A colleague of mine recently sent me an email with an idea for a post. It concerned what you do when you work with a new operator who consistently thinks he has to micromanage your every move. We've all been there. You start a show with an operator you've never worked with before. As we all know, as a Dolly Grip you're already starting from behind. Most operators, especially the "A" list ones are fine. After a couple of shots, they realize you actually know what you are doing and before long you're working like you've been together for twenty years. Then there are the other ones. Usually they are the younger, more inexperienced operators, but not always.The first clue is usually the need to start asking for sideboards or offsets before you've even had a chance to decide the best way to do the shot. Next, they start telling you what surface to use, how to lay it, and how to orient the chassis. These are the same guys who say "Woof" when they want you to stop booming up during a lineup. You generally just grit your teeth and push on, until they get really obnoxious, or they realize you actually are serious about your craft and good at it. Luckily, these guys seem to be few and far between. I think there are a couple of things going on here. One is that there are an awful lot of horrible dolly grips running around out there. Guys (or girls) who have been bumped up to the position by the Key Grip even though they have no aptitude for the job. Guys who have been thrown into the position before they are ready for it just because no one else is available; or guys who are just lazy and have no interest in actually excelling at their craft. These operators have probably never actually worked with a good Dolly Grip and aren't aware of what one can do. These are the same guys who keep a slider on the dolly for the whole show because they've never had a Dolly Grip who can actually compose an over-the-shoulder. I've had these guys. I find that at some point I have a conversation with them in which I inform them that I can actually help them if they'll let me. Usually they begin to loosen up and are amazed that a Dolly Grip can actually do most of the work for them if they'll just let him. I find that I have to have this conversation before long. I just can't function for weeks on end not being allowed to practice my craft and being treated like an imbecile. Those of us who have spent twenty or more years working to perfect our skills tend to get used to being treated with mutual respect by camera operators. They depend on us and we enjoy being able to solve their problems. When you get one that immediately dismisses all that work and experience with a wave of the hand and a "Get me a sideboard," it rankles you. So that's what I do. I take it as long as I can. If it's a short job, I tough it out for the two weeks and just make it about the paycheck. If it's going to be a long haul, though, I have to pull the guy aside and have a talk with him along the lines of, "Look, we're a team. I'm here to help you. I can do that if you'll let me. Just give me a chance to do that and if it doesn't work I'll shut up, but I know what I'm doing and you don't need that seat offset."
This reminds me of a story I recently heard regarding a buddy of mine who was pushing on a big movie. He was working with an operator whom he had been with for a while but for some reason a new operator had come in and for some reason was working on a shot with him that day. My buddy missed a mark or a cue and the new operator barked at him. The regular operator, who was standing nearby said, "You realize that that guy is one of the best Dolly Grips in the world, right?" Apparently the new guy was soon gone.
For more on this subject, see my post here. Also see this. And every camera operator should read this.