Sunday, May 15, 2011

B- Camera Dolly Grip(e).

  B-Camera Dolly is a strange, often thankless position. It often involves just "park and shoot" which doesn't make for a lot of excitement. You are expected to pitch in with the crew if your camera isn't working and they need an extra hand, while not straying too far from the set in case your camera gets called in. It's often also something of a learning position. It gives you a chance to learn the basics of how the machine works, working with an operator, and basic dolly gripping without the responsibility or pressure of A- Camera. Or, sometimes, as on my show, it's basically another "A." B-camera on my show works most shots, often moves, and on double-up days becomes "A" camera on the alternate unit. As a result, we pretty much need an "A" camera guy in that position, and I'm lucky to have that. I depend on my B- camera dolly grip to give me input into everything from laying floors to where the crane base is going. Here's a list of things that a B-Camera Dolly Grip can do (or not do) to help move things along:

1. Talk to your camera operator. Stay close to him/her. This means don't ask me on every shot if your camera is working. If I find out that it is and you're not around, I'll certainly call you and try to find out what it's doing before you get there. But don't walk up and ask me as I'm laying a floor or track if your camera is working. There's your operator, ask him.

2. Give me some input. If you've got a better idea of how to lay a floor, rig a camera, etc., speak up. Don't stand there and watch me work and wait for me to ask you to go get something. I know you're there to help. I don't need help. I've got at least three set grips willing to help. I need a dolly grip. (This only applies if you know what you're doing. If you're still learning, then learn).

3. Help me keep up with my stuff. You and I are a team. Your camera probably doesn't work quite as much as mine does. Just make sure the carts are in order, the track is all there, etc. I rarely get to leave, so stuff can get pretty scattered.

4. Pay attention. I am not going to service two cameras. I can't push mine and yours both.

5. Just to repeat, don't keep asking me if your camera is working.

6. If you know something I don't,  for Pete's sake speak up. Don't let me lay a floor for my camera and then mention that we should go ahead and extend it for yours. You're screwing up my sentra pattern.

7. Don't argue. Don't give me attitude. If I ask for something (pneumatics on a dolly, extra long offset, whatever) I have a reason. If you have a better idea, make it known and then move along.

8. We're still grips. Help the boys out every now and then. I watched a guy last year walk past two combo stands, grab his apple box and newspaper, and take them to the truck as we were doing a company move. I was carrying two combos and a sandbag. The guy was gone the next day. They help us lay track, help them when they need it. You don't have to put together twelve by's, but it doesn't hurt to pick up that stray stand and bag as you're on the way to the truck.

9. Tell the guys, "Thank you." We were all set grips once. A little gratitude for the luma beams goes a long way.

10. As we're about to roll, rehearse, and/or lay track  is not a good time to go make a sandwich. I'm completely serious.

I'm not trying to sound negative. These are all things I've dealt with (and probably done from time to time).
If you're a regular "A" guy who just wanted a break or is between shows, we're a team. Watch my back and I'll watch yours. If you're using "B" camera to learn, then learn. Ask questions. Watch how things are done. Pay attention. And no, taking the dolly class doesn't make you a dolly grip.


  1. Even though I'm not a dolly grip, I can definitely relate to you on #10. I can't tell you how much it bugs me when we're about to do a turnaround and a colleague disappears to make a sandwich or goes for a cigarette break.

  2. Great article.

    I'm lucky enough to have been partnered with not only one of the best grip mentors I've ever had, but an all around great dolly grip who accepts his role as B-dolly and does all the things you've listed. We are a team and being diligent as far as where all the gear is and loading the stake bed while I'm doing a shot are invaluable parts of being the B guy. The most important thing for the B guy is thinking like the A guy and working in as necessary. Like you said, watch the rehearsals, know if you're working, know what both shots are and how we can either build the floor big enough for both of us to execute the shots with comfort or know where my camera is going to be in relation to your camera and how we can keep out of each others ways and out of each others shots.

    B Dolly is a great place to learn, but its not an entry level position. So much knowledge about dolly gripping is essential to be proficient at this post. A and B are a team and I always think of B as the Best Boy of the dolly crew.

    I cherish the advice of my B guy and his input is not only invaluable, but his cousel is sought after by myself as well as the key grip in many cases. I'm not sure if I'd be as good of an A guy without the help and guidance of this dude.

    Lastly, when we have a technocrane, I always work the pickle and he always works the bucket. We have a great rhythm and our sense of timing as a team is unconscious. I often ask him if he'd like to run the pickle once in a while and his response is always no. I ask why and he simply replies, "Chicks dig the bucket guy."

  3. @GHB:
    He's right about the bucket guy. :)

  4. That was a good article- I'll take your advice to heart. Thanks

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