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.