Thursday, December 24, 2009

This Week's Television Dolly Award Goes To....

The Middle. I watched this show kind of by accident and, aside from it being an enjoyable show, immediately noticed that the dolly was in the hands of  someone who knows what they're doing. Booms without topping out, really nice parallels with actors, and a steady hand. Normally, I wouldn't notice on a show like this (kind of a single camera sitcom in the vein  of  Malcolm in the Middle, although the work on Malcolm was also stellar) but it stuck out immediately as the work of someone who knows their business. IMDB lists Mark Pickens, a veteran Dolly Grip as the pusher. Nice work, Mark.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas!

And Happy Hannukah! We're down for two weeks and Dollygrippery would like to wish Happy Holidays to all our readers. We've somehow made it through another year of: mud, rain cold, heat, warped plywood, crappy track, finnicky actors, staircases, misplaced carrying handles, clueless directors, crane weights, smashed fingers, tightassed UPMs, infuriating contracts, crappy ratchet straps, bad coffee, lunch in parking lots, steep slopes, luma beams, flat tires, crying babies, late dues, stolen tools (and stolen cranes for some of us), tiny sets, narrow doors, rooms that are 15' by 11', extras in the way, PA's in the door, backlights on the frameline, stills photographers on the dolly, and 9 hour turnarounds. These have been offset by: great camera operators, sweeet arms, well laid floors, cool directors, car rigs, insert car days on the tailgate, funny actors, challenging crane shots, box rentals, per diem, smart UPMs, really good Key Grips, really good Best Boys, beer, great Grip crews, outstanding DPs, Libra Head techs, Technocranes, medics, electrics with a stinger (and a good joke), coffee trucks, wrap gifts, Ipods, stand-ins, paychecks, vacations, and new friends. Thanks to all of my Dolly Grip colleagues around the world. It's a pleasure to be in your company.

PS- I forgot to add "understanding wives."

Have a safe and Happy Holiday Season!

PPS- I have spoken to several Dolly Grips over the last few weeks who read the site but are reluctant to post. Please don't be reluctant to comment! I never wanted  Dollygrippery to be all about me. I wanted it to be a place where we all can communicate and share tips, stories etc. Also, if you have an article you've written or a list of tips etc., email it to me and you can have a guest post. Speak up!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Prep Days

We're about to start our third week (in a split, no less) and the first one was pretty tough. What made it tougher was the lack of enough prep. I got one day. One (10 hour) day to prep two dollies and make sure all the parts were there, set up all my carts, make sure I have all my little doohickeys that I need, and put an unfamiliar dolly through it's paces. My B Camera Dolly Grip came in on his day off just to help check in the PeeWee and that helped. But after he left, it was just me. Thankfully, he had already gone through all the lumber and track earlier, so that part was done, but by the time I left Chapman and got back to the stage, there was scant time left to go through it all, prep sliders, change out wheels, and all the other little things that make Day One go so much smoother. On top of this was one really big poke in the eye- I didn't like my dolly. And it was the only one in the shop. There were over 70 something other Hustlers already rented out and I had the last one. The problem-by now a familiar one to my readers- no feather in time on the "up." The amount I had to crack the arm before it was already moving too fast was way too small and unless I cracked it painnnfullly slowly- it just started with a tiny hard start. So, the tech (who's always gone above and beyond for me) tore it down and tried to tweak it and succeeded in getting it much closer to acceptable, but I was still doubtful. The fact is, they just didn't have anything left, and my order was called in later than anyone else's. Now let me say first of all, that Chapman has ALWAYS done whatever it takes to make me happy. They've flown techs in to backwoods Mississippi in the middle of the night and torn a dolly apart on the tailgate at lunch to make the arm right. I think this was a case of not enough prep, and a last minute approval.
 I then stood around the shop while waiting on approval to add on a 3' camera offset....for two hours. So, once that was done, I left and went to the stage to try and get done what I could.
  Once the shooting started, I realized the arm wasn't going to cut it. I had to think about every boom up I did and conciously micro manage the start to keep it from jumping- a killer on the timing. After a quick phone call, a new valve was brought in and installed and now the arm is sweeet. Anyway, this all got me thinking of the importance of prep days and what problems can arise from not having enough time just to make everything right. Features are usually no problem. They generally give at least two days and I've had as much as a week before. But a crappy half day after standing around at the shop all morning just left me in a really pissy mood all week as I tried to remember where things were and trade out things I didn't need while trying to get an uncooperative arm to work right.
I know, I should be thankful I'm working, and I am. I just don't like being shortchanged and disorganized the first day.
 A year or so ago, I posted a list of things to look out for when checking out a dolly. I would like to hear some of the things you all look for on prep days.