Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Week in Review

This is how my week went (Stream of Consciousness):

12X's, 8X's, beams, track, rain, sleet, cold, night, splinter, dance floor, rope, hills, truck, jib arm, bounce, gold, candle, too many carts, Skoal, drink, boxes, doorway dolly, level, Guv', epk, twitter, dark, more dark, 250, Hampshire Frost, tent, "What are you guys doing?" move the truck, new boots.

In a nutshell, the previous list pretty much sums up most of what ran through my brain over the last five days. We have basically taken over an entire subdivision and are shooting in or around six houses there. None of them are close to the others. Great crew. Great DP. I spend most of my days in confusion switching between set grip, doing things I haven't done on a daily basis in at least fifteen years, and Dolly Grip, walking in and not really knowing what the shot is about before doing it. Still, we're having a great time and getting some really beautiful shots. I'll be back with more later.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Answers to Questions I've Been Asked...

  Here are some answers asked by various emails, search strings, personal experiences etc.

You can't buy a Fisher/ Chapman Dolly. They aren't for sale except under certain conditions involving those of you living outside the US.

If you're using a single sheet of plywood, you don't need a plastic top (unless the DP doesn't like the light bounce off the plywood)

Wedge the boxes first. Make 'em stable.

Please stop trying to wedge the crossties between the joints before I level the joints.

Don't fill in behind me until I ask you to.

No, I didn't bring the starter track. I have enough to keep up with. Pick the dolly up the four inches it requires to get the front on the track or get me some wedges. Sack up and be a grip.

No, I don't have a cupholder.If there is one in the hole I'm trying to put the seat in to set up your shot, I will throw it across the room.

Yes,  I have a seat offset. You are now the subject of my next post.

No, I do not want a clamp on the end of the track.

Get me a clamp for the end of the track.

It's not a magic vibration isolator.

No, these wheels will not mark a wood floor.

I don't know how you can become an extra. Believe me, you don't want to.

No sir, you said fifteen seconds. I timed it on my watch.

I don't know where it is. I think it's over there.

Yes, I started when he did. (I really didn't because I was checking my Twitter page).

No, I can't get you a stinger.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 48 out of 51

  Hi all. I just finished my first week on the new job. As I said on Twitter earlier today, "They didn't fire me yet."  So far, everything is going smoothly, minus the usual first week craziness as the company settles into a rhythm. This job is especially unusual for me. First of all, I'm not the "A" camera dolly grip, or the "B" camera dolly grip. I am the co- Dolly Grip under the "A" Dolly Grip and also the local Best Boy. Let me explain, because this is complicated. The DP on this movie (who is up for an Academy Award this year) has his own dolly grip who travels with him on every show and has for the last twenty or so years, including the movie he did last year in the UK for which he is nominated. This cameraman operates himself and mostly shoots off of a jib arm with a remote head. His Dolly Grip operates the arm while I operate the chassis. There is no "B" camera.  The Key Grip, as well as his Best Boy, has also been with him for many years, and is a highly respected name. He is also old friends with my Key Grip, for whom I have been pushing for many years. This show comes to town. My Key Grips talks to the other Key Grip. I go to work for the new Key Grip who also asks me to put a crew together for him and act as kind of a local Best Boy. Cut to- now when I'm not on the chassis (we also carry a Fisher Eleven for tight quarters, of which there are many) I'm stringing up twelve and twenty-bys and helping coordinate equipment and manpower. And I really enjoy it. The Key and Best Boy are the absolute best, and I am honored to work with them. The crew we have is truly one of the best I've ever had the pleasure of working with. These guys know their stuff, they work their asses off, and never question or complain. And it's nice to not always be on set and also to re-acquaint myself with the nuts and bolts of gripping. It's exhausting and a little bewildering to switch back and forth from set grip to dolly grip as the need arises, but it's a great challenge. And it's also an honor to work with such a well regarded DP. I'm always up for learning new things, and I hope to learn some new skills from all these guys. Many of us tend to work with the same Key Grip or cameraman over and over, so it's always good to get out and see what the other guys are doing. So that's about it for now. The first week was spent in the pouring-down rain and mud, followed by a day of shifting twelve-bys around to block the sun. In between, I worked on some cool shots and had some laughs. I'll have another report in a week or so. Till then, stay safe and work smart.

PS- I have a tradition here of not really ever naming names. It's not that difficult to figure out who I'm talking about, though. Many people have asked how this DP is. Here is an indication: More than once after a shot I've heard him turn to his Dolly Grip, who has been with him for many years and is a great guy, and ask, "What do you think? How was that?" The guy is a gentleman, meticulous about his compositions, and respects his Dolly Grip's opinion.That's how he is. Think about that next time you work with some jackass who treats you like a mindless  cog in his machine. This guy, roundly regarded as one of the best in the world asks his Dolly Grip what he thinks about the shot.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Date Night

  An unfortunate, and somewhat ironic, by-product of working in the movie business is that you have little time to see any actual movies unless they're late night bleary eyed cable or Netflix offerings. I hadn't been to a theater in probably a year or more before my wife and I hired a babysitter and ran out to see The Bourne Legacy, which I actually liked. Not as much shaky-cam and a good performance by Jeremy Renner made it quite enjoyable. I still haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises, and only got out to see the incredibly disappointing and overblown Prometheus while I was on location and had a free Saturday afternoon to fill up. Luckily it was one of those theaters that also doubles as a bar, so after the first plot hole, I started downing gin and tonics. It's a shame, really, because I still love the movies. I've had the great fortune of working regularly with a DP whom I admired before I even knew what a dolly grip did exactly. I just knew this DP shot movies that I really liked looking at. That he later became a friend and frequent coworker is one of the coolest things that could happen in my career.
 There's still nothing quite like a darkened movie theater when the previews come up. I still get a little excited and it also gives me a chance to see firsthand what my fellow dolly grips have been up to. My buddy Azurgrip, who helps me run this site, had been telling me about the movie he had been doing last year involving multiple Technocranes and miles of greenscreen. When I saw the trailer for Pacific Rim, I suddenly understood what he had been talking about. I like watching the results of my friends and colleagues' labor. Too often, our contributions to the final product are lost in a sea of red carpet events and award shows, so I like seeing their work and knowing what long hours and years of expertise went into it, because only those of us who do this every day really recognize it when we see it.
  On the same note, I recently managed to hire the babysitter and take the wife out for a night at the movies again. We saw Jack Reacher. I had long been a fan of the books by Lee Child so was somewhat jealous of my friend Bill Wynn when I learned he was doing it. Bill is a veteran with such credits as Talladega Nights and The Town. Billy and I worked together once a few years ago when I came in and did B Camera on some reshoots (This very reshoot as a matter of fact). We have a lot of mutual friends and have kept in touch over the years.  Jack Reacher was great. It totally captured the spirit of the books, and Tom Cruise was a great Jack Reacher, though he is physically not anywhere near the 6'5", 250lb Reacher of the books. He nailed it with attitude and an understanding of the character. Bill did a great job. I texted him soon after watching and told him what a great movie it was and what a great job he did. He probably hates this but that's what this place is for, to recognize good work. Great job Billy!