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.