Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Here They Come...

Aaaaand it's a boom town.
   I am based out of a city other than LA. Have been for over twenty years, except for a period of six or seven years when I lived in Los Angeles. When I left this town, I had spent well over fifteen years doing an endless string of tv movies, miniseries, and commercials, sprinkled with the occasional big-budget film. I was lucky enough to start out early with a couple of Key Grips who were well established and did higher budget work when it came to town. Then, it dried up. The lure of a favorable exchange rate and a phrase which I became very familiar with-Canadian tax incentives- meant making the choice between getting a job at Home Depot or making the trek out West a reality. I didn't really have a choice, in my mind. I had been a grip since I was nineteen and had few skills that would translate into a career that didn't involve digging or pushing a wheelbarrow at eight bucks an hour. So, with a rarely used Local 80 card, I made the move to California. When I left, I pretty much knew everyone involved in the business in this town. There were the up and comers, like me, and the old-timers, who were the generation before me. Then Atlanta took off. Like a rocket. Sensing where the industry was heading- I wanted to move back home and I didn't want to do tv anymore- I made the trek back, family in tow. Now, I don't know anybody. Everyone is 22 (or seems to be). Where I was once the youngest guy on set, now I'm one of the older ones. So in the spirit of now being one of the older ones, I have a few words of advice, same as they once did for me:

Learn to tie a f^*%ing knot. Learn it. A grip needs to know four basic knots- clove hitch, trucker's hitch, bowline, and square knot. If I have to spend more than a minute (60 seconds) untying a knot, I'm going to cut it. If you want to get fancy, that's fine. I myself went through a sheepshank phase, but don't be an a-hole.

Realize that this could all end next month. Right now, you're riding high. Jobs are plentiful and if one doesn't work out, well, you can just move on to the next one. You weren't here when we were scrambling for every job we could get; the twenty hour- day music videos, the crappy Hallmark movies. You don't want to move the carts? I don't want to hear it. Move the carts. It's your job.  All you will have when this ends-and it will- will be the reputation you make right now. When jobs are once again lean, I will get yours. And I won't lose a minute of sleep over it.

Keep your mouth shut. You're not Super Grip. You can't learn everything about this job in two shows. I've been doing this for twenty-five years and I'm still an idiot. Ask questions.

Don't tell anyone you're the best "anything" in town. You're a half-wit.. We still tell stories about the "best dolly grip in New Orleans." According to a friend of mine, he came in on "C" camera on a show. He lasted one day until he kicked the boxes out from under the track and ramped the dolly down it. Woops. The track is only a hundred dollars a foot. Next.

Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. It ain't rocket surgery.

For god's sakes, learn how to wrap a lamp.

Sometimes, unfortunately, grips have to pick up heavy stuff. Good natured grumbling is fine. Sometimes there is an easier way. But sometimes, you just have to grab some steel and lift. Don't spend ten minutes yakking about it, just do it. Your Grandfather would be ashamed.

Thus endeth the lesson.

The Captain has spoken.



The Grip Works said...

Ha ha ha ha !! I love your Captain posts. You should co write a book with The Captain !!

Wick said...

Good words. Ah, the sheepshank. And "The best--- in town": A guy once told me, in a bar, in the hope of getting more work from me, that he was the best remote head op in a certain city. I replied "You're also the only one. If there were two, you'd be one of the best, if there were ten, you'd be in the top ten." He still didn't get it.

pechurini said...

Excellent post that sounded so much like my career, with the exception detour from gripping, to camera. Eventually a busy DOP, my grip days made me better. I totally agree with your statements.
I might add:: turn off your phone, don't eat or drink during a sync take, ever choked and coughed ruining a perfect take? Don't talk endlessly and learn to tie a slip bowline, the best knot ever.

Keep up the good comments,
W Pecchi, SOC

Michael Taylor said...

Right on, Brother D, right fucking on...

etc said...

Loved the knot blurb, best laugh I got all day. I hope when I'm in GA next year I don't disappoint anyone with my knots and make the fool of myself.

Linda B said...

Glad to have you back in town D! We need more folks who can tell it like it is, because they actually walk the walk instead of just talking the talk!

Welcome home!

Anonymous said...

Also: a leatherman is a novelty, not a tool. Grow a pair and carry real tools.