Saturday, July 28, 2012

Next Day Sober Rewrite- A Week Later

Those of you who are regular readers may have briefly caught a post I did last week entitled So You Want To Be A Dolly Grip. It listed some questions that every dolly grip should be able to answer or situations that a good dolly grip should be able to think his way out of. It was written under the influence of several Captain Morgans and inspired by a situation that I was irritated about. After reading it the next day, I deleted it. I didn't like the tone which came across to me as a little smug and a lot obnoxious, which most of you probably didn't even pick up on, but sprung right off the page at me. I deleted it and got a lot of emails and a few comments asking where it went and when I would rewrite it. Everything I write comes from experience and long hours of doing things the wrong way until I figured it out, or someone showed me the right way. There's no substitute for putting in the time and you can't learn it all overnight. I still learn things every day and am still trying to be better. Dollygripping is a craft, like any other that requires you to develop specific skills and a base of knowledge to solve problems quickly. You can't learn it in school but if there was a final exam, these questions should be on it:

Director wants to boom up from the lens at ground level to roughly eye height (or as close as you can get), what do you need? (No, it's on a dolly not a jib).

What is the inherent problem with pie pieces in a dance floor?

What are some things you can do to eliminate a track that is squeaking?

Track is on a wooden floor, the floor is popping under the weight as the dolly moves, what can you do to help eliminate the noise?

100' of track on a 300mm. It has to be smooth. What do you need? (No, Sanjay)

Crane track should always be ________.

You're doing a commercial and the company has rented a Fisher 10. What question have to ask? (after, "What's the rate?")

Director wants to pull an actor down a sidewalk with the camera directly in front of him. He can't step in the track and the director doesn't want to use Steadicam. What do you suggest?

A camera is to be placed looking directly down on an actor lying on a bed. What do you need?

Doing a haul-ass move on track with another grip helping push. You rig up a push bar on the back of the dolly. What shouldn't you do? Hint: If you do it wrong, the dolly can go off the side of the track.)

All right. There are some basic questions that a dolly grip should know the answers to. Smugness removed.

Social Media and Miscellania

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

So You Want to be a Dolly Grip? NDSR

This post is being rewritten. Those of you who've been coming here for a while are familiar with the NDSR, or Next Day Sober Rewrite. I wrote this post last night after a couple of Captain Morgans and was already irritated about something related to this topic and the end result was predictably obnoxious (at least to me). I read it three times and disliked it more each time I read it. So, I pulled it down to rewrite it. A little awkward, but I can't have something up that I'm not happy with because it will drive me nuts. Once I've taken some of the kinks out I'll put it back up.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

New GI Track Update

  Gil over at GI Track has a beautiful track system and I thought I would give everyone a chance to see some highlights. For those of you who aren't familiar with GI Track, it's a heavy duty dolly track with one innovative difference. It's capped with a PVC cover that is easily replaced if damaged. Get a nick in it?, Just snap on a new cover and you're good to go. Your track can conceivably remain in like-new condition indefinitely. I've tried it out and it works great. He also has a line that expands to crane width and can hold up to 6500lbs if supported every two feet. That's a 30' Technocrane (and we all know how much fun Technocrane track is to work with). Here's a link to a video of his track under a Techno. And  here's a link to his website that has more in depth info on GI Track and how it works. If you're in the market for new dolly or crane track and want something with the smoothness but not the fragility of aluminum track, give GI Track a try.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Things I've Heard,

The following is a compendium of some things I've overheard over the years. I am responsible for a few of them, but most were said by others.*

I've got more time in the honeywagon than you do in this business.

Twenty- five year old juicer: "We're going to need a sider on this."  Friend of mine: "I've got shoes that have been in this business longer than you have, so shut the f^%$ up!"

Why is the word "bag" not funny, but the word "sack" is?

When you get all the extras out of the door, I'll lay the track. Til then, I'm going to sit here and play Angry Birds.

To gaffer who just suggested a dolly shot- " You just make sure everything's plugged in." He did not take it well.

It's not a magic vibration isolator."

Key Grip to DP: "You're a f^%$#ing amateur."

DP: "This looks really nice."   Operator: " And it only took three weeks." He didn't take it well either.

John Frankenheimer to Key Grip: " Look through the lens and make sure nothing stupid happens."

Dolly Grip to Tim Burton after he called for a huge crane shot at the last minute: " This ain't Batman!" (He thought it was funny).

Famous Actress: "Can I ask a stupid question?"  Operator: "Better than anyone I know."

"Pipe down, Bullock!"

Operator to DP: "Do you want to step outside?"

UPM to me: " Your ass is in a sling!"

Stunt Coordinator on an insert car: "We'll go a little faster around the on-ramp and maybe the car won't turn over."

"We don't have much money, but it'll be a lot of fun!"

UPM to me: " You don't get paid for wrapping."   Me: unprintable. (We got paid).

Twelfth grade English teacher: "Your ass is in a sling!"  What is it with this saying?

"Go Slower, start later, end sooner." What does this mean?

"Low, wide and tight." Ditto. Who are these people we work for?

Specular softlight.

"That had all the emotion of a truck pulling out of a parking space!"

On a parallel (scaffolding), "Give me a high hat." I shit you not.

DP on a boom and a move: "Can you do that?"  Dolly Grip: "Can you pour piss out of a boot?"

* This is a next day sober rewrite. I didn't like the title.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Being A Good Guest

 The idea for this post actually came from something that happened this week. We were shooting in a nice neighborhood in the heart of downtown. Our trucks were about a half a block away and I was pushing the Peewee to set. I reached the parking lot of the location and noticed one of our guys talking to a neighbor and apologizing to him for the locations guy. "What's going on?" I asked. "Well," he said," the juicers put all the gas bottles for the balloon (the lighting balloon for a night ex later) in front of his house and he's worried that his kids might knock them over and get hurt. We called the location guy over to deal with it and he says he's busy directing traffic and doesn't have time." I shook my head and trundled on to the staging area. On my way back, I noticed the neighbor still standing in the parking lot. "Did someone help you sir?" I asked. "No," he answered. "We weren't notified of anything and no one has been over to talk to me about this yet." I looked around and saw the Locations Assistant (about twenty-five years old) standing in the road waiting for a car to come by so he could wave it through. I saw the Location Manager on the phone laughing like an idiot about something while this guy fumed. " I also saw a row of about twelve huge gas bottles still lined up like soldiers in front of his house, just waiting to be knocked over like bowling pins by his five-year-old. "I apologize, sir," I said. "We are guests in your neighborhood and someone should be here to deal with this. I'll see if I can find someone to help you." Seeing that the crack locations team was still busy doing nothing, I went to the Second AD and brought it to her attention and she handled it. The guy later came up and thanked the other grip and myself for helping him out.
  In our business we are always in someone else's space (unless we're on stage). It's easy to forget that we don't actually "own" the location. We are guests and it's important to act like it. I could easily envision this guy calling his father-in-law, the state senator, and giving him an earful, and then the next day's cover story in the local paper, Film Crews Have No Respect For Our City. It wasn't really my place to deal with this guy. I could have easily shrugged and gone on about my business, but this is my town, and it's my responsibility, as it is everyone's, to make the experience of having a film crew in your neighborhood as painless as possible. The excitement of it lasts a while, but can quickly fade at two in the morning when condors are cranking up and grips and electrics are clanking around with equipment and shouting into radios. I'm as guilty as anyone of being disrespectful from time to time. In the heat of battle things happen, but we have to always remember that we are guests. As dolly grips, this can translate into cleaning your wheels before you go into a location, or even putting on the soft tires to help protect the floors. Put your parts down on a mat and lean dance floor on a wall only after you have protected it with a furni pad. I've actually taken over for dolly grips who were fired for not respecting the location. Yes, it's often a pain in the ass, but go the extra mile and people will notice.
I now step down from my soapbox. The Captain is calling.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Things That Don't Suck

In order to balance out the universe, it's only right to have a list of Things That Don't Suck.

In no particular order:

You know that perfect zone you get into when doing a boom up or down combined with a push-in and the speed of both match up exactly and the operator doesn't have to touch the tilt wheel? That doesn't suck, but it's a delicate balance.

Finding the one perfectly level piece of ground in the whole state. For a fifty foot run.

The director walking up and saying,"Thank you. Great shot."

A standing board that fits the first time.

Per Diem.

A UPM who actually understands how movies are made, not just how to read a balance sheet.

Seeing an old friend you last worked with over ten years ago.

Pulling off a very technical move on the first take.

Your family showing up at lunch.

fourteen hour turnarounds.

The familiarity of working with a camera and grip crew you know very well and with whom you've done several shows.

Having your B camera dolly grip walk up at the martini and saying, "The truck's loaded, just roll it in and we're done."

A really good wrap party. Not a snooty one with a jazz combo, but an open bar and a nasty funk band.

Finishing a show in December and knowing you have another one starting in January (Or even February).

A good stand-in.

Getting rained out on location, in a really cool city, early in the day.

Laundromats with bars in them.

Night exteriors downtown when you light up three city blocks.

Getting home while the sun is still up.

This is only a partial list. Please add your own in the comments.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Things That Suck

In no particular order:

Directors who actually look over my head to ask the operator to "Go faster," "Go slower," etc. You do realize that I'm actually here, don't you?

Actors, usually under the age of twenty-five, who don't understand how the camera works. If you can't see it it can't see you. If you completely change your action or speed out of the gate and veer off on some wild course, it's almost impossible for the camera operator and I to keep up, much less guess what cockamamie thing you're going to do next. If you go from sitting normally in one take to dropping into a chair and out of frame the next, it just adds a take, and everyone who knows anything knows it was your fault. Someone needs to teach these youngsters that there's more to it than just the acting.

DPs who pick the dolly for you without actually having a conversation with you. I do not understand why they care which dolly I push. They all do the same thing. Wouldn't you rather me have the one I am most comfortable with? It's not 1975. Many advancements have been made in dolly technology and I may actually be better able to use one rather than the other.

PAs who actually try to keep me out of the set while I'm doing my job. Dude, do you hear the DP calling my name? I've done five pictures with the first AD. I'll tell him you're an idiot.

Being shushed. I'm not five. If you shush me one more time I'll flick a booger on you when you're not looking.

Steel track.

DPs, Ops who want to keep the slider on for every shot. Who do you usually work with? Where's the trust?

People who kick the track accidentally and then just keep walking like it doesn't matter. Either replace the wedge you just kicked out or tell me you did it and apologize. Yes, I'm talking to you.

Having to look for a stinger on every shot. No, I'm not going to pump it manually. It's your job. Leave me a stinger and tell me where it is. Please.

Seat offsets.

People who stand in doorways.

People who stand in front of the coffee machine. What are you, guarding it? Get your cup and move on.


Cables. Someday someone will invent a way to send pictures through the air. We will call it "wireless."

Location Managers who habitually find locations that are either totally impractical ("You can put all your equipment in this five square foot space, but stay off the sidewalk!"), or take us 30 miles outside the zone for a nondescript house with a tree in the front yard.

To be continued.....