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.


British Grip said...

I spent last week the same way, only with an Epic. I just kept thinking 'at least it's not a GII'.

Kindari said...

Hey, I'm a tad confused. Can you elaborate on your duties here in comparison to the camera operator? You talk about "bench pressing an Alexa" which made me think you were operating but later mentioned a camera operator.

Without the dolly, are you more wrangling cables and such? Just curious. Always learning.

Love your blog.

Azurgrip said...

Generally, the duties of the dollygrip fall to camera support - carrying the camera when the operator doesn't have it on his/her shoulder. The camera can be awkward to lift with all the accessories (Preston remote focus, cinetape, video transmitter, clockit sync box, etc). This results in a hyperextension lifts (ask your doctor about that one) which will lead to neck and back injuries.

The Grip Works said...

I love that they got 2 Dolly Grips for the show !!!
Dave - I just lift it the way thats most comfortable for me. If it messes with the 100 pounds of shit they add on to the camera - thats too bad. You are guaranteed going to screw your back - let alone your shoulder , heaving the camera in a hyperextended posture.
Lifes too short :-)

D said...

Azurgrip beat me to it.
British Grip- I've been thinking the exact thing!
Sanjay- Right on!

D said...

Just as an aside, we're also responsible for the safety of the camera operator while he's in the eyepiece (and most of the rest of the time too :)

Rich said...


I recently did a feature length in New Orleans all hand held as a 1st AC and I can say that I feel your pain. We shot Red One with Pro-Primes.

Being low budget, we had no Dolly Grip to speak of and so the duty of holding the camera was left to me.

I know it's not a film camera but for a scrawny 1st like myself, 3 weeks of holding a camera begins to work on your lower back.

Fortunately I had a wonderful Key Grip to pass me an apple box every so often. Good luck on the rest of the shoot!

I'm an avid reader and a big fan of your blog!

GHB said...

The truth is that taking the camera on and off of the operator's shoulder is not our job. It's a courtesy and even though we are there to be the camera support grip, we are not obligated to do that action. I think we do it as a courtesy and to be helpful. But it's an ambiguous area at best. I've worked for key grips who've absolutely said in no uncertain terms that I should not do it and if I do it's setting a bad precedent. And I've worked for others who say it is our job and we have to do it. The truth is that it's the 1st AC's job. And if he's too busy, it's the 2nd AC's job. I'm all for assisting everyone that needs it and doing whatever it takes to get through the day, but again, it's all circumstantial. I'm not saying I never do it. I do it for camera crews all the time. I'm on a show right now, where I carry the steadi-cam back to the stand after every shot. And when it's hand held, I jump in and grab it all the time. And I'm not complaining. Like I said, I'm always there to help and I help even more if I like and respect the camera guys. Especially when they treat me as a peer as opposed to some knuckle dragger that's there to do their job for them.

Going back to someone else's comment about handling the camera. I agree with the other person who said that you hold it however is comfortable for you. If they don't like it, too bad. I was on a show once where we did a lot of hand held and I was the designated handler of the camera. After one take, the 2nd AC came up to me and started to explain how I should hold it. I stopped him dead in his tracks and said that if he was about to tell me the proper way to do HIS JOB, then he and I were going to have a problem and he would find himself very lonely around the camera for the rest of the show. Needless to say, he didn't utter another word and I held the gigantic Genesis camera....with the deck on!....however is was comfortable for me.

Like many things in this business, it's a circumstantial grey area and it all depends on the camera crew and the key grip's wishes. I work on a TV show on a regular basis with camera guys I really like and I set the precedent early that it's their job and they handle it. And guess what? They seem to make it through the days just fine. But if I'm there spotting the operator, I grab it off his shoulder every time we cut.

D said...

GHB is also right and as usual, nails it on the head. I treat handheld as a courtesy. The minute some camera crew gets snotty or entitled about it, they're on their own. Unfortunately, on a show like my current one, which is 100% handheld, you kind of have to do it to justify your being there, so the rules change a little. I do take breaks and have even bumped up one of the hammers for a couple of days just to save my back.

JB in ATL said...

My Feature too. They even Flew in and A dolly grip. 90% Handheld. Weird. Is this a Trend?

DW said...

Funny, I am now 3 weeks away from wrap on a show that is pretty much identical to your post -- same camera and everything. Only difference is that this feature is using 2 cameras (sometimes 3) and there's only 1 dolly grip (me). It's all handheld. I think I've done about 4 dolly moves the whole time. A couple of techno days. But yes, it is trying.

And I think GHB hit it spot on, totally agree with his statements.