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.
Labels: camera operator
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Wow. I hadn't ever really thought about this from a dolly grip's point of view and you're right...huge potential for discomfort. I'm usually hired by a Producer and the Director and Production Designer just accept me as a fait accompli. Every once in a while, though, one of those luminaries wants "their guy". Whether they win or lose that fight, it can make for some uncomfortable days.
This may deserve it's own post.
Thanks for the insight.
Testing the comments. Ignore this.
I've been lucky. I've got a key who has stood by me and his right to chose who falls under him. This hasn't gotten me into hot water, and actually, when once I was "forced" onto someone, it worked out for better so much so, the operator asked for me their next show replacing his "regular" guy.
Thanks for the comments Nathan and Azurgrip. I was actually "brought in" with a DP who didn't get the guy he wanted on a show and he now says I'm his first call, so sometimes it works out for the better. I always hate that first week of "proving yourself" that comes with this scenario.
My (sort of) response is posted today.
I've been on all three ends of this. The regular dolly grip that gets replaced. The operator's choice that gets the other regular guy replaced. And I've been the A guy that gets bumped to B. It's a political nightmare for everyone, but it is in fact just a part of the business and you gotta take it like the rest. Getting bumped for another guy on your own regular crew is the worst, but it is what it is. Fortunately when I've been the operator's choice, the key grip didn't have a regular guy so it wasn't really that bad. My favorite story in this topic is one time I got bumped from A to B by a guy the operator chose and as the show progressed we found out he wasn't very good. I was sent to build a mini-lenny with him one day at a pool while the crew was shooting hand-held and he had no idea how to build it and really wasn't interested in learning. Now I don't know how to build every crane on earth, but this is a pretty common one (at least in Los Angeles) and even if he didn't know how, he could have picked it up after the first piece or two got attached. It ain't rocket science...But he chose to plead ignorant and it just irked me that he called himself an A-Dolly grip and was that much of a dumb-ass. oh well. that's how it goes sometimes.
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