Friday, March 30, 2012


  My last post generated a lot of comments, so obviously it's a subject that merits more attention. Most Dolly Grips will assist in handheld mode by lifting the camera and placing the camera on and off the operator's shoulder. My regular Key Grip has always insisted on this and I've never really had a problem with it. I consider myself "camera support" and am generally happy to do it. To a point. Lifting and placing the camera in handheld is a courtesy, or at least that's always how I've viewed it. I've never seen anything in the Dolly Grip's job description that mandates it. I've always tried to follow the British tradition of "Camera Grip" and be as supportive to the camera department as possible. Generally, I follow the Key Grip's lead. If he expects me to do it, I'll do it. He's (or she's) ultimately the boss and I'll do my best to fulfill his wishes. I'll always start out doing it as if it's expected of me until one of the camera crew gets snotty about it. When a 1st or 2nd assistant starts yelling for me to pick it up, it's over. I will patiently explain that I'm providing a courtesy out of respect, that can end at my discretion. At some point, it just became expected that we carry the camera when it's not on a shoulder, which is nowhere to be found in any union by-laws that I've ever seen. Again, I love my camera brothers and sisters. But don't get cheeky or, as my friend GHB says, you'll find yourself getting very lonely around the camera.
   In recent news, my pilot is almost over. Three weeks of handheld (which I happily carried out of respect for my operator) is almost over. After almost six months without being behind a dolly on "A" camera other than a few second units, I may be ready to jump back in. My regular feature DP has a show in New Orleans and I'm excited, for once, about getting back to it. I was so burned out after my last job that I took a few months to only do "B" camera and second unit jobs, and was perfectly happy with that. I'm looking forward to it. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Three Weeks of Monkey Work

Handheld....the bane of the Dolly Grip. I recently signed on to a pilot. Sounds like a good story, A-list cast, average money, and it is a perfect bridge covering three weeks until my next feature. I check out dollies and track with the B camera Dolly Grip, load the truck, and then find out it's all handheld. And I mean ALL handheld. Three weeks of fourteen to sixteen hour days of bench pressing an Alexa. Not much thought or skill involved. Just help keep the operator safe and try and massage my sore shoulders every night. The crew is great and the work moves along fast, but it's hard not to feel at least a little like the victim of a bait and switch. The dollies all look as shiny and new as the day we loaded them and they probably won't even come off the truck. I don't mind a little handheld every now and then. But picking this thing up and putting it down over a hundred times a day is starting to wear on me. I need a drink.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Bite Your Tongue

 This post was suggested by a Dolly Grip buddy of mine from Texas. He had worked with a relatively green operator, who, when he made a suggestion, would disregard it it, and say, "I'm the operator, you're the Dolly Grip." There was a time, in the not-too distant past, when I would have probably not taken something like that sitting down. My reaction to a situation like this, however, is directly proportional to my financial situation. As a new (and old) father with a new mortgage, I find that I'm suddenly much more agreeable and willing to let such comments slide right off me. Although I've never had a situation arise like this with an operator, I have with a DP.  While I'm a firm believer in knowing where you stand in the whole pyramid structure of the film crew, I also am not very good at being treated like a tool rather than a technician (see previous post). There are times when you just have to bite your tongue. Dealing with an inexperienced or attitude challenged camera operator can be trying, and sooner or later you will reach a point of saying, "Enough's enough." One thing I won't be is verbally abused. I may take it for a while, but sooner or later it's going to boil over. A good camera operator knows to rely on his Dolly Grip. The operators I work with regularly know that I can help them if they'll let me. They may not take my suggestions, but they always listen and are usually willing to try them. An operator who casually dismisses his Dolly Grip and has the attitude of Operator> Dolly Grip is unknowingly letting his inexperience show.  Still, if you need the job, taking a deep breath and telling yourself it's only temporary is necessary. The older I get (and more in debt), the less hotheaded I am. So maybe biting your tongue is also a by-product of maturity. I recently watched a short film on Dicky Deats, a legendary Key Grip who recently passed. He said that his favorite part of filmmaking was being part of the process. Being relied on to solve a problem gave him the greatest joy. That's all any of us want, especially as Dolly Grips. Part of that process involves knowing when to bite your tongue.