Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Art of Dollygrippery.

On set the other day when the topic of "teaching the art of Dolly Grippery" came up. I also bring this up as I noticed that Local 80 in LA is running a course, which I'd love to take, however, I'm on the wrong coast right now.

SteadiCam has options for courses (Maine, thru SOA in Philly, Malibu Classic, etc) but we on the whole don't. Pushing dolly was something that I was thrust into. I had no "teacher", just an operator screaming at me. I started with a real dolly, not a doorway or some plywood with a stick, but an Elemack Cricket hydraulic (without the cable boom extension). Now a boat anchor, but back then a workhorse, as most productions couldn't afford the "new" Pee Wee I.

Most of the stuff I've learned has been the common sense stuff ie: put marks on the inside facing the shot so as not have to look away from the actors you're leading or mark the front tires if there's any chance of dog tracking, etc.

But trying to teach the "feeling" is another side of the coin. Having rhythm is a big thing and it follows in to timing. Example: I know for a fact that if I'm faced with a difficult stand up, that most times, once I see the actor start to get up, I'll actually close my eyes, knowing to stop on the height mark only by knowing how long it takes the boom to go up when I've got it open a certain amount. I've tried to fight it, but most times instinct comes into play and overides.

Just learning to walk is another. How to avoid surges while stepping over track and wedges. How not to go insane trying to make a 2 foot move last 2 minutes. Or on the other hand, how not to make a nine foot move on an 8ft piece of track.

The feeling of nailing a complex move is always a great high, one that you'll most likely not share with anyone on set (other than the camera operator who expects nothing less from you). Also knowing when a shot falls apart and knowing how to fix it.

I've kinda gone all over the place here but one can learn to lay track; can one "learn" to push the buggy? Now Grasshopper - snatch the wedge from my hand...


D said...

Nice one my friend!

Emilio Mejia said...

"Now Grasshopper - snatch the wedge from my hand..."

Great line! I just started reading your blog and am catching up on old posts. You give great advice. I'm a film student right now so I'm soaking up all of the knowledge you have to teach. Thanks for posting.