I arrive at the backlot at a large metropolitan studio at 6:30 am, tired because I worked a 60 hour week, slightly edgy because I know absolutely no one on the crew, and pissed because it's a Sunday. I take the waiting van from the parking structure to catering and quickly wolf down a bowl of oatmeal and a non-descript muffin. The air is slightly chilly this early and I shiver as I find the still-closed grip truck. I am a fill-in B-camera Dolly Grip.
My friend Jerry had called me last Thursday and asked if I could fill in for him on Sunday for a splinter unit he was pushing B- Camera on. As I am already in the middle of a rather difficult tv show, the last thing I wanted to do was take a B-Camera job, especially on a Sunday. Now, you have to know that Jerry is no ordinary B-Camera Dolly Grip. In real life, Jerry is a Key Grip who does very big movies with temperamental directors, DP's whose names sound vaguely European, and lavish catering. I have turned Jerry down for the last two jobs he's called me for because of previous bookings and my IMDB page is much the poorer for it. He is also a great guy and a truly phenomenal Key Grip. So, I told him if he couldn't find anyone else to do it, I would. I congratulated myself on my ability to be caring and selfless, as well as clever. Then, secure in the knowledge that in a town lousy with Dolly Grips, someone would take the call, I promptly forgot about it and went on about my business. Then Friday came and I noticed the text message recieved light blinking on my fantastically stupid Blackberry. "Couldn't find anyone to do it. Can you?" My heart dropped. But, I resigned myself to it. I couldn't turn this one down. If you turn down too many the calls stop coming.
First impressions: I knew absolutely no one on this crew. Ok, I did know the A- Camera Dolly Grip in passing and by reputation and we had mutual friends. Oh, I remember the Key Grip. Same deal, though I had worked with him before. A nice guy. The rest? Never seen 'em before in my life. I shake hands with the guys, mumble a "Nice to meet you" and unload my Peewee from the truck. Next came a whirlwind of track laying, over-holding, helping the A -Dolly Grip build a deck for a dance floor, and then, at the 8 hour mark, a company move. It went by in a long, harshly sunlit blur. It's always a little discomforting to work with a completely unfamiliar crew. They all know each other. They all know where the extra wedges and the turnbuckles are. They all have nicknames or call each other by their last names. I on the other hand feel a little lost and not a little addled. Between the long week, little rest, cumulative burnout from endless work, and just being tired of movie sets in general, I'm more than ready for this day to end, and not a little relieved when the last half of the day consisted of mostly A- Camera only shots. I had a 6:30 am call on Monday and wanted to get home in time to get at least 8 hours of sleep. At hour 16 I began to realize that tomorrow was going to suck even more than my most fevered dreams could even approach. Finally, they decided to cut the last scene and after thanking all the guys, exchanging phone numbers with the A- Camera Dolly Grip (I had lost his in a phone that I washed in a washing machine a while back) I wearily headed toward the parking structure.
The next day, running on three hours sleep I- yelled at the camera operator (twice), barely restrained myself from yelling at the DP and getting fired, drank too much coffee, and went through a whole tin of snuff. Was it worth it? Well, in the process I also- helped out a guy who needed it, hopefully earned myself a little more time in the boss' s phone list, met some cool people who are really good at what they do. Oh yeah, I made a little money in the deal too. One thing I've learned is that as bad as it sucks now, that check next Thursday tends to make it all a little more worthwhile. Thanks, guys for the opportunity. It was a pleasure meeting and working with you all. Now, I've got to go apologize to my camera operator.