Monday, September 05, 2011

A Good Week

  It's been a good week.  I got two days on a series (A one day and B the other) and a two day commercial. I also got a call from one of my regular key grips about a movie in Atlanta in October. It's actually for B camera (the DP has a dolly grip who has been with him for over twenty years and he wants to bring him which I am all in favor of) and I thought, "Hmm, less work, same rate." So I'm going to do it.The B operator and focus puller are both good old friends of mine so hopefully it'll also be a lot of fun. It'll be nice to step away from the normal responsibility for a while. This dolly grip is also one of the best in the business and it'll be nice to meet him. It's funny that after last season's brutal schedule and workload, I still, after two months off, don't really want to step back in it yet. Usually after two or three weeks off I'm anxious to get back behind the dolly, but not this time. I don't know if it's just from getting older, a priority shift, or if the last year was just that hard. When I was in my twenties and thirties, work was all I knew and  I'm sad to say that I chased it at the expense of a lot of more important things. I haven't had but a couple of  birthdays off since 1990. Even when it's fallen on a weekend it seems there was always a  commercial to be done, and I also worked on a six day a week series through much of my twenties. The lure of distant locations, fancy hotel rooms and exciting new cities all kept me hungry to work constantly. Suddenly, not so much. I'm suddenly weary of irregularly shaped sets that need dance floors, rugs that don't come up, fifty foot track runs through the forest, sideboards that don't fit, and a lower back that remembers every Peewee I've helped carry up a set of narrow stairs. I'm not whining (well, maybe a little), I'm just surprised at my lack of ambition to jump into a feature. I'm sure I'll get it back. This just feels like a mid-point breather. By the way, Me, Me, Me, Me. I didn't mean to make this such a self-indulgent post, but I'm due for one. In the meantime, what would any of you readers like to discuss? I've had a call in to at least one of you for a guest post for a while now (you know who you are), so give us some ideas. Also, the pictures on the right are getting a little old, so feel free to send any cool ones you may have. I'll be away from the computer for a week or so (I still get email though) to do some family things and spend time with my children who are on opposite sides of the country, but will be together this week. Also, don't forget the message forum on the right of the page, which strangely gets rarely used. I see searches for things that lead to this page all the time ("used Fisher 10," "Mounting jib arm on Hustler 4," "laying circle track") but rarely any questions. So use us. We'll do our best to give an answer. Meanwhile, all of you have a safe and productive week.


I feel like I should clarify something here, also. For whatever you're doing on set, there is no substitution for an experienced Key and Dolly Grip. We can give you ideas and answers for whatever you might be doing, but some things shouldn't be attempted without someone who knows what they're doing actually present. Be safe. Learn the basics before you try complicated rigs. Just thought I should throw that in. Remember, Anything Can Happen.


  1. Speaking of forests, any tips on dealing with dollies in fall weather forests?

  2. Hi Phil. If you're talking about the cold, keep the dolly warm after wrap. I'm not sure about Fisher 10s ( someone here will know) but model 4 Chapman dollies have heaters in them to keep the fluid warm. You have to run out the boom so that all fluid is in the reservoir, and just plug it in to a power source overnight. Some guys wrap the dolly in an electric blanket overnight or use a battery powered heater. You can also get a thinner fluid installed by the rental house if you know you'll be in a cold climate. Forests in general? You can haul it around on a western dolly or if you have a Hustler 4, Chapman makes big cross country wheels that screw into the sideboard recepticles on the dolly. They make a huge difference.

  3. Another way to warm up the dolly is just fully charge it in the morning, raise and lower the arm full spped until it needs a recharge, and repeat the whole procedure once more. That's usually enough to warm the oil for a few hours. Keep a broom and some tarps or plastic around to deal with falling leaves.


  4. Up here where she gets cold in Canada I use a magnetic oil pan heater. This type of heater has a strong magnet that sticks to the oil pan. Stick this baby to the hydraulic reservoir on any dolly and this will heat the fluid in no time. There are many to choose from.

    here's a link:;jsessionid=TnNQwBy4B2hbJYQcn2swH7ndpq1X1cQpTbxmSrjpyQJYhTgQMhhJ!-1211567263?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524441888979&bmUID=1315376512335


  5. One of my favorite things about the memories of all the times we've carried dollies up staircases is the moment before we lift. All four Grips look at each other and discuss what position they'd like to carry from due to size and previous injury. It always makes me laugh when we switch sides because one guy has a bum right arm or a stiff left knee and would like to be in another position as to not re-injure their already aching bones. The discussion and sub-sequential re-organizing of the line up is always amusing and always reminds me how hard we all work.

  6. If anyone knows about forests it would be Gil ;-)