Let's talk about something that we all face every now and then as professional Dolly Grips- the Fill In Day. Lately, as I'm between shows, I've been getting calls to fill in for Dolly Grips who want to take days off. I've done days on everything over the past few years from Bones to Mad Men. Over the past couple of weeks, the calls came so frequently I've had to turn down days (I am on vacation after all, and have an extensive "honey do" list to complete).These days can be your saving grace as an out of work Dolly Grip. Dolly Grips on shows hate to take days off (in general). We understand the intricate balance between Camera Operator and Dolly Grip and don't want to upset it. I always feel guilty about doing it, but as a friend of mine said long ago, "Life intrudes." Sometimes you have to do it, and it is a big relief to have a good Dolly Grip available who can step in and make it as seamless as possible. Luckily, most of us know each other and who we can trust not to come in and totally change around the settings on our boom controls, or have the Key Grip say,"who was THAT guy?" when we return. So, if you have a good reputation, you can actually find a nice little niche as a temp Dolly Grip, working two or three days a week just filling in on second units or days when the guy just wants a day off.
Here are some simple rules:
Don't try to be "Super Day Player." If you're filling in for "B" camera, you have a lot of spare time. You may be tempted to race in every time something is called for just to eliminate boredom and justify your presence. The guys have a rhythm. Don't upset it. Let them know you're available to help them tie on that 12 x 12 and then go have a seat on an apple box.
Do what you know. If you're "A" camera, it can be a little stressful being thrown in among a tightly knit group. You don't know the system, you don't know the MO. Do what you know. If you think you need a floor, lay it. Ignore the DP saying, "You need a floor for this?" I did and it worked out fine.
If your dolly is tuned to someone's specifications and you can't find "up" to save your life, look for an alternative. I did a day on a show where the Dolly Grip had a dolly specially tuned to his preferences. After I blew four takes on the first shot, I switched it out for the "C" camera dolly we just happened to have on stage and everything was, well, not fine, but better.
Try and put everything back as you found it. You'll want the next guy to do it for you.
Remember, your goal is to have the Key Grip say to the Dolly Grip when he returns:" You want to take next Friday off?" (OK I'm just kidding).
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I dislike day playing, period. But day playing as a dolly grip can be a real pain in the ass as you've stated. You don't know where any of the gear is, you don't know how anyone likes to have things done and almost for sure, the operator is gonna treat you like you've never touched a dolly before. Unless you know the people it's usually just no fun. The other funny thing like you said is not only do you not have your dolly, but you may be stuck with a dolly that you really have a hard time operating and no one wants to hear about the differences in the dollies and how you're used to the other kind. You're expected to just roll with it...be an expert and no one wants to hear otherwise usually. I recently took over a show for a guy who left and inherited his dolly choices. Talk about being thrown in the fire. I looked at it in a positive way and now I'm getting used to it and finding the good things about it as opposed to pointing out it's short comings. It certainly has been challenging...
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