Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Clear The Frame!

  I opened up a can of worms with my comments about crossing the lens or standing in front of it. A commenter named Sarah asked, " When should I use crossing?" This is a confusing issue, since a lot of people do it every time they walk past the lens. I was taught to do it too when I was starting out. After I started pushing dolly I realized that it drives a lot of camera operators and DPs crazy. If you must cross, do it when no one is looking through the eyepiece, or when we aren't trying to line up a shot. There used to be a short block of time (before digital) when the operators, stand-ins, dolly grips, and AC's had a chance to actually line up the shot and see what we were seeing before the set was swarmed with ladders, grips, juicers, art department and everyone else. Now as we try to see the shot we have to look through an army and often don't see the complete shot before we roll. I know everyone has to work and has a job to do. Crossing the lens is unavoidable. Just duck under it or do it quickly if you must while we are trying to see the shot. Yelling out, "Crossing" just draws attention to it and a lot of operators will growl, "Don't say it, just do it!"  The big grievance is literally just standing in front of the lens oblivious to what is going on. I've seen department meetings, people on their phones, or people just standing around in front of camera while we are trying to put 2nd team through their paces to see the shot. This has always been a little bit of an issue and always will be as long as we have several departments trying to all do their job quickly. I get it. But it seems to have gotten much more prevalent over the last few years and I think it's because no one is teaching the importance of not hanging out in front of camera. There was a time when I would get my head bitten off for it and everyone was aware. Now it seems no one is. When I was younger I was taken to the side and many of the rules were explained to me. I don't think that's happening anymore. Anyway, I'm not trying to bite anyone's head off myself, I'm just trying to draw attention to a problem that maybe we can all be more aware of.
Now move it!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Repost For Young Grips.

This one is a repost from 2008. It's still relevant.

 I've been getting a lot of comments and emails from young grips just starting out which I'm kind of surprised about. I haven't seen many young grips starting out in the last few years and wondered if people just weren't going into it anymore. So here are some general tips from my own experience and from working with younger grips:
Ask questions. Don't act like you already know everything because if you're 22, we know you're lying and it just makes us want to screw with you.
Keep your dialogue to a minimum. Chatterboxes just get on our nerves.
Watch and know where your Key is at all times. If you see him or the DP waving their arm in front of a light, get a stand and flag ready to run in. You'll eventually get to a point where you'll know what a light needs when you see it, but not in a year.
Be on time. Better yet, be 30 minutes early.
You'll be the victim of some good natured (and some just nasty) jokes. Laugh louder than anyone. They're testing you.
Setting a flag isn't generally a two man (or three man) job.
Deferred pay is slang for "free." You'll probably do a freebie or two (I did). Treat them as a learning experience and chance to practice. Don't believe that crap about paying you when they make money. They're full of it.
The long, low paying crappy movies you slave on now will make some of the best stories and memories later. It won't last forever and no, there really isn't a difference in how huge movies are run. The pay is better, there are more toys to play with, and you'll rub elbows with bigger names, but the process is the same. It'll just take 4 months instead of 3 weeks. Now is the time to learn, while the stakes are lower. And you won't learn it all in a couple of shows. Gripping involves a lot of things; rigging, lighting, construction, engineering, camera movement, safety, and a little art mixed in. You want to learn as much as you can now so when you're on the 120 million dollar picture with Brad Pitt and Vilmos Zsigmond, you'll know what you're doing. You'll find a niche that suits you. I'm not a rigger. I can bolt truss together and build a car mount but I can't walk on a stage and know where and how the truss goes (well, I could, but just not as well as a Key Rigger.) You might want to be a Key Grip, Dolly Grip, Rigging Grip, Best B oy, or stay a Set Grip. But you'll generally find yourself gravitating to a certain area of expertise.
Join the union. No matter what your politics are, in the US at least, you'll need the turnaround, overtime, and insurance protection they provide. Plus, all the big movies are union. There's nothing wrong with low budget indies if that's your taste, but if you want to do bigger budget work, you'll need to work toward this. I was non-union for a while at the beginning and resisted, but eventually got in and my career got immediately better.
Allright boys (and girls), stay at it and drop a line every now and then.

Here's an addendum: You aren't a grip if you spend the majority of the day at the carts on your phone waiting for the Key Grip to call for something. Not too long ago, we assigned one guy to the carts and the rest stayed on set. Now, it seems the entire grip crew can be found vigorously Facebooking at the carts while the Key and Dolly Grip are on set. You aren't grips, you are gofers. Once you learn lighting, rigging, set discipline, blocking, and rudimentary camera rigging, you can relax a little. Here's a tip: you can't learn those things in a couple of years. Get off your ass and learn the craft. Or you don't belong here. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Dolly Grips and Camera Department Safety

  Here's a hot button issue. A friend of mine asked me to weigh in on this one so here it is. As a dolly grip, I have always considered myself the last line of defense for the operator. This means that I put myself in danger for my operator. I never leave him alone unless a stunt brother takes over  This means that for every effects shot I go to the effects coordinator and ask about safe distances, eye and ear protection, or any cover that camera may need. This means that I talk to the stunt coordinator and ask if a camera position is safe. This means that I don't take "No" for an answer and I stake my reputation on the safety of every shot. The way I look at it is that part of the reason I am there is to say "No" when it is called for.  I take responsibility for their safety. That's how I was taught and that's how I operate. If I say "no" to a particular setup and I am ignored, I have the prerogative of going to the 1st AD and saying," They won't listen. I think it's unsafe. I divorce myself from the shot. I'll be on the truck but I want it on the record." Granted, this has never happened to me personally, but it is the only power I have. I take the safety of my camera department very seriously and will go to bat with the 1st AD or the director if I feel it is unsafe.
The Captain has spoken.