Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Endless Process of Auditioning

  "The DP was really thinking about bringing someone in. We've had some problems in the past with dolly grips and He's a little nervous," the voice on the phone says. Thus begins another audition. As if a first day's jitters weren't enough, now you've got to contend with a DP and Operator scrutinizing your every move (literally). That's one thing about this job that I never get comfortable with, the proving yourself all over again every time you work with a new DP. Usually (well, so far almost exclusively) it works out fine and you end the show with some new friends and some new contacts for future work. I'm a little more mellow than I used to be. If you read most of my earlier posts from, say, 2009, I was much more militant, railing about incompetent dolly grips making it harder on those of us who work hard to learn and perfect our craft. Now, I just shrug my shoulders and say, "Just let me know if there's something I'm doing that you don't like, or would rather do another way. I'm sure after a day or two we'll fall into a groove." What I want to say is, "Check the resume and then call these DP's and Operators. If you still have a question, call someone else." As I've mellowed, (or maybe it's the medication) I've learned to accept this whole process with a little more grace. It just goes with the job, like working in the rain or pulling out a hundred feet of track on a moments notice. I recently had a conversation with a Dolly Grip who happened to be doing a huge budget movie in the same town where I was working on location. He stopped by the catering tent to say hi one day. Now this guy is one of the best. His name is on more than one blockbuster and is very well known in the industry. He was telling me how he was having a hard time with his operator, who he said just didn't like him. "How is this possible?" I asked. He didn't have a ready answer. The operator he mentioned is a friend of mine who I get along great with, but with whom I  had gone through a rather tense "audition" process a few years earlier myself. This is when I realized, it ain't always about your skills. This Dolly Grip is easily one of the most skillful guys to ever step behind a Hybrid, yet the operator had questions about his ability to deliver. They just didn't get along. The stars, for whatever reason, weren't lining up. I think he eventually worked out the issues (and got a raise in the process). What impressed me at the time, though, was the way he handled it. He was the epitome of professionalism and calm. He just told them, "Guys, if I'm not getting it done, send me home and get someone who makes you happy." When I heard this I decided then and there to try and relax a little on my next audition. It's really not a big deal. Sometimes it just doesn't work out and it's not a reflection on your skills. It's quite often a personality thing, or maybe just a series of unlucky breaks. After twenty-four years in this business, I'm finally growing up.

This week, you get a two-for-one of two posts in one day. Hey, I'm on vacation.

PS- Don't forget to ask any questions, or leave some observations in the forum. That place is deadsville. We also have a page on Facebook. Those of you who have been tasked with guest posts are long overdue. Get cracking.

Wait...... What?

Here is a list of things I heard on set recently that made me do a double-take:

1." We're going to need a shovel."

2. "Just put him in the van and the car will jump over it. We did the math."

3." Take the camera right over the iPad. Everyone knew about this."  Me: "I didn't even know there was an iPad."

4." Put it in "R" for "Race."

5. Camera operator: "If anything goes wrong, tell my wife which hospital I'm in."

6." We need fifty feet of Technocrane track." (We were inside a garage on a fifty footer).

7. "That car's worth two million dollars. Don't even look at it."

8. "Can we get the Techno down there?" (Points at 3' dropoff full of mud).

9. "The Hustler 4 only comes with a double detente."

10. After spending forty-five minutes building a car mount, "It's taking too long, rip it off."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Murphy's Law and Stakebed Packages

  Murphy's Law  will always... no always get you in this business. If you bring everything but the vibration isolator because in eight weeks you haven't once yet used it, the first thing you will need is the vibration isolator. I'm a little rusty because out of the last three shows I've done, one has been mostly on a jib arm and I was the chassis op, one has been all handheld, and one has been 75% car mounts. When going out on a stakebed, however, you still know the basic parts to bring: Low mode, a 12" riser, standing board, sideboar, a camera offset. Plus at least thirty feet of track. The point I'm trying to make is, that unless the entire forty is going, which seems to happen less and less these days, you have a standard guerrilla package that goes with you every time.At some  point, however, you have to say, "That's it." If they want the rest, they need to bring it all, or they have to wait. Here are two things a dolly grip looks for: Int and ext. Study the call sheet. If there is an interior, you will probably need dance floor. I usually bring a couple of full sheets plus 4x4's and 2x4's and 2x8's with plastic. If you need more, they'll have to wait on it because, after all, it's a 12' stakebed. If there are exteriors, I bring three 10' sticks plus an 8' and a 4'. That should cover whatever they throw at you. If the DP wants a 100' move, he should have brought it up in the scout and your Key will know about it. Don't forget extra levelling- basso blocks, extra boxes, and shims. You will not need any of it, unless you don't bring it. So bring it all..
The Captain has spoken.
By the way, this looks like my hair circa 1985. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Check Out The Hurlblog

 The Hurlblog is a great resource for filmmakers. Written by both DP Shane Hurlbut and his wife, Lydia, it gives great insight into everything from choosing a camera, to getting along with co-workers. I've worked with Shane a few times. He's a great guy and absolutely hilarious. But aside from that, he's got a great eye and always comes up with fun and challenging shots. Here's a post he did on camera movement. I don't agree with everything he says here, but that's a matter of opinion. Check it out and tell 'em Dollygrippery sent ya.

PS: This is a completely different note, but to keep things short, I'll just tack it on here. In the spirit of "Credit Where It's Due," I just want to clarify that I (D) didn't work on Pacific Rim. That was Azurgrip, who helps me keep things running around here and pops up from time to time. Check the post signature after each post to see who wrote it.  I've gotten a few emails saying how great the movie was, and while I'm glad to hear it and can't wait to see it myself, I actually had no hand in making it. (Though I wish I had).

Monday, July 15, 2013

Credit Where Credit Is Due

There's no accolades for us. No award ceremonies. We get a pay check at the end of the day. Maybe a little recognition through word of mouth, Facebook or website like this one. The fact we didn't get fired is our reward.  "Credit at Producer's Discretion". This is a statement seen on most deal memos these days. So on any project we've worked on it's great to be able to see your name go by in the credits. (to this day, every year I still get phone calls telling me that someone has seen my name on a Christmas movie that I did 20 years ago). For us who work in network television, broadcasters have trimmed timing down that end credits zoom by with another superimposed box of previews over top, so good luck seeing your name there. But at least it's there, so we do walk away (for the most part) with a feeling of having contributed to the project.

I worked on a major studio motion picture that's just been released in the theatres - "Pacific Rim". An incredible experience in all my years. I was the 'B" Camera dolly grip. I sat for days, while they shot single camera (old school baby!) SteadiCam shots. But a lot of the time I was swinging a telescopic of one kind or another. Trying to cram two and three cameras into places that really only should have one. There was many days that I would be driving home, thinking to myself "I did amazing work today", when most days of my career have been just thinking about getting home to bed.

It is an amazing movie to see. Yes, it's Godzilla vs Robots. If you do go for that thing, and want to go see it, do check it out in IMAX 3D if you can. It's well worth it. I'm not a fan of 3D and the movie wasn't shot in 3D but I feel that it was tastefully converted. For some unknown reason, most the grip and electric crews were not listed in the credits (keys and seconds only). I'd just like to acknowledge those people of the grip dept who worked on Pacific Rim.

Main Unit

Key Grips: Rick Stribling , Robert Daprato
Best Boy: Robert Rice
Dolly Grips: Patrick King, David Erlichman
Grips: Fabian MacDonald, Michael Ohordnyk, Chris Rice, Robert Vigus, Bert Gouweleeuw, Malcolm Nefsky
Crane Tech: Bob Harper
Remote Head tech: Brian Black

Second Unit

Key Grip: Christopher Dean
Best boy: Jim Holmes
Dolly Grips: Philip "Bucky" Lanthier, Ron Renzetti
Grips: Jon Billings, Wilton Higgins, Paul Sheridan


Key Rigging Grip: Bernie Lalonde
Best Boy Rigging: Mark Greenberg
Rigging Grips: Rod Benjamin, Randy Burbidge, Cesare DiGiulio, Mark DuFour, Roland Gauvin, Ron Forward, Guy Gervais, Jim Krauter.

I know I've forgotten names, but literally everyone in the local worked on the show at one time or another in one capacity or another. A larger tip of the robot cap to you folks for your time, sweat and support.