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.



Anonymous said...

RE: Wally Dolly

If you don't want the Wally to show up...you might want to consider deleting it from your side banner...Or spell it Wa11y Do11y or something that won't trigger in google's index.

D said...

Good tip. I should have done it long ago but as I am exceedingly lazy, I didn't really think about it. Thanks!

Tommy said...

Haha @ Apple.

I agree with the dolly-considered-lowly response. When I explain to people outside the industry what I do they either seem interested and find it neat or they act surprised/let down ("oh, you mean you're not the person who rides the dolly, you just push it?"). It can be frustrating trying to explain that our job is actually important.

Maybe we should start calling ourselves Dolly Operators or Camera Movement Specialists...

D said...

Hi Tommy. I get the same thing. SOmetimes I do say Dolly Operator just to slowly work it into the lexicon.

GHB said...

I just started a new show with a new camera crew that I've never worked with. When I showed up the A-Operator shook my hand and said, "Thanks for coming out to the show. Just so you know I consider you a co-camera operator, so anything you need to make it all work for you and I, just let me know."

Why can't they all just be like that dude?

Azurgrip said...

"I just push people around..."

D said...

I told you he was cool.

The Grip Works said...

LOWLY ??!!! What the F&%$#@## ?? Give me that guys address !! Ha ha ha. Just kidding.
D you answered that question with a lot of patience.
GHB - I agree with you. There are a some operators who see you as key collaborators on a shot and some who don't. The ones who don't have probably never had a good dolly grip on board, or have never had a bad one (so they can't tell the difference).
Either way, the Dolly grip operates the operator. If hes not on the right spot at the right time, hows he going to get that award winning shot?
Michael Schumacher may win the Grand Prix, but without his crew from Ferrari, he may as well be driving a Fiat Punto.

Lowly indeed !!

Nathan said...

Well, since you're tracking things like a madman, you'll see that I finally took the bait. I've seen your mention of the wally dolly on the sidebar and even though I had no idea what one was, I didn't really care.

Until today, when it became obvious that the damned thing is actually your evil nemesis. :D

Dude! You're the number one hit on a Google search. You'll never escape. Bwahahahahahaha!

D said...

I actually should be happy that it draws in so many hits. I never meant for that to happen, I was just naming a post after something an Australian DP said and found out later that it was also a brand name. Anyway, Thanks for the comments guys.

Alexa Mignon Harris said...

Lowly? I believe A dolly grip is an artist/technician who creates feathered*, precisely controlled, tracking camera shots for the DP who requested them. Shots, which in turn provide visual stimulus resulting in emotional release from the viewers. Well, a good dolly grip.

*unless it's an experimental shot =D