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 goes both ways. Be considerate or you may find yourself spending hours looking for that 12" riser on your own.


  1. Anonymous4:26 PM

    Where did you put the PeeWee lifting bars ???

  2. And that's the comment I was waiting on.

  3. I think its insane that any Key Grip would deliberately ask his crew not to help the Dolly Grip. There is a special place for guys like that. I work (most of the time) really tough locations, and there is no way i would leave the dolly grip to fend for himself. Its different if we are on stage doing park and shoot stuff, and the dolly grip asks the assistant grips to round up his gear while he hangs out at craft service. But as a key grip, I am responsible for the efficiency of the dolly grip, why would i want him falling behind ? ..... and hating me :-)

  4. Anonymous7:49 AM

    I come up against this all the time. Im in commercials mostly and i get to not only be a good dolly grip for the DP, but to jump in with the hammers all the time. I dont mind this at all, but they still separate my parts with being "just mine" even though i have helped them move their 20x's all day long. Last night, we wrapped all the gear before the last shot, which was a long lens, down the gear. So the guys wrapped the gear to the truck. So, we wrapped and i expected to roll the dolly on the truck and head home. As im walking to the truck, i see my 3' riser and my low mode sitting on the curb, right where our staging was. This happens all the time. Im not sure where the mentality comes from.

  5. This is from Alexa, who had trouble posting so I pasted her email.

    Being from non-union world I find myself in the position of key/dolly grip on many occasions. I'm certain you all know this can be a mission. When camera's living on dolly all day and I'm multitasking I get help from my fellow grips when it comes to moving my accessories to the next setup. I usually don't ask for this help. It just happens. Also when I'm solely the dolly grip I've never had a key who didn't want the other grips to give me a hand if they were free. And vice versa, I assist them when I'm off dolly. Now I understand union world is different, but how different? Is it naive of me to think a shoot is still a group effort? Maybe, but I still think it was a bit mean spirited of him to not want the others to help. That is unless he had all hands on deck and couldn't spare a guy. It doesn't seem like that though. Perhaps he was just bitter that day.
    "Bitter! Party of one? Your table's ready!"

    Have a great shooting week guys!

  6. It's not a question of Union or Non-union. It's a question of professionalism and acting as a team. It's just stupid and counterproductive for a crew to have this mentality. Either you're all on the same team or not. I don't understand it.Anonymous, it's time to have a talk with your key. Especially if you're doing commercials that have no separate dolly rate. You are being taken advantage of by your own guys.

  7. Anonymous1:02 PM

    When the dolly comes off the truck if it is a peewee I have the basics ,front board,small sideboard, one seat and post on and travel with them as I move from one set to another.

    If I leave them behind i deserve to get flack from the guys

    Otherwise all other accesories are stored on my cart and called for as needed.

    When done I expect them to find their way back so if called for again it is not a search and rescue mission to find the 12 inch riser.

  8. Yeah if you're just doing run and gun with a peewee, it's great to stack a few things and throw them back on the dolly as you move. It's when you are doing company moves between sets or stages or locations and you've been continuously switching modes and laying and shooting all day. You don't have time to keep running in and out to find parts or keep taking them back to the carts. This is when you need your brother grips to support you. But yeah, sometimes you do deserve flack if you're just being careless.

  9. Hello All,

    As you might know a DollyGrip in Holland is often on his own, no grips or KeyGrip around. I often have a great collaboration with the electricians and camera-department, we swop positions and help eachother. Mostly...
    However there is a gaffer who refuses insistingly my help with falgs and 12x12, and so is his crew. I am not allowed to assist them and they are no allowed to help me. Normally at wrap I also carry down the gear of the electrieciens uo to the tailgate so that we are all leaving set at the same time, and have a drink at the tailgate while resetting the trucks. But with this gaffer I just grab my gear and leave... These days I feel very solely and on my own. Some month ago on an extensive studioshoot this lightingcrew borrowed some appleboxes for a lightingstand. At wrap (they would wrap the next day) I found out these appleboxes missing from my truck so I started looking for them. By the time I found them underneath a Nine-Light on some steps, the remaining crew left home. I was there, on my own, staring at some appleboxes... leaving a stickynote to the wrapcrew to return them to my workshop. It was me who had to pick them up.
    This is an master piece of inter-departmental-dis-coherency...
    Luckely I do not work with this guy this often!
    On a heavy/multiple-dolly-setup-day my only MIA or SAR is my drumchair for the operator, and the wedges which remain on auto-locking-doors... (1 chair a year and 200 wedges get lost).

    For me it is al a group-proces, if you help the others, they will help you, without the need of a balance or win-win-feeling; it is all for the project/product.


  10. This is yet another great topic. D is a genius. The fact is: the dolly grips and the dolly support equipment is part of the Grip Department. We work directly with camera, yes...but we're not in that department. Sometimes we even get jobs as a recommendation by an operator or a focus puller, but we're still not in their department. Are they gonna help hump plywood up the stairs when you need it? Probably not. Any Key Grip that instructs his grips to not help the dolly grip is an idiot and he should be fired. It's an absurd idea. Those two guys and all the dolly equipment is his responsibility as much as every c-stand and sand bag. Anyone that denies this has no understanding of what a key grip's job entails. I agree with D when he says that not only does the whole crew have to work together, but particularly the A and B dolly grips have to work together. It's kind of a key and best boy relationship. The A dolly grip is always on set and working and the B guy is not always engaged, so it's his or her responsibility to keep track of their collective gear and make sure that everything that needs to go to the next set or location is ready to go because the second the director and DP are at the next set, the A guy is getting marks and preparing his plan for executing the next shot. That's the job. Both A and B make the same money and have very different responsibilities. A is inside doing the dance floor move and B is outside building the jib arm for the next shot. Then the crew moves outside and the B guy and the crew clear the set....including the dance floor....while the A guy gets the notes for the jib shot. That's how it should work and if it's not working that way, you need to talk to your crew. When the B guy is doing his own shot or taking over the crane since the B camera is on it....that's when the A guy goes through all the gear and straightens up and helps support the B guy if he needs it. It's a team effort. The whole business is a team effort, but when our department chooses's really bad. Once again, I always find that a simple please and thank you goes a long way with the guys supporting you. The best trick I can offer is that when you're done with the riser and the standing board or the low-mode, don't leave them on the floor in a corner. take the two seconds to drop them near where the set grips have their set package staged and when that gets cleared or moved, hopefully they'll put your stuff away. If they don't have to look for it, they're more likely to help out. I also try to combine the parts I use regularly onto one cart so there is less of my gear to move around. I happen to have the best guy in the business working with me on B dolly. Not only does he have the skill of an A dolly grip, but he does all the little things to keep mine and his gear in order and make sure we have the camera support equipment where and when we need it. We work as a team and back each other up all day because as great as the grips are that I work is true that the dolly crew has to always watch their own backs....If any of you know me and know who my B guy can't have him...he's mine.

  11. A key grip forbidding his crew to lend the dolly grip a hand is absurd.

    That being said, I'm one of those grips that's guilty of not jumping in when the dolly grip needs some help keeping all his pieces together. Simple reason being: I'm not a dolly grip and I don't know what all those bits and pieces are for, or where they go. And like everything else on set, if I don't know what it is, I don't touch it.

  12. I use "Backstage Studio" like carts for my dollies and have fought tooth and nail with the rest of the crew so I can park my parts cart just around the corner or just outside the room so as if I need anything, then I don't have far to look / reach and just as easy to put unused parts away. My carts can carry all the parts and more for any dolly thrown at me (except the PW IV, however I have plans for that one).

    The bonus for having individual carts for each dolly means that if one of the chassis' are sent off for a spliter unit, then they can take parts with it and not be forced to pick and choose.

    I haven't come across a key that would forbid helping me, however I do get into the fight whether or not that the parts carts should be brought closer than the rest of the package.

    I have yet to find a good B guy that compliments me. It's been a rough go. However, I'm currently play "B" on a tv series where I'm busier than A since we don't have a second dolly and all I'm doing is lugging around a bazooka and sliders. I do have a lot of support from the rest of the guys.

  13. danworx11:01 AM

    I'm doing a series of TV-Movies this Year. The Crew is quite small (1Gaffer, 2Electricians 1Helping Hand and me the dolly grip) But we still have a good time and everybody is helping with the heavy stuff as long as they are not busy with the 12k's and 125Amp Cables. Even the gaffer is helping underlaying the track or carrying the dolly. The helping hand is a local who has priority to help me first, and who gets into a bad mood if he can't carry something heavy around!
    This crew is definitely a dream to work with, so i'm very happy til the end of the year...

    I also have two carts, one carries the underlay and Boxes (sometimes additional dolly parts) and the other carrys everything you could possibly use in 99% of the shots. For exterior I just bring the "wood" trolley, and for interior the "grip" (parts and everything) trolley also is brought near location. I put everything back on the trolleys before I move to the next location so that nothing gets lost.
    This package has helped me a lot in recent years to stay independent from the sparks workforce(which do everything lighting related in German crews).

    On other shows, when the Sparks refuse to help, I usually insist to have a second grip on the show wich either gets the Gaffer into trouble or me an assistant...

    Greets and go on with this great stuff


  14. Not a dolly grip, but I can understand the issue. There's one dolly grip I know who desperately needed the help of the rest of the grip crew because he constantly forgot where he put things down. Let's see... who was that now? Umm... I think his name was Harold Dumber. No, that's not right. I know one initial was D and the rest was Nasty...

  15. Trust me, there are key grips who forbid their grips to help the dolly grips. I'm talking one of the top episodic shows. (No Names) I had grips coming up to me and apologizing for not being able to help.The day players would always jump in and help with track or whatever until he got the word from one of the guys that helpong is a no no. I agree with several of the other posters. We are all grips. To be affective, we must work as a team.

  16. Anonymous5:02 PM

    I work on both sides of the fence and can relate to all of the comments. They are ALL so valid and important to discuss.

    Naturally, I love to rib the Dolly Grip about keeping his dolly on the camera truck when I'm besting or just plain gripping. It's always in good fun though. I don't know why but it seems to be a tradition to rib the dolly grips :) I know one thing for sure when it comes to MOVING dolly parts....sometimes a grip brother will jump in and move dolly parts without telling the dolly grip which can, of course, lead to aggravation for said dolly grip when he goes to grab a part only to find that it disappeared :) So, I can understand how grips may be apprehensive about touching the dolly stuff. But, you know, all you have to do is check with the dolly grip before you move something. It's true, we don't always have time to shuffle all of our parts around with the dolly. Sometimes things get left behind. We are not being lazy, we are just being busy! Being busy also tends to mean that we don't always have time to leave set to get a side board or an extra seat. Sometimes people say that the dolly grip is whiney and needy but how are we supposed to get things when both A and B are in play? Some shows use B dolly A LOT so B guy doesn't always have time to run for parts either. In that case, we are forced to ask for things. And believe me when I say that we hate to have to ask for things :) Yes, we know that our fellow grips can have their plates full but so do we. Nobody has a true appreciation of the Dolly Grip's situation until they ARE a Dolly Grip. You're, basically, stuck. You can't leave camera. You can't afford to have a DP waiting for you to come back from fetching your sideboard which is, likely, a mile away because the parts carts rarely get priority when it comes to being close to set.
    Whenever I grip, I always do my utmost to help the dolly grips - even if it just means fetching them apples boxes when they go handheld or grabbing nets for steadi. It's second nature to me because I just see that they will need things and I get them. If a dolly grip calls for a part I copy whenever I'm able to and grab it. But, it might be because I'm biased being a dolly grip as well. :) They are always very grateful as are the camera guys.
    If a Key is forbidding his guys from helping the Dolly Grips, he's an idiot plain and simple. But, I guess it would depend on the situation because I know the odd Dolly Grip who considers himself a CUT ABOVE and he will never help load or offload trucks, he'll never show up for pre-calls, he'll never pitch in on set if he has a moment to set a Lenser...etc...etc....And if a Key was refusing to let his guys help such a Dolly Grip in order to get him off of his high horse, I wouldn't object to that because, in that case, it's the Dolly Grip who's a complete ass. We ARE a TEAM. The Dolly Grips are part of that team and we are there to help each other. If the dolly grips aren't being team players they shouldn't be expecting their team to play for them either. It's all about give and take. You can't just take and never give but there are those who, certainly, try to!

    So, it's hard to judge because I don't know the situation. Bottom line: The Dolly Grips need the support of their department to get the job done expeditiously. I've always looked at the Dolly Grip as kind of a Front Man and the rest of us are his band. :) ALL grips are there to light and to support camera. That is our job description. So, refusing to support dolly grips means that you're refusing to support camera which means you are refusing to do your job.