the front tires if there's any chance of dog tracking, etc.

But trying to teach the "feeling" is another side of the coin. Having rhythm is a big thing and it follows in to timing. Example: I know for a fact that if I'm faced with a difficult stand up, that most times, once I see the actor start to get up, I'll actually close my eyes, knowing to stop on the height mark only by knowing how long it takes the boom to go up when I've got it open a certain amount. I've tried to fight it, but most times instinct comes into play and overides.

Just learning to walk is another. How to avoid surges while stepping over track and wedges. How not to go insane trying to make a 2 foot move last 2 minutes. Or on the other hand, how not to make a nine foot move on an 8ft piece of track.

The feeling of nailing a complex move is always a great high, one that you'll most likely not share with anyone on set (other than the camera operator who expects nothing less from you). Also knowing when a shot falls apart and knowing how to fix it.

I've kinda gone all over the place here but one can learn to lay track; can one "learn" to push the buggy? Now Grasshopper - snatch the wedge from my hand...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Week One

Sorry about the dearth of activity, but internet connection at my house here is spotty. The first week of my show is going well. The DP, Andrew Dunn is great, as well as the Camera Operator, Will Arnot and the AC, Matt Alper. Storms have kept us on stage when we were supposed to be out and that has resulted in the dreaded night on stage phenomenon.
I did an interesting shot today which I'd like to post about. It involves "roundy-round." Most of the time, you think of roundy as a way to do, well, circular shots, such as around a table. Roundy can also get you out of some tricky situations where space is limited. Our shot today involved a boom up as an actor approached, coupled with a 180 degree pan with im and a pul back into an "over" to an actress in another room. The space we were in was very limited, so after thinking about it, we decided the best way was to use the roundy to pan the actor around into the over. This is one of my favorite shots to do because it's a challenge and the shot is really in the hands of the Dolly Grip. So next time you're in a tight situation, consider using your roundy to get out of it. I'll post again when I can.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Dario Dolly?

Terry Cook, who is with Griptech in Sydney has a question about maintaining a Dario Dolly. He asks about tightening the chains etc. I know nothing about this machine which I believe is Italian. He's asking for some help, so if anyone knows about this dolly, please post in the comments. This is the kind of thing this site is for, so help if you can!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Next Big One

I'm starting a feature in Atlanta in September. It'll be great to be working at home again and I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of old friends. As a prelude, I'm driving cross-country from California to Atlanta (the car I had in California finally gave up the ghost and I had to bring my truck from Georgia out here, meaning I've got to drive it back since I'll be there for a while). I think I'm going to take I-40 instead of I-10 (nothing is more depressing than 2 days across Texas alone). Anyone got any good things to see on that route? I might stop by Tombstone but don't really know of anything else. Give me some ideas.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fill In Work

Let's talk about something that we all face every now and then as professional Dolly Grips- the Fill In Day. Lately, as I'm between shows, I've been getting calls to fill in for Dolly Grips who want to take days off. I've done days on everything over the past few years from Bones to Mad Men. Over the past couple of weeks, the calls came so frequently I've had to turn down days (I am on vacation after all, and have an extensive "honey do" list to complete).These days can be your saving grace as an out of work Dolly Grip. Dolly Grips on shows hate to take days off (in general). We understand the intricate balance between Camera Operator and Dolly Grip and don't want to upset it. I always feel guilty about doing it, but as a friend of mine said long ago, "Life intrudes." Sometimes you have to do it, and it is a big relief to have a good Dolly Grip available who can step in and make it as seamless as possible. Luckily, most of us know each other and who we can trust not to come in and totally change around the settings on our boom controls, or have the Key Grip say,"who was THAT guy?" when we return. So, if you have a good reputation, you can actually find a nice little niche as a temp Dolly Grip, working two or three days a week just filling in on second units or days when the guy just wants a day off.
Here are some simple rules:

Don't try to be "Super Day Player." If you're filling in for "B" camera, you have a lot of spare time. You may be tempted to race in every time something is called for just to eliminate boredom and justify your presence. The guys have a rhythm. Don't upset it. Let them know you're available to help them tie on that 12 x 12 and then go have a seat on an apple box.

Do what you know. If you're "A" camera, it can be a little stressful being thrown in among a tightly knit group. You don't know the system, you don't know the MO. Do what you know. If you think you need a floor, lay it. Ignore the DP saying, "You need a floor for this?" I did and it worked out fine.

If your dolly is tuned to someone's specifications and you can't find "up" to save your life, look for an alternative. I did a day on a show where the Dolly Grip had a dolly specially tuned to his preferences. After I blew four takes on the first shot, I switched it out for the "C" camera dolly we just happened to have on stage and everything was, well, not fine, but better.

Try and put everything back as you found it. You'll want the next guy to do it for you.

Remember, your goal is to have the Key Grip say to the Dolly Grip when he returns:" You want to take next Friday off?" (OK I'm just kidding).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This Is What It's Come To......

What do a day and a music video have in common? Nothing unless a day is actually 25 hours long. That's right. I just worked a 25 hour day. On a music video. I don't even know where they show these things anymore. Music videos, long the punchline to any of several jokes concerning low rates and long hours, are now a valid employment option in today's uncertain Hollywood production climate. I actually had a valid excuse for doing it. The Key is a great guy and a great commercial Key Grip and is one of those rare people whom (who? whom? I don't know I've been up for 28 hours) I can always call when things are getting tight financially, and he will always have a job for me. It may not be a five-day commercial (although he's come through on quite a few of those too), but it will involve a valid, legal means of earning money. He got me through the writer's strike relatively unscathed. As a result, I don't mind coming out on the occasional crappy job to try and stay on his good side, and let him know that I'm in for the good as well as the occasionally horrible. I'll be honest here, I don't really need the money right now. Fill-in work has kept me pretty busy, taking over for the Dolly Grips I know who want to take days off and need someone they can trust to cover them. And I'm starting a feature in September. This one was a little different, though. Guys who usually do big features and would not normally take a music video were on this one. At about 2/3 their normal rate. And it was a Union job. Yes, you read that right. It went on for 25 hours, was Union, and the rates were not just a "little low," they were insulting. These guys needed the work. Production, of course, had no idea of the caliber of Grips they had, nor any idea of how much time and money they saved them over the course of this grueling slog. These guys worked just as hard on this piece of crap as they would have on the 100 million dollar features they often do. In fact, these producers (who, I'm sure if you asked them, would tell you that they identify themselves as "Liberal" and "for the rights of everyone to earn a fair wage") basically stuck it in and broke it off. Yes, I know, don't take the job if you don't like the terms, but 25 hours? This is what it's come to. Thanks, Governor Swarzeneggar, and thank you California Assembly for your aggressive moves to protect the industry for which this state is known throughout.... oh that's right, you didn't. One image comes to mind: A Jackass....playing a Fiddle....while Rome burns.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Answers to Questions that Weren't Asked

I've got a nifty little application that tells me what visitors to this site are looking for when they come in from a search engine. It's always fascinating to see what people are interested in and it gives me ideas on which way to steer the conversation. As I've said in previous posts, I don't know if any of them found the answers here or not. And it drives me crazy. The message board has been quiet so none of them just came out and asked for the answer to whatever was troubling them, so I'm going to take a few and answer them anyway. Some aren't questions per se, but I'll address them as if they were.

Working with dolly considered lowly.
The answer is.... only to people who really have no idea what we do. And there are a lot of them. I've worked with really big name directors who valued my input and would call me to the monitor frequently to consult about a shot, and I've worked with tv directors who didn't even acknowledge that I existed (and vice versa). This is true, though, in any position to an extent. I've watched as the same thing has happened to DPs, camera operators, ACs, gaffers, and any other position you could name. The bottom line is... we're not lowly but we're replaceable. What we do takes mainly common sense, timing, and is learned by doing the same thing over and over until you get the skills down (just like any other profession). The film business is like a pyramid, but that's mostly in the chain of command area. When you need a good dolly grip, you can't do with a crappy one. Anyone can roll the camera around and park it to shoot. Not everyone can immediately see what you need to get a shot, set up the dolly, lay out the surface, and do a five point move with three booms in it and nail it on the second take....and the third and so on. You're only as "lowly" as your skills allow.

Fisher Ten/Chapman Peewee for sale.
They aren't.

How much does a Dolly/Key Grip make?
Again, depends on your skills, reputation, and work ethic. There's Union Scale which most of us try to get a little over and some can command it, which is somewhere in the 32.00 to 40.00 an hour range. There's also "low budget" Union Scale which can be 15.00 an hour. There's also the abominable cable side letter rate which is around 28.00 an hour. It also depends where you are working and under which contract. New York and LA rates tend to be the highest in the US. Some make a lot more than that on equipment rentals. On non-union, it's often a day rate which can be anywhere from 150.00 to 300.00 a day. These figures are ballpark so don't send me emails telling me the exact number. I really have no idea what they make outside the US.


Wa11y Dolly.
Stop it.

Apple.
???

Thursday, August 06, 2009

This Says It All...


A friend of mine sent this to me. All right Dolly Grips, vote in the poll to the right (if you work in LA) and let me know how it's going out there. My phone ain't ringing much.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

This Weeks TV Nice Moves Award Goes To...


Burn Notice. I just started watching this show and was immediately impressed with the nice sled work. Just coming off an episodic, I know the end result of a lot of our work ends up on the floor. Directors in TV don't get final cut, so a lot of really intricate work that took a lot of sweat to set up gets butchered, for time if nothing else. So if the moves aren't actually worked into the overall look of the show (CSI: Miami, NCIS) you get a lot of inward groans as that beautiful Technocrane shot you worked so hard to get is cut two seconds in for a closeup or an insert.
Burn Notice makes camera movement a large part of the cinematography of the show and it's really nicely done. I don't know who the Dolly Grip is- there's no IMDB listing for him/her (though it's shot by Bill Wages, whom I've worked with a few times) but I would like to send some praise in his, or her direction. Nice work!
Oh yeah, I also saw The Uninvited on cable. Nice work, Gil!
Update- Earl wrote in to tell us that the "A" camera DG is Casey Osborne, and the "B" camera
DG is Jimmy Greene. Thanks Earl and nice work guys!

Monday, July 27, 2009

How to Deal With Your Dolly Grip

Regular reader DP Ed Moore, from the UK, sent in an idea for a post for operators concerning how they can make our jobs easier. I thought this was a great idea, especially since I spend my day trying to make their jobs easier. Here are a few tips.

The following are given with great affection for my Operator friends. No offense is meant. I hope you get a laugh out of them:

Don't wait until we're rolling camera to tell me that you see a bump. We've done three rehearsals. Wake up.

Don't leave your coffee cups, half eaten sandwiches, candy wrappers etc on the dolly for the rest of the day. I understand you can't always leave to throw it away, but if it's been on there since breakfast and we're on the third shot, it's time to pull the trigger. I'll just put it on the camera cart and then blame it on you.

Don't leap off the dolly. You're not dismounting a horse and if the brakes aren't on you can make something really bad happen.

Don't tell me every move to make if I've proven to you that I know what I'm doing. I generally know which way to orient the dolly, how much floor I need, how high low-mode is, and whether or not I need a riser. Believe me, if I need help I'll ask. I need your input, but some things are pretty self -evident.

Don't get accessory happy. I can almost always set up the dolly correctly so that you don't need a seat offset. I've managed to make it ten years without using one (that's the last time I remember using one. It flipped and dumped the DP on his ass. Sorry, Frank). Give me a chance to set up the dolly in the right way for the shot before you start yelling for stuff. If you're still not happy, I'll get you what you need.

Do include me in conversations about the shot. I need all the info I can get and my contribution may make your job easier.

If I blow a take or a rehearsal, turning around and yelling won't help. I know I screwed up. I'm very sorry. I'm your friend. And I'll start changing your gear settings when you're not looking.

I have to see it at least once. Don't expect the first run through with actors to be perfect especially if the stand-ins did it differently (and they usually do). I know I have to match movements, hold eyelines etc.

Communicate with me. Tell me how I can do it better, or conversely, how I screwed it up if you can see that I don't get it.

Use a finder. I don't want to lay it twice.

Yes, I can do a boom and a move at the same time. I actually do this for a living. If I can't, you've got the wrong guy and it'll be pretty evident very soon anyway. I'm just as good at my job as you are at yours. Can you pan and tilt at the same time?

When I'm at work, I'll give you 110%. It's my job to make sure you can do the shot safely and as comfortably as possible. I drink Budweiser.

Watch my back. If you see me forgetting something, not doing something right, are uncomfortable with a shot set up, tell me. Don't watch me lay the track in the wrong spot and wait until I'm done before you mention it. We're a team. Watch out for me and I'll watch out for you.

I have a name. Learn it. Use it. I know you're big time DP and all but I'm a big time Dolly Grip and the whole motioning up and down thing with your thumb without saying anything is just insulting. This is a phenomenon mainly associated with commercial and television DPs. For some reason, some cameramen think it's cool to never address the Dolly Grip personally but to communicate through a series of cryptic finger displays. I know some do this from time to time if the set's loud or they're trying to be quiet. I don't mean you. A certain few do it very dismissively all the time. Believe me, I've worked with the best, they don't do this. This doesn't make you cool, it only makes you a jackass.

Don't tell me what kind of dolly to use. I don't tell you which head to use. I've been doing this a long time and I know the right tool for the job and which machine I'm most comfortable with. Every dolly is different and some Dolly Grips can make a Fisher Ten sing while others are more comfortable with a Chapman Hustler. It's my job to make sure you don't notice which brand of dolly you're on and if I do it well, you won't. I'm the one who has to make it work. Let me do my job. Help me, help you.

Operators- send in your own tips, pet peeves, etc. I'll put them in a post. I need all the help I can get.

These tips all pre-suppose that the Dolly Grip is experienced and is engaged in what's going on. Otherwise, I probably deserve whatever I get. I count Camera Operators among my best friends and what you do is truly a joy to watch. These are just some helpful suggestions to help us work better as a team. You know who you are.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Synchronicity

My last post was an indictment of the whole incentives mess we've gotten into. Right after I posted it, Mike over at http://hollywoodjuicer.blogspot.com sent me an email and a column he had just finished and had intended to post the next Sunday. One problem- it was eerily identical to mine. The writing style was different (Mike's lyrical, well-thought prose vs my last minute angry scribbling) but he had independantly written a post that hit almost all the same points. He said that in light of mine hitting the airwaves first, he would cancel his. I encouraged him to post it. It's an important subject and his column was great, so hopefully he'll have it up soon. Anyway, if you read his and it bears an uncanny resemblance to mine- it's because we're both geniuses.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Film in LA (or not)

Well, they've done it. They've actually managed to drive the industry that Los Angeles and Hollywood is actually known for ( Hollywood!) out of the state. By "they", I mean the bureaucratic half-wits who we (well, not me) elected to run this city and state. Who would have ever imagined a time when more movies would actually be shot in Louisiana and Georgia than Hollywood? Now before the letters saying, "Oh, another LA guy is upset that they're shooting movies somewhere else," start coming in, let me clarify. It's not that they're doing it, I work all over the country anyway. It's the way they're doing it, and the effect it's having on my Grip and Electric brothers and sisters.


I worked in Atlanta and all through the South in the late eighties and early nineties. At that time, it was common for any given city in the country to be the "Flavor of the Month" for the film industry and this was Atlanta's time. I was there working during a boom in production for the city and with the relatively small pool of grips in town, the back to back procession of features, tv movies, and series ensured my perpetual employment. A boom would last for anywhere from two to four years and then the studios would decide they liked Dallas or New Orleans better and move on, leaving a smattering of occasional features or tv movies to keep us employed until the next boom came around. It was cyclical, we all knew that, and it had nothing to do with tax incentives, which were unheard of for the film business back then. Cities in those days were picked mainly for their locations, ease of shooting, and availability of qualified crew members. Los Angeles was a far away place that we both loved and hated for her fickle attentions, but we all knew we were dependent upon it because that's where the business was. It was the home planet that sent representatives in the form of Key Grips, Dolly Grips, and even Hammers with the shows that came in, whom we resented, learned from, and eventually became friends with (I know, I shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition but it would be twice as long otherwise). We were a small community, but proud of our technical abilities and work ethic. Then the door to Pandora's box was opened and nothing has ever been the same since. Studios discovered Vancouver and tax incentives and suddenly a job at Home Depot wasn't that farfetched. Work in Atlanta dried up. We straggled along with enough commercial work and features at home and in nearby states to make a living, but the salad days were gone. In the back of our minds, though, we always knew that there was LA. They would never stop making movies there. I was lucky at the time to be working (I still am) with a Key Grip who had become well sought after by some very big DPs and directors. He had his Local 80 card and worked frequently in LA. Eventually, I realized that I could no longer make the living I wanted in just Georgia and out of necessity, also acquired my card. I still worked in Georgia when the calls infrequently came, but now I could always find a job in LA when I needed one.


Then came Shreveport. A lot of the people I knew in Georgia had moved there for work, which was plentiful.


Then came Boston. Then Connecticut, and the ever present New Mexico. Then Georgia, again.


Only this time, it's different. It's not a decision based on locations or crew depth or proximity to an airport. It's a race to the bottom based purely on which state is giving away the most money at any given time. And there's no way to stop it. Let me clarify something right now. I'm happy for the workers in these states. I'm glad that Georgia is once again the darling of producers if only for the sake of the techs who live there. I'm glad they're working. As long as they realize that it could dry up tomorrow as soon as another state gives a better deal. It's my home state. I still have a residence there and would love to work there again. And I'm sure if I had stayed there and never come to LA that I wouldn't give a rat's ass what was going on out here. But something's wrong. What's going on is just crazy. I'm watching second generation Key Grips who have worked on the same lots as their parents lose their houses. Studio lots that normally would be jammed with trucks, and honeywagons, and stakebeds are ghost towns. I was on the Warner Brother's lot two weeks ago and there was one other show besides ours there. Businesses that have supplied the studios with condors and catering and dry cleaning for thirty years are closing their doors. And it's not like the shows are permanently relocating to a cheaper city to stay. The bosses are still here. They drive their Mercedes and Porsches through the studio gates every morning, while Grips and Juicers chase shows all over the country, living in Extended Stays and working as locals just to send money home to pay their mortgages. And there's the problem. No one is safe anymore. If you're in an incentive city that suddenly gets hot, droves of shows come in from out of nowhere. The bench of locals is suddenly thinned and techs from everywhere start coming in. Rental houses from out of town open up shop and begin competing with, and in many cases driving down rental rates for local rental houses. Local politicians crow about how Boise, Idaho or Cleveland, Ohio is the new Hollywood and start planning studio construction. Then, suddenly Wheeling, West Virginia offers a higher tax rebate and it's a stampede to the border leaving a crowd of dazed locals, empty warehouses, and starstruck citizens behind. Now, a new population of local techs suddenly have more work than they could ever dream of and the one's in the town left behind either move or sit at home waiting for the phone to ring. There's nowhere to put down roots anymore because places aren't chosen because of location. Time was, if you needed Savannah you went to Savannah. Now you go wherever you can get 40% and throw some spanish moss around. True, Los Angeles has stood in for everywhere for years. And if you had to or wanted to, you could move there and work every day and go home every night. Or if you lived in New Orleans, you knew that enough shows would need a New Orleans look that you would get enough work to do well and you could go home every night. Same with Atlanta or anywhere else that has a significant production community. The balance is completely off though, and there's nowhere safe to establish a home base. What's hot today could be dead in two years so you may as well keep the van packed and be ready to go at any time. For the first ten years of my career I worked mainly in Georgia with the occasional location in Mississippi or Alabama. Then, incentives killed Georgia, so I worked mainly in Los Angeles and Georgia for the next five or six years. In the last two years I've been to Shreveport, Boston twice, New York twice, and Connecticut. I've turned down jobs in Detroit and Iowa.


The thing is, I don't blame the studios. They're doing what they do and have always done. This business is about money, pure and simple. Anyone who thinks it's about art hasn't seen Transformers.

I blame the lawmakers. They started this. Now California has to join the same grim war of giveaways just to compete in the industry it's known for and in which it still originates. And they refuse. Businesses are leaving California in droves because of endless red tape, restrictions, and ever rising taxes. So now I'm torn. On the one hand I'm pissed at the cretins who have turned this state into a punchline for not moving to protect a homegrown industry, and on the other, I'm pissed that states are being lured into this trap by studios whispering in their ears and by visions of their legislators getting their pictures made with Kevin Costner. Some of these places are building studios. And as soon as Ohio gives a better deal, they'll sit neglected, millions wasted on empty promises. Does this make me a hypocrite? Probably a little. But piling more incentives upon the heap is the only way Hollywood can hope to stay busy now. Self preservation tends to kick in a little when you've moved twice and finally started establishing yourself in the one place that there should always be a movie shooting.


So where does it end? I really don't know. I want to say what I've always said: it's cyclical and we've just entered a perfect storm of bad economy and union actions. But I just don't know.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Series Recap

As most regular readers know, I (D) just finished a season of a series after a long absence from tv. During this long six months I relearned a lot of things I had forgotten that are peculiar to television dolly work and in the process, sharpened a lot of skills that had grown a little rusty. I hadn't done a full season of tv since around 1994 and was curious to see how it had changed. The first thing I learned was that to make a decent paycheck on a cable series you have to have rentals. I had spoken on the phone with the Dolly Grip from The Sopranos a few weeks beforehand on an unrelated matter and he had mentioned this fact, and boy was he right. The side letter for cable television that the IA negotiated years ago and refuses to revisit is ridiculous. It's not much more than the rate I was making 10 years ago. I won't go much further on this issue because it's just restating the obvious and it gets me all worked up. Needless to say, it's driving down wages and making us all the collective bitch of the industry. Don't even get me started on this tier 3 crap.
Here are some things I did like about doing the show, however:
It forces you to learn to work fast. As I've stated before- a good Dolly Grip earns his money in set-up. Laying floors, what surface you need, which tool is best for the job- all these are decisions that have to be made quickly and you have to be right the first time. The moves should be second nature, either you have the skills to pull them off or you don't. It's the collaboration with your operator and deciding how to best allow both of you to execute the shot that get's you the attaboys in tv. You also have to be able to pull off some seriously technical shots in a rehearsal and a couple of takes. If take 7 comes around and you're still the reason they don't have it, you're not going to last long. In as far as the moves go, tv brings you up to snuff pretty fast. You've got 6 pages a day, not 1 or 2, so you've got to be able to nail it.
You've got to solve problems quickly and effectively. Got a bump that won't go away? A squeak in a floor or track that's killing a line? You've got to diagnose it and come up with a solution fast, usually while number one on the call sheet is watching you do it.
Know your sets. You'll generally have a couple of sets that are "home." Know the dimensions. Know where a 2x4 sheet of floor will work and where only a 2x18" will work. Make special cuts for hard to cover spaces you regularly end up in. We had a bar set that was five feet wide behind the bar. I had a 1' x8' piece of floor cut that I could add onto a 4x8 and cover the whole space because we consistently used it all. Cut 30" doorway pieces. Anything that regularly pops up. The beauty of this is that you can keep these special cuts on the stage and they are there when you come back.
Plywood these days sucks. We went through two (2!) sets of plywood before we said, "OK, what's going on?" It bowed, it chipped, it warped and when we talked to the lumber company, they said you couldn't get good birch anymore, the hurricane rebuilding cleaned it out. We ended up ordering Baltic Birch, heavy as all get out and expensive, but it holds up and stays true.
Get your dolly inspected and tuned up every couple of months. We rode it hard and were doing a lot of shots on offsets directly over actor's heads. You don't know what's jarred or rattled loose over a couple months of hard use so get it looked at every so often by the techs. Don't take the chance of something giving way with 60 lbs over someone's head.
I fully expected to hate everyone after a few weeks, but surprisingly didn't. My camera operator and I truly had a working relationship based on respect. He knew I would get the job done and that he could trust my decisions and vice-versa. Same with the AC and pretty much everyone else from the DP on down.
So in the end, I'm glad I did it. It gave me six months of steady income and brought me up to snuff after several years of 1 page a day feature work. Will I go back for the next season? We'll see what happens between now and then.

Oops! On an earlier post I gave our email address as dollygrippery.net. It's actually a dot com. Sorry and thanks to Nathan for the head's up!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Please Ask Questions

I notice we get a lot of hits from Google from people searching for Fisher dolly set-up, Hustler 4 instruction manual, low mode on Peewee, and things of a similar nature. We also get about ten hits a week for Wa11y Dolly and many more with things like aluma beams, dance floor outside. The bad thing is, I never know if these people found what they were looking for. Please, if you have a question about professional camera dollies or camera movement, ask. The best place to do this is to visit the message forum on the right, or you can email dollygrippery @ gmail dot com. We have some of the best Dolly Operators (yes I used that term) in the business and most would be happy to answer any questions you may have. So ask!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dollying on THE ROCK

On the road again...

Sorry you haven't heard from me in a while. I've had a busy year so far - I can't complain when there are so many grips out of work these days.

Work has taken me away from home. I'm out on the "the Rock" in St John's, Newfoundland to work on a TV series (D - odd we're doing more TV than feature work when networks are pushing for more reality TV than drama) for six months.

I'm out of my element and never been here before, but the people are great and ever helping. I uncrated my Pee Wee IV. Something I've never had to do before. Normally I just deal with the dolly tech. Here, I'm the dolly tech. The local rental house doesn't have a dolly in house, so they have a deal with another east coast rental house to supply dollies, however... if the item in question is too big to FedEx, (and they have it in shop) then it's six hour boat ride and 11 hour drive, all dependent on IF the truck gets onto the ferry AND the weather is good enough to drive the roads.

Although the chassis wasn't new, it was in pretty good condition. I'm still suspicious of the arm. I'm not a fan of the PW IV boom control as I find it way too sloppy and not enough force feed back to "feel" where you are in the opening of the valve. Also too much distance to travel from closed to wide open.

Had to send back and exchange the low shot plate (spoon) as it had no lower support pin and the attaching bolt was bent and not enough threads to support the plate.

Working with newish Matthews steel track. I haven't seen the beast in ten - twelve years and had forgotten about all the little tricks in dealing with it. We're still working on dance floor... there's another story.

Weather here is a little chilly for my liking as we're right on the Atlantic ocean, and I'm about 15min drive away from the most eastern tip of North America.

Still waiting to be screeched in (local tradition involving lots of rum and kissing a cod). It's an adventure!!!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Chapman on Science Channel Tonight

Just a quick note. Tonight at 10:00pm Eastern (7 Pacific of course) the Science Channel visits Chapman/Leonard and learns about the science of camera dollies. It may be at the end since the main part of the show is about special effects I believe. Check it out.

New Pictures and a Story





I've gotten a couple of pictures in, but not nearly as many as I'd hoped. I've added a few on the right (I know my pictures were getting old) courtesy of Sean Devine, Stephen Murphy, and Alexa Mignon Harris. The above is from Rick at http://grip411.com/. This is (strangely appropriately) from the Michael Jackson video Smooth Criminal in 1987. His came with a story that I'll let him tell in his own words:




"We were doing a shot starting high and moving down right into Joe Pesci's face. I had to cut once because there was a by-stander standing right next me as I was swinging the arm around. I told him to move so I don't hit him in the teeth with the arm... he apologized and moved over.In between takes he came back and bummed a ciggie.Next take there he is again right on my ass... "Dude! you gotta get the f--k outta way" I said."Oh sorry" he said as he was backing up. As he was walking away he trips on the headset wire and rips it off my belt... the stills guy got the shot just as I looked back at this jerk-off. The guy was Bruce Willis. He was just hanging around the set watching...not part of the shoot in anyway."
RD


I'm working on how to get the pictures bigger, haven't solved it yet, even though I clicked the largest size in the layout.
I did the final load-out at Chapman today and had a talk with Dana in the office about having my standard package as well as dolly numbers that I prefer on a list or database somewhere so that it's not a new experience every time and if my favorite dollies are available, they'll hopefully be pulled out for me. I worked so long on the East Coast and dealt with the same people over and over that after working in LA for 8 years, I still didn't have a relationship with anyone at Chapman LA other than the guys on the dock. She was very helpful and hopefully this will streamline my checking out process. It's something that I should have done long ago and just never did. (No, I won't tell you the numbers of my favorite Hustlers).
ps- I appreciate the pictures more than you know. Please be aware that by sending them, they will be posted at some point and I'm looking into starting a Flickr page so that they are all more easily accessible. They will always be attributed to whomever sends them. If you have a problem with any of this, please don't send them.





Wednesday, July 08, 2009

That's A Wrap!

Aaaand we're back. Sorry for my absence for so long. We went into six day weeks to finish the last episode (and clean up a couple of previous ones) and I just didn't have the time/will to post. But we finally finished the season and it was a marathon the last couple of months. We even sent a unit to Louisiana to do some exterior scenes next week, but I declined. I have a couple of offers on the table and just didn't have it in me to have a week off and go right into another show. In the coming days I will have some insights on some things I learned and some skills I was able to sharpen as well as some tips for making it on a tv schedule. In the meantime, I got off at 6:30 this morning and have to be in tomorrow at 7:00am to start wrapping two mud encrusted, completely ragged out dollies. I would like to thank some of the great dolly grips who came in over the course of the season to pick up my slack and fill in on days off or take over double up units- Troy Wade started out as my "B" Camera counterpart until he got three (3!) movies in a row as "A" camera and had to leave. He made my job easy and I owe him one. Andy Crawford, Scott Leftridge, Chris Brow, Jason Newton, Ashley Sudge, John Murphy, Bobby Reid, Wayne Stroud, Jeff Curtis, Eric Zucker, Mike Epley, Danny Stephens, and I'm sure one or two I've forgotten over the last six months, all picked up my slack and either allowed me to take days off without worrying if I was well covered, or took over "B" camera and helped keep the machine moving smoothly. Thanks guys. I know Bud thanks you too. For those of you not in the industry, you've witnessed these guy's work on everything from Stargate to Interview With the Vampire and it was an honor to have them on set.
I've also been sent some pictures over the last few weeks that I'll post. Keep sending them. Thanks for checking in even though the posts have been few and far between. I'm going to bed.

PS- I've added an oldie but a goodie to the Video Bar-"Tripp's Trip." This is a good friend of mine, a fine Dolly Grip who eats it while helping out Steadicam. Always a crowd pleaser, we show it with affection.
PPS- I would like to give a big "Thank You" to our soldiers in service for our country. If you are reading this, you are all my hero.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Send Us Pictures!

Just a quick reminder..if you have any cool pictures of cvamera rigs or shots you'd like to see posted, email them to dollygrippery at gmail dot com. I'd love to post em.
D

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy Weekend!

Hi friends. Not much posting this week because of total exhaustion. Days to splits to nights have taken their toll. Only a few weeks left until wrap and vacation. I know a few of you have written to me and recieved no reply and I apologize. I got your emails and will get back to you. Until then, the vampires are out so it'll be a lot of nights til the season winds down. We're reaching that inevitable part of the show where you have to go back and pick up pieces you missed from earlier episodes as you're shooting the current one and chaos reigns (as well as cash). Show premieres tomorrow night and I've already seen the first three episodes. They're pretty good!
Seeya on the other side.
D

Friday, June 05, 2009

Stream of Consciousness

The following is a fair approximation of what is going through my mind at any given time throughout the day:

Cue We Built This City by Starship. Thanks a lot for that, Br.... Now where's my taperoll? Has anyone seen my ta.... oh there it is. Where did he go. What's he doing over there? OK, rehearsal. Two actors in a living room, how bad can it b... Oh don't do that. They should make this scene a phone call and save us the troub... Stay your a...now the other one's getting up. Really? You two can't just sit on the couch and make this easy?...Now where's S...Oh there he is... What lens is that? ...A 21? We should just mount it in the ceiling and let these two a$$#les walk around under it. Oh come on.! You can do that in a straight line! Yeah, I can get the camera there...IF WE SHOOT THIS ONE SCENE IN SUPER 8. Allright. That's sixteen by three and...THREE FEET AND FIVE AND A HALF INCHES?? for cripes sake can't they just make a room normal sized?... Luckily the carpet's only 3 inches thick so only two layers of plywood should do it...Allright I need six sheets of plyw....no five times four is twenty....Geez where is my mind today...Marconi plays the mamba, listen to the ra...STOP IT!!!where'd I leave the dolly? no you don't need no freaking sideboard...hack... Second Team! Let's see, he's looking left so I have to get all the way over to here to...Can't we just cheat him over that way a little?.. That's what I thought....Oh all right I'll get you a stupid sideboard...I'll bet the Dolly Grip on NCIS doesn't have to put up with this kind of sh...now, he did not do that in the rehearsal and you didn't say anyth...oh allright....what do you mean "can I do that?" Can you pour piss out of a boot? he......where's he going? I know I have to stay on his right I'm not a moron...Where's that sideboard?...Someone always playing.....Corporation ga...STOP IT!!!Holy crap, he's a good operator, shame he can't find a better Dolly Grip.....this arm sucks....Oh, you mean you didn't like the big lurch at the start??Yes I know what "feather" means...Do you know what %^&%* means?...Just a small town girl....living in a lonely wo..STOP IT!!!...Wait...wait...waiiiiit...now........ aaaaaand..... easy.... easy......where the hell's he going?.........got him.....aaaaand stop....She took the midnight train going anywh..STOP IT!!!
It's really amazing that anything gets done at all.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hitting the Mark...or not

Tommy, a Dolly Grip pushing a show in Michigan sent in a email saying I should write a post on marks. When is it critical to hit them? How important are they? My answer is, you should ALWAYS hit your marks.......until it's time not to. Most of us come up hearing, "Marks are just references, it's most important to watch the actors blah blah blah." True. Marks are what allow us to recreate a move sequence down to the inch...........with second team* We all know, however that a lot of actors rarely, if ever, do the same thing the same way twice. Things happen during a scene. Furniture gets moved, extras stray from their designated path, the actor thinks, "my character wouldn't stop by that chair." This randomness is part of what keeps us from being replaced by servos and motors. It's also what gives us a certain amount of control over how a shot looks. We have to make split-second decisions about where the camera should be at any given time during a move and adjust to keep the lens where it should be. This sometimes results in "disregarding" the marks. Say I'm doing a parallel move with an actor from one end of a room to another. He's walking along, we're in sync. Suddenly, he stops five feet short of his mark. Rather than blowing through to my mark, it's my job to stop the dolly to match (and make it look like it was supposed to happen). Or, same shot, say he lands on his mark, but an errant extra has shifted a little too far to the right and will block him from lens at this mark. You see this impending situation, shoot through the mark enough to clear, the shot is saved. A good AC will also see this coming and adjust focus accordingly. If this actor hits his mark and everything's cool, you should nail it. Another example- say your doing an opening pull back and stop. Some actor walks into frame, you push back in with him, not necessarily matching distances, as he goes to another mark and stops. If he stops 4 inches shy- hit your mark. If he overshoots by 4 inches-hit your mark. The reason? Your position on that mark is the one anchor the AC has in the room that's constant. If he sees you are on your mark, he automatically knows how much the actor is off by and can adjust. On a completely aesthetic move- a dolly down a row of pictures, a push in on a flashing bomb- you should nail your mark. Marks are important and hitting them while not watching them is an art unto itself. It's a technique that's developed over time that involves quick flicks of the eye to them and back to the subject, and a kind of hyper-awareness of where the dolly is in the space. A Dolly Grip who consistently hits his or her marks is much appreciated by focus pullers and camera operators. I've had more than one thank me when I've hit marks and I ask them don't most Dolly Grips hit their marks? They say a lot aren't even in the same zip code, which makes their job harder.
One my favorite things to do is a walk and talk pull back. This is a real test of your distance judging. You have to pull back with actors, holding the exact distance, and land exactly when they land. It's always cool to reach the end of the shot and land precisely on your mark as they land on theirs. It's even cooler to reach the end and land two feet short of your mark as they are two feet short of theirs, glance up at the Panatape readout, and see that it's the same distance you started at. Now there are ways to help yourself with this shot, but I'm not going to go into that today (no it most certainly does not involve dragging a string or a laser). Thanks Tommy for the suggestion.
I will reiterate that any of you experienced guys out there who want to write a post yourselves are welcome to email me one and I'll clean it up, and paste it onto it's own post. I won't use your name if you ask, but I would like to know who you are privately just so I know who I'm dealing with. I know a lot of you are aspiring writers so this is your chance to speak to a community of Dolly Grips that literally spans the globe. Send it in!

*"Second Team," for those not in the film business, refers to Stand-In's. These are people who are hired to recreate the actor's movements during lighting and camera blocking, so that the actors can go to makeup after rehearsal. "First Team" are the actual actors.


Completely off-topic, every now and then I like to recommend movies or shows that I think have particularly good work in them and send some good press to someone who has earned it. This time it's Catch Me If You Can, Spielberg's film about a teenage master con artist. I caught it last week on cable and had forgotten how good the work was. Jerry Bertolami delivers a master class on how it's done. The camera never stops, and the moves are flawless (and Jerry's a nice guy). So check it out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Problems Commenting?

Hi Guys. There seems to be some problem getting the comments to post. I don't know where the problem lies yet but I have noticed a big drop off in commenting lately (I just assumed you were all at work). If you have had a problem commenting and haven't already, please send me an email at dollygrippery at gmail dot com and let me know so I can try and diagnose it. Also, try choosing the Google designation if you are signed in on your Google account and "Anonymous" or "Name/URL" if you don't seem to belong to any of the other choices that come up when you comment . Meanwhile, it would really help me if as many of you as can would leave comments so I can see how pervasive the problem is. If it's not working, shoot me an email and tell me exactly what you did. The comments are the heart of the site, where we all communicate. If they aren't working the site's not working, so let me know something.

Monday, May 25, 2009

When You Are Operator's Choice

For the most part, most of us are hired by the Key Grip. Usually someone we've been with a while. This keeps things easy. We're with a crew we know well and are friends with. I've been with my regular Key for about 15 years, 10 of that as his dolly grip. Some of us, however are brought onto a job every now and then by camera operator who likes us. This can get a little hairy when coming onto a grip crew as an operator request. You're basically putting the dolly grip they all know out of work. It can get a little awkward. My B camera dolly, who just left a few weeks ago to do "A" on a show, was a particular Director's request for years. A very well known director who pretty much gets his way. He told stories about the last show he was brought into and the stone wall of alienation the grip crew, mostly the Key and Best Boy, put up against him. It ain't fun. I've been on the other end of this as well. Your Key calls and says he has a show, 12 weeks in (insert exotic location here) and he'll call back with details. A week goes by and then he calls and says the operator has his own guy and it's kind of out of his hands, but you can do "B" if you like. No thanks. It ain't easy being on that end of it either. I bring this up because an operator friend of mine recently requested me for a show in (insert exotic location here). It got me thinking and sounded like a good post. We all hope our Key will stick his neck out and say, "I want my guy and that's it." And mine has done that, which led to 12 of the most hellish weeks in my career at the hands of a DP who found new and petty ways to make my life hard every day. No thanks. So it could go either way. For you grip crews out there, just realize that the guy the operator is bringing in is just a guy who got offered a job, and he took it. Just like you did. You don't have to be his best friend, but just treat him with a little decency and respect. For the operators who had to use the Key's regular guy...ditto. Give him a shot. He may be better than what you're used to. There's no reason to be a jackass to someone just because it's not who you wanted. Either way, it's just a few weeks. If whoever it is is honestly not getting the job done, then replace him, but don't be petty. There's enough of that in this business.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

JL Fisher Open House a Success!







I attended the Open House on Saturday and must say that they did a great job. There was a large crowd and plenty to look at as well as barbecue and beer (Beer!). The first sight that greeted me as I rounded the corner was track. Everywhere. There was track and dollies curving and twisting all among several vendors set up under 20x silks covering the lot. I also sat in on a portion of the Moving Camera panel and it was nicely done. Funny and informative. Some really nice things were said about the Dolly Grip's contribution to the filmaking process by the DPs, ACs, and Operators sitting on the stage. I saw several familiar faces I hadn't seen in years. Lloyd Moriarity was a panelist and it was great to see him again after almost 20 years as well as Donald M Morgan who I worked with a few years back. Most of the comments came back to the things we've all been saying here: Be a team with your operator (and AC), keep your ears open and your mouth shut. I also met some new friends. Rick Davis, a veteran Key Grip, with Grip411 was onhand in a booth with his latest equipment directory and a copy of his newsletter Crew and Review. His book is a must have for Keys, Best Boys, and Dolly Grips. It has specs as well as info on where to get almost any piece of specialty equipment you could need. Please check them out at http://grip411.com/. I'll have more about them in a later post. There were also booths for several other companies including: O'Connor, Panavision, and Hot Gears (and Beer!). If you missed it this year, you should try and make it next year.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Don't Forget the Open House this Weekend

Just a reminder about the JL Fisher Open House this weekend, May 16th. I'll probably be there and hope to see you!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Upcoming Posts and Tips

Sorry guys, I'm coming off one of the rarest of scheduling occurances, the reverse split. 1 am call downtown after two weeks of nights. I also, as you know, lost my phone and now my computer is acting up so I'm writing from the camera truck. Anyway, when I get time and a chance I have some upcoming things to think about- the rarity of decent birch, hydraulic leaks, safetying a camera and some more things. I also want to put out a call to our regular readers for some material of your own. It's hard for Azurgrip and myself to always come up with new ideas so I welcome ideas and posts of your own. I want to make this place kind of an online magazine for Dolly Grips so if you have an idea, write up a post and email it to me at dollygrippery at gmail dot com.
For now, I want to start a little discussion on tips. We all have little things we do that we've developed on our own over time that help us save time or effort. If you have one, email it to me (or leave in the comments). I would rather have you email it so I can put all of them together in one post and attribute them to the sender. I'll kick it off.
For a quick surface to hold over -the -shoulders or make small adjustments, most people throw down planks or a 4x8 sheet. To make things easier, I bring in two of my 2x8 plywood pieces and lay them out with about an 18" space between them (much like you would planks) and go crab on them. This still gives me a little over 18" of mobility (give or take) in and out as well as the 8' right and left and they're easier to maneuver into a set than a full 4x8. this is a big help when the DP wants to tighten up or widen out a little. I rarely use planks, I just don't like them, but these offer a dance floor surface that is variable size wise and goes in quickly. That's my tip of the day, send me yours.
D

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Rebuilding the Phone List

Got my new phone. If I have ever spoken to you on the phone, please email me your phone # because they're gone.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Out of Touch

Due to the splits and nights and returns to splits, I am a little slow to answer comments, texts,emails, etc. Oh yeah, I also ran my Blackberry through a cycle in the washing machine which it found very objectionable. Hope to be back in the loop by tomorrow.
D

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Video

Just a short note to inform you guys that the video bar has been updated. Onno sent a great clip of his Trussdolly working on a short film Really cool stuff so check it out. And keep the comments coming on the previous post too!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Picking Up the Pieces

Recently, our show had a "double up day." For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it just means a separate unit is formed using whichever DP is off that week and they shoot scenes from an earlier episode that we didn't get to. It's not really a second unit, but rather an alternate 1st unit. Anyway, the Dolly Grip we brought in is an old friend and a really good Dolly Grip. We got to talking and he brought up an issue we've all had to deal with- picking up after yourself. He said he had worked with a crew recently who refused to help him keep up with his parts. To the point of being forbidden to help him by the department heads. We've all dealt with this to one degree or another. The bottom line is, we don't always have time to run back behind and pick up all the low modes, risers, lifting handles, etc that we set to the side as we're working. We try, but sometimes it's impossible. Our day consists of an endless rotation of watching rehearsals, getting marks, laying track, shooting, and doing it all over again. There's barely even enough time to take a leak before the next marks are being laid down. Dolly equipment is grip equipment, that's why it rides on the grip truck. Why a crew would create such a frictional situation is beyond me. We depend on the guys to help us keep up with the two dollies and carts worth of gear we have to lug around and use. If there happens to be a shot on sticks, or something besides a dolly, I'll usually scout around and try to round up my parts, but this is a rare occurance. It's completely unreasonable to ask the one guy who never gets a break, who's always behind camera while the other guys are sitting at the carts, to also be solely responsible for everything associated with the dollies. If you're a department head who takes this position, you're being ridiculous. There just isn't time. And you try telling the DP that you can't get marks right now because you have to go back and find your seat riser. Now, that being said, this is where a B Camera Dolly Grip becomes invaluable. It kind of falls to him, since his dolly doesn't usually work every shot, to assist the A Camera Dolly Grip in keeping up with his stuff and helping move it to the next location. I don't think this is originally how this was meant to turn out (I work with some B Camera Dolly Grips whose A Camera resumes would put mine to shame) it just logically evolved to that point. I did it for years, schlepping the dance floor out of the house at wrap while the A Dolly Grip drank a frosty beer on the truck. It's just part of the deal. So guys, give us a break, we're counting on you.
PS- Before the comments start rolling in, I want to qualify the preceding post by saying that this is not an excuse to be lazy. I try to keep up with everything and always attempt to put a piece aside where I can easily remember it and throw it on the dolly as I'm moving to the next location. I am notorious (or used to be, I'm actually much better now) for misplacing or forgetting parts so I've had to learn to be extra careful in putting them in easy to spot places rather than just flinging them wherever it's convenient- that's not fair to the rest of the crew. They have other work to do also besides picking up after the Dolly Grip. They don't mind helping, the good ones understand our predicament. But it's unreasonable to ask them to go on a scavenger hunt after every set-up. I'm just saying....it goes both ways. Be considerate or you may find yourself spending hours looking for that 12" riser on your own.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Don Schisler- Rest In Peace

A really good and talented man passed away recently. Don Schisler was an engineer, designer, and insert car driver that I, and the whole Atlanta community, worked with for years. The guy was brilliant and truly one of the nicest men you could ever meet. I spent many hours talking with him over the years and he was kind of a mad scientist in a trucker hat. He was always thinking of ways to adapt everyday things to the film business and I remember at one point had modified fire trucks to be used as lighting platforms. The last thing I remember him talking about (around 1995) was an "All titanium dolly," honest. I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd seen him until I got an email last week informing me of his passing. I remember he was once late to work with an insert car because he saw a lady stranded on the interstate. A truly good man. We'll miss him. So long, Don. See you on the other side.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My GI Track Experience and a Visit from Wick

As I mentioned earlier this week, Gil at GI Track was kind enough, along with the guys at General Lift in LA, to arrange for us to have a few sticks of GI Track to try out. Our plan ha been to use it on some exteriors and put it through it's paces on a few shots. As it happened, the night we had it turned out to be all handheld and Steadicam, so I was relegated to running back to the truck in my downtime and trying it out without actually using it. The first question I wanted to answer was, how does it lay? I had three 8' and one 4' so I laid them out in a field with a slope. The track has a bigger profile than most track. It sits on an I-Beam which is, I guess about 3 inches high by three or four across. The latches are on the side rather than on the cross ties and I really like this feature. The track is really well constructed. It wedges really well and lays easily due to the wider surface of the beam. The only thing I would change on it is the actual engagement of the hook on the latches. The hook fits into a hole and tightens rather then grabbing onto a nub. I'm not crazy about this feature, but it's easily modified (plus, we had an early batch of it so it may be different now)Update- I spoke to Gil and his latches have been changed to stainless steel, much nicer than the one's we had on the first run track.. Once levelled, we put the caps on and threw both dollies on it. At first, there was a lot of friction between the Hustler wheels and the caps, but we actually just let the caps get water on them and it immediately loosened up. We also realized we hadn't properly staggered all the caps (it was a little dark by now). Once these bugs were worked out, it really began to perform. I can honestly say it's one of the smoothest rides on just dolly wheels I've ever had. Once the seams in the caps are staggered correctly it's pretty flawless and you could easily do a tight lens move on it without the skates. It does take a little more set up because of the caps, but after your crew got used to it, the time would probably be negligeable (plus, it wedges so much easier than Filmair track, that you'd probably come out about the same). I know a couple of guys who have bought it and I really want to get their impressions (Moose? are you out there?) and I know our own Azurgrip is a user. Overall, it's an ingenious system and really well made. I wish I could have spent more time with it to see how much time I could cut out of the lay, but I wanted to get it back to the owners before they needed it. I'll let Azurgrip give some more firsthand info if he wants to. The beauty of it is, if a cap gets damaged, it's easily replaced, unlike the fragile aluminum track we all deal with regularly. So visit the website gitrack.com and check it out. Ask questions. Gil is a great guy and will answer any you may have.
Also, Wick was in town at Fisher last week. He came by set and we had a little while to visit. We did some catching up and he told me about new things going on at Fisher. They're adding a new dampening system to their boom controls which should make it more intuitive for those of us who are not regular Fisher users. Also, he had some flyers for the Fisher Open House on Saturday May 16th at JL Fisher. The address is 1000 West Isabel St. in Burbank, CA 91506. There will be exhibits from different companies as well as facility tours by Jim Fisher and a Moving Camera Seminar from 2:00 to 3:30 PM. The whole thing starts at 10:00 AM and goes to 4:00 PM. Please go check it out. I'm going to try and make it myself if I don't have my daughter that weekend. It should be a really informative and good time.
Had an 80 hour week so I'm whipped. Drop a line and say hi.
D
On another note, the forum is not coming up for some reason. I've contacted Bravenet and am waiting on a solution. Bear with me.

Mothman Prophecies

I spent 17 hours travelling after a 13 hour shooting day today, so I'm procrastinating a little. I got home at 4 am, poured myself a drink, and popped in one of my favorite dvd's (since my sattelite tv is out). Mothman Prophecies is, to me, a really terrifying piece of work. Beautifully shot by Fred Murphy, and featuring gorgeous crane work by my old friend Rich Kerekes, it's a movie that should come off as hokey but somehow doesn't. The atmosphere created in this movie just gets me every time I watch it.I know most of the guys that worked on this movie in both the electric and grip dept, as well as Fred, and they blew me away. I tend to have pretty eclectic ideas about horror movies (I like Signs, I like Reign of Fire, my wife rolls her eyes) and this one affected me in a way that no other has done in years. This one's just creepy. And it shouldn't be.When you're watching it, you can't believe that you're somehow buying it, but you do. The story is hokey. The acting is cheesy. But it's so artfully made that it affects me and I pop it in whenever I need a good scare. Rich did great work behind the sled and on the crane and the bridge sequence just gets me every time. It's not to everyone's taste, but you can't deny the craftsmanship. I love it. "Wake up number thirty-seven" Check it out.
Coming up, when I sober up, a GI Track review and comments!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Hi Guys!

I so apologize for my lack of posting but between work and a damaged roof on my house in Atlanta, I haven't had much spare time. I just came off an allnighter and am trying to recover (it gets harder every year). Alexa- I always love hearing from you. You ask great questions and are obviously going places. I got your email and will answer, I promise, when I have more time. Wick is in town and I'm going to try to get together with him this week, even if I can just get him out to set. Otherwise, I'm trying to spend some down time this weekend and recuperate before it all starts up again. Thank all of you for your contributions to this page and for reading. Once I get caught up on real life, I'll be back with a real post. Oh yeah, we tried out a few pieces of GI Track this week, thanks tro Gil and the guys at General Lift. It worked great and I'll give you a call, Gil, later this weekend. Please visit Gil's website at gitrack.com and check it out. It really does ride like a dream. That's all for now. I'll try and catch up later this week.
D

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Day


I don't want to talk about it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dance Floor Update

My show involves a lot of dance floor work (for those of you not in the industry, dance floor is just a surface that you put down when you are doing a move in more than one direction) This week was dance floor helL. Strangely, a lot of our sets have rooms that are weird measurements. A lot of the spaces measure out to be 7'6", or 3'9" wide, which most of you know is an incredible pain. We also have a lot of 800lb dressers and 400lb oddly shaped sofas. I have spent the week piecing together floors and frankly I'm exhausted. The easiest solution in a floor situation is always just to lay a "pad" which means basically lay a square (or rectangle) that covers all the marks you need to hit. My lumber package generally includes five 4x8's, two 4x4's, two 2x8's, and two 2x4's. I hate pie pieces and think they're useless. I also had some doorway pieces made at 28" and a 1' by 8' piece. There's always one set, though, that just beats you up and during the blocking as the DP holds the finder at one spot you're thinking, "No. not there, just go one more foot left." I even had to do one shot that the operator started on a slider as I pushed in and then he finished it on the slider (window seats suck).The thing is, I actually relish the idea of the challenge. It's really making a better Dolly Grip out of me and it's good in a way to sharpen your skills on the old tv grindstone again. I realize that I've really gotten soft on feature work where you have a lot more time to set up and plan a difficult shot as opposed to the DP asking you,"Can you get the camera here?" after one half-ass run through. My stock answer is, "Yeah, we'll figure something out." So far, I haven't had to have any special cuts made (other than shaving an inch off the bottom of a door). I've been riding a lot of edges on one wheel this week. Please forgive any spelling mistakes as I am now 3 vodka -and -ginger- ales into my weekend. Don't judge me. I earned it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dropping In

Just dropping by before I head off to spend the evening somewhere in a canyon out towards Malibu. I'll have an actual post this weekend. Meanwhile, we have some cool things planned for Dollygrippery when we get time to actually do them. Hope all you guys (and girls) are working. Stay safe.
For those of you not actually in the business who are just interested, Michael Taylor over at hollywoodjuicer.blogspot.com has a great piece that pretty much sums up a day on a tv series from a juicer's perspective. Go give it a read and tell him I sent ya.
D

Monday, March 09, 2009

Your Camera Operator and You Part 2

Hi guys, great comments on the previous post from some real A list guys. In reading them it made me realize some things I wish I'd brought out more in the first post (which I kept shorter than I wanted to because I ran out of time. DW asked about getting a word in after the DP says, "Just get a ______ dolly and call it a day." In a situation like this, I don't know that there's much you can say other than let him know that you would be more comfortable with another dolly. In your situation, as Key, it's entirely appropriate to do it, but ultimately he's going to get what he asks for. I'm lucky in that the Keys I work with already know my preferences and it's all addressed way ahead of shooting and rarely contested by the DP. I've even convinced some operators I know to go along with what I prefer after the fact (notice that I'm being good here and not stating a preference for one or the other). As for the rest of it, it's the age old saying of "tell me what you want, not how to do it," that grips have been repeating for 80 years.
What goes along with this as a Dolly Grip is establishing your territory right off the bat. I can always tell when I'm working with an operator who's had some bad Dolly Grips. They point out the obvious and immediately start telling you how to do everything. My stock saying is to ask them, "Who've YOU been working with?" They usually get the hint and after the first couple of shots they settle in. But you've got to be there for the discussions. If the DP and operator are off to the side discussing how to orient the dolly, stick your head in. GHB said it well in the comments, just jump into the conversation. Claim your ground. If you know what you're doing it will soon become apparent and they'll generally turn over the reins to you. The dangerous part of this is if you don't know what you're doing. If you're relatively inexperienced it's best to go along with them, and most of the time your Key will know you're a little green and he'll step in and quietly give you instructions. Some Key Grips can't leave you alone and will jump into your business, but the ones who trust you will generally only come around when you ask them for a consultation. The moves themselves are the easy part, even though they are what it all boils down to. Either you've developed the skills to execute them or you haven't. Where you earn your money (in my opinion) is in set up. I usually am calculating what I need during the blocking. Once I've decided on a course of action, I consult my operator and tell him what I have in mind and together we either continue on that path or modify it. The set up is the most important because it has to work. You can't rip up and re- lay dance floor with the actors waiting around because you didn't allow for the door to open and close in the shot or didn't factor in the length of the dolly as you approach a wall. This is where being a team with your operator will save you. He'll help you avoid pitfalls you may not have picked up on in the rehearsal or fill you in on coversations he had with the director that you didn't hear.
Gripworks mentioned that you can't really blame some operators and DPs for not trusting you right off the bat. Unfortunately, and as much as it pains me to say it, he's right. They don't know any better. I've had to tell operators, "If you'll let me, I'll help you. That's why I'm here." They're not used to a Dolly Grip already knowing how to do the shot after the first blocking, when their previous Dolly Grip was at craft services munching on a cookie. We have to show them.
I wasn't going to post again tonight but we had such great comments and Acraw got me thinking (and we wrapped early) that these are things a Dolly Grip does and a lot of them, especially the younger ones, just don't know it so it's up to us to make them aware and that will raise the level of respect that DPs and operators pay to all of us.
Ok, I'm getting off my high horse. Thanks as always for your great comments. It's great to be part of a community of such great Dolly Grips.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Your Camera Operator and You

I once had a camera operator at the beginning of a show ask me before a shot, "Can you do a boom and a move at the same time?" "I don't know," I replied, "can you pan and tilt at the same time?" The relationship between an operator and Dolly Grip is one of trust, or should be. Unlike operators, however, we don't really go through a system of tiers that ultimately results in being a Dolly Grip (at least not officially). There isn't a union dolly grip level where your dues are higher and you are required to work in that category. Unfortunately, sometimes the Dolly Grip is just someone who wants the extra two dollars an hour or is the Key Grip's brother-in-law. Over the years, this has resulted in Dolly Grips all being painted with the same brush. For those of us who have worked hard to learn our craft and earn the respect of our camera department brethren, this can be frustrating. We all face it. The operator or DP who insists on doing every shot with a slider because he isn't used to a Dolly Grip being able to hold an over- the -shoulder. The operator who picks which machine you'll be using on a show. I don't tell them whether to use an Arri head or a Panahead, why should I be forced to use a Fisher or Chapman when that isn't my platform of choice? I especially get irritated when a DP and Operator have a discussion pertaining to my field as if I'm not there. You know the one. The DP walks up to the operator and asks him, "What do you think, should we use the Peewee on track or go on the Hustler on floor?" And they don't even look at you. I'm not suggesting that our position is more important than it is, but generally you would think that the person who has to perform the shot would at least be consulted. This is why I think you have to assert your position from the beginning. Already be figuring out the best way to do the shot on the first blocking and when it's time, go up to the operator and tell him your opinion. It immediately shows him that you know what you're doing and establishes that he doesn't have to worry about how the dolly will be oriented on top of everything else he's got to do.
Generally, I work with the same operators on a recurring basis, as most of you do. I have three or four that I see again and again because we all work with the same DPs. I really enjoy working with them and a couple are actually good friends outside of work. They trust me and know that I'll solve most of their problems if they'll give me the space to do it. These are the guys that it's a continual pleasure to work with. I haven't actually had an operator that I didn't get along with or didn't like in years. Thankfully the real a-holes are few and far between. But we've got to raise the bar on the position of Dolly Grip. For too long I've worked with operators who told me horror stories about Dolly Grips who continually ran off the track or couldn't attach the low mode. I've had AC's tell me about guys who couldn't get within the same zip code as the marks. Strangely, you hear very few stories about bad operators. It's time that our field was recognized for the craft it is. It takes practice and dedication to master it and it's not something you learn overnight.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The $%&%# Contract

I'm going to deviate from the norm here for a minute and talk about something that concerns those of us covered by the IA Hollywood Basic contract that's up for vote. Yeah, it sucks. I'm a pretty forgiving guy and I have never asked for more than I work for. I'm not even a hardcore Union cheerleader. I have, however, been in the IA for almost twenty years and I've watched our benefits and working conditions deteriorate at a steady rate while profits rise. The new contract calls for the current 300 hour requirement for insurance to be raised to 400 hours. All right, I understand that medical costs have gone up and I understand that something has to give. I'm willing to give them that. The New Media contract is a joke. It has worse standards than the non-union shows I used to do. Interchageability of crafts (in other words, we're tools, not professional craftsmen). No minimum rates. Residuals, out the window. Then, we get a letter telling us what a great contract it is and that we should vote "yes." It's insulting. Especially in the light of the joke of an HBO contract that a lot of us are working under now that should have been renegotiated but hasn't.
Over the years I've watched producers get concession after concession and I keep getting letters telling me how great the new contract is from people who aren't standing out in the rain with me all night. Then, my OWN UNION keeps telling me that a "No vote is a vote to strike." Whose side are these guys on? I'm tired of being in a union that seems to just roll over at the whim of the AMPTP in every negotiating session. The studios are having record profits and the price of doing business for them keeps going down because we're weak negotiators. I've had it.
Rant over.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Sorry for My Absence

Sorry for the absence of recent posts guys. I've had a really busy week of nights topped off by a really long flight home (complete with a 4 hour plane delay) last weekend and I've just been exhausted. We'll be back shortly. Azurgrip's comment on the previous post gives me an idea..... Hope you're all working and staying safe.
D

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dollies Can't Move Like A Person

I should get a t-shirt that says that and wear it to work every day. By this statement I mean that you can't make upwards of 800 lbs of operator, camera, and machine change direction or stop and start as fast as a person can. Lately, I've had a couple of situations where I needed to start moving with an actor, cross a room and land with them. The problem was that they had four big steps to their mark and I had 9 feet to mine and they started off like they were shot out of a cannon. By the time I got good and going, they were already there resulting in an unmotivated dramatic push in on them at the end while I raced to catch up. Another hard trick is keeping your wheels set to hold an over- the -shoulder and going into that kind of move. You have to hold it as long as you think you can get away with before you start turning the wheels for your takeoff and hope they don't block themselves before they move. Usually actors are good sports once they realize what you need. I've never had one refuse to help out by taking a little speed off their takeoff.
I have a split at Warner Brothers tonight. It's going to be cold.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Comments About Comments

Hi everyone. I just got in from a freezing night in a canyon where I didn't have phone service. Thanks everyone for your comments. GHB- Nailed it as usual. Great insights. Southern Grip- Just cracks me up. Thanks for dropping in but you might want to check your caps lock. Acraw- Always has something good to say. It's great to have one of the masters on here (yes I know who you are). I know I've sounded really...cynical about my show and some of it is just exhaustion. I don't want everyone to get the idea that it's just drudgery though. I am working with a guy whom I consider to be just a phenomenal operator. He really is one of the best and we work really well as a team. The DP and Key Grip are also the tops and I couldn't ask for better. Most of the problems come from higher up the chain and just make everything harder. Top that with a lot of night work and a sub standard cable rate and I tend to get a little...crabby.
A lot of my posts arise from seeing something that makes me think of something else or reminds me of a situation I have dealt with in the past, such as the AC who wants to ride every shot etc. I got an email from an AC who took me to task a little about that post. I didn't mean that the AC should never ride. Every shot is different and sometimes there's no other way. It's the ones who want to sit on the dolly on a 24 mm with a 6' push who get my dander up. Sometimes the operator has to walk a shot. I just don't like it when they do it when they really don't need to.. A big part of my job is to make it possible for them to effectively do their job. It's when they unnnecessarily make my job harder that things start to break down. Oh yeah, Sanjay, I got your email and answered it but I don't know if it went through from where I was. Thanks for the tip. Allright guys, I'm turning in. Got another freezing night ahead of me, only this time it's really supposed to rain. Great.
D