Well, we've almost made it through another year. The 21st came and went without incident, so I've gone ahead and lined up my next job. I may as well go ahead and do my End of Year What We Learned Post because I will need to start sobering up soon.
Here are a few things the year taught me:
1. Handheld sux. But it sux much worse in tv than on a feature. I did one of each this year- a totally handheld pilot and a totally handheld feature. Though neither was a particular joy work wise, I did meet some cool people and a new camera operator whom I really like. After the pilot almost threw my back out, I had some trepidation about repeating the painful, dreary chore. The feature actually wasn't that bad. It's the pace that gets you in tv. It was one shot to another without much of a break, but the slower feature pace allowed me to rest a little between setups and saved my back. Of course the worst thing about handheld is that for a Dolly Grip it's simply monkey work. You have no real input into the process and nothing much to offer except a strong back. But, you can at least earn some respect if you know what you're doing which leads to my next post...
2. Experience wins out. Act like a professional. Stay alert and let your camera operator and DP know you are there for them. You may be a monkey but at least they'll realize that you're a trained monkey.
3. You're not 25 anymore. It's ok to let the younger guys take up some slack every now and then. It gives you a break and lets them get familiar with handling a camera. It also gives you an opportunity to teach them about things like keeping an operator safe, looking ahead to future obstacles, and paying attention.
4. Always use equal force when getting help on a chassis move, or when you have a couple of guys moving a crane chassis. I knew this already for dollies but it was brought home on a 50' Techno move in which more chassis guys were on one side than the other. The crane, all 6000+ lbs of it skipped off the track. No harm was done. A quick application of the Pettibone set things right, but it hammered home that you have to pay attention to everything.
5. Use more of everything than you think you need when it comes to safety. Again, this is something I generally practice anyway, but I was reintroduced to the concept when I had to harness in a camera op to the bed of a speeding pickup to do an actor POV over the cab of the truck as it careened down city streets. I had four points on him, but neglected to do the one extra that I thought of, but discarded, that would have pulled him into the back of the cab. Add one nervous actress behind the wheel and your omission quickly becomes apparent. Take the time. Do it right. Do more than you think you need. No one was hurt and I quickly added it on the second take but it was a painful learning experience.
6. I actually am not that bad on a Fisher Ten. A long time ago, a great dolly grip told me that I had to be good at both dollies. I, of course, knew this but if you use one dolly consistently over the other, getting behind the lesser used one can be uncomfortable. I filled in for a buddy of mine for one day on a very big movie earlier this year. I thought he was a Fisher user and dreaded it for a week before the day arrived. As it turns out, he was using my old friend the Hybrid, so it was a non-issue. But I did get pressed into service on a Fisher Ten on a couple of other shows, and you know what? It was fine. I tend to be very particular about the boom setup on my dollies and the Fisher just isn't comfortable for me personally, but after a couple of shots I got into the groove and soon began to enjoy the difference in timing. It's not bad, just different. I started out on a Ten many years ago on In The Heat of the Night (the tv show not the movie) and had not really been behind one more than a couple of times since. The timing for the action on the arm is a little different. You have to actually do everything a split second earlier, but my friend was right. It does make you a better dolly grip. I no longer dread the Fisher Ten.
7. It's not the destination, it's the journey. Enjoy the ride. We all end up in the same place anyway, so have fun, laugh, love, don't sweat the small stuff (and it's all small stuff).
That's about it for the list.
Everyone have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Life is good. I'm not rich, but I'm sitting in a cozy house having a cozy drink as the rain falls outside. My children are safe. My wife (inexplicably) loves me, and I've got it pretty good. And I have a lot of friends, including many of you whom I've met over the years on Dollygrippery. Some of you I've never met in person, but I feel like we're old friends just the same. I will one day have a drink and a laugh with you in some bar in Toronto, or Atlanta, or India, or Los Angeles, or wherever, but till then I thank you for your friendship and raise a glass to you. Stay safe and stay in touch.
Azurgrip blew his own horn earlier for a show he did last year. Here's one of mine (although it's not as cool as his.) Check it out. Beautiful Creatures. And you get to see the back of my big head! More of the back of my head. And my actual hands. For about a half second.
I would like to reiterate that teenage witches can in no way compete with giant robots rising out of the sea, but you can see the back of my head. And a hellacious boom up. Which I F'ing nailed.