Saturday, September 24, 2016

I am a Dolly Grip

  I am a Dolly Grip. This means that I am an expert in camera movement. I have a highly developed sense of spatial relationships. I can stand an actor up and sit them down consistently. I can repeat a move down to the millisecond. I understand blocking. I know where a camera has to be to make the shot work even without staring into a monitor. If a camera operator asks me,"Can you boom up and push in at the same time?" my answer is, "Can you pan and tilt at the same time?"  I can swing a Technocrane arm around inches over an actor's head, land on a mark and repeat it precisely. That's what I do. If you can't do these things consistently, you are not a dolly grip. If your signature move is to park the dolly, grab an apple box, sit down and open a paper or Facebook, but you can't stand up an actor, you are not a dolly grip. You are a pretender. And you make my job harder .Pushing dolly is a craft. It takes years,YEARS of work. You don't learn it overnight. You don't learn it by being the only guy available so you get the job. You learn it just like you learn anything else: repetition and time. It's not about a bigger paycheck. It's about the craft. Learn your craft. Learn your craft. LEARN YOUR CRAFT. I am tired of going onto jobs with operators I have never worked with before and having to audition because they are used to working with crappy Dolly Grips. I should start each job with at least the assumption that I am a competent Dolly Grip. But because we have allowed mediocrity to be the rule, I have to prove myself over and over again to new operators and DPs. Get off the apple box, pay attention, learn blocking and eyelines and basic filmmaking or do something else. It ain't hard, we are not doing brain surgery here. It just takes dedication and work. Every job I go on, I hear stories about how bad the previous Dolly Grip was. You should be every bit as good at your job as the camera operator is at his (or hers). I started this website to uplift the craft. To teach those who are just starting out, and to share tips among us veterans. But I'm tired of hearing horror stories from camera  operators about how bad their last Dolly Grip was. Here are some basic skills: Stand up or sit down an actor consistently; Know and understand eyelines; Repeat a move consistently; Do a compound move with the tilt wheel not being turned; Repeat a Technocrane move consistently and know how to find and remember an eyeline; Understand blocking and know the general shot before the op or DP tells you where it is; Know when dance floor or track is called for; For god's sake be able to execute a basic compound move. Guys, we have to do better, or we will always be the second class citizens they already think we are.  Anyway, rant over. Drink up and stay safe.


Michael Taylor said...

Good one. Glad you're back.

Eric said...

Some of my best days operating have been with you there collaborating with me. Never once have I had to explain the shot to you, I've never had to say how I needed the dolly built. You have made difficult shots happen with ease and have always put us where we needed to be when we needed to be there. I'm one of the lucky ones that have had you there part of the Camera triangle, You, me and the focus puller, any one of the three of us fail, the shot fails, but when the three of us excel we end up making the difficult or impossible look easy. First shot I did with you had us doing a big arm swing and pickle and then ending with the head of the techno in a second floor window and it was CAKE. Like I've said to many other operators its always a good day with you on my camera. I'm happy to say I've learned from you when we work together and I'm a better operator for it. Great post my friend and hope to see you soon.

D said...

Eric, my friend, I miss you because you get it. Love you brother.

D said...
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D said...

Drinker drunk

Drunkedy drunk drunk.

Unknown said...

Thanks for explaining what it is we do! It's a very small fraternity for a reason.

Wick said...

D, another great read, thank you. I was talking with a guy (an equipment manufacturer / vendor) the other evening and he brought up that he’s hearing a lot of the mantra “just good enough” when people are buying these days. There’s a a great product / solution to a problem / person available, and the producer opts for the one that’s “just good enough” in his/her opinion. And sooner or later they run into trouble. I know I’m seeing this too with equipment orders and requests, and with the expectation that less skill is needed now that everything’s digital. It seems to be spreading more and more. The CGI stuff now is so easy, and the sensors are so powerful, there’s suddenly and genuinely a huge amount of latitude to fix things in Post, but there’s nothng in the world like nailing the shot live. If there’s a lack of craftsmanship on display, as time goes on people don’t know what they’re missing, and they start settling for something that, to their untrained eye or ear, is “just good enough”.

On another note, it was great seeing you this week, even if it was a quick visit. We’ll catch up again my next swing through town.

D said...

Thanks Wick. We forgot to take our picture.

D said...
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Unknown said...

Well said.

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