Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Look out! Here comes 2017!

Thankfully we’re just days away from putting 2016 behind us. I think we’re all ready to move on, however, thanks to Facebook and  Google, a lot of people have gone back and re-read a lot of our posts here. I know that the posting has come to a stand still thanks to being too tired from work, NDAs and general unoriginality on our part but we’d be thrilled to revisit any topic. If you’re new here, please don’t hesitate to broach any topic new or old. Things change. Either new technology or thanks to conversations started we may have changed our minds or other’s minds. This is a constantly evolving job - hence why you can’t replace us with robots yet. We would like to stay in the forefront of our jobs and that requires discussion, either with other dolly grips or even camera operators.

Let us help you help us. If there’s a topic that you’d like to know more about please let us know either through the comments here, or on the Facebook page.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and a knowledge prosperous 2017!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Twas the night before wrap and all the through the set...

Now Fisher, now Libra, now Scorpio and Techno!
On Hybrid, on Hustler, on PeeWee and Slider!

Okay, I know… a lame attempt. That’s why there are writers and I’m not one of them.

From the team here at Dollygrippery, we wish all our new friends and old, the very best for the holidays. May you and yours be happy and healthy! (get better D!) and enjoy a prosperous 2017!

Friday, December 09, 2016


  Hi guys! I'm still here. The demands of a six-year-old and the endless hampster wheel of work and family have unfortunately cut into my posting time. However, I was sitting here drinking a whiskey and watching King of Queens and somehow found the will to check in. I'm presently doing "B" camera on a huge studio extravaganza. After that, I get two weeks off and start as "A" camera on another huge studio extravaganza. I fully expect weeks of life on a green or blue stage, punctuated by days or nights of freezing cold in some godforsaken forest. Til then, I'll have another drink and listen to some 80's music.
  I've been getting a lot of questions about the Stabileye. For the uninitiated, the Stabileye is a remote stabilized head, much like the Moviee. I did a big Marvel picture on it earlier this year. The big difference is that the Stabileye, designed by David Freeth, is specifically intended for dolly grips to move. We shot probably 85% of the movie on it (the rest being Technocrane). I actually enjoyed it. You, as a dolly grip, are actually closer to being an operator. You manually are more free to move the camera to where it needs to be to make the shot. Decisions can be made more quickly and creatively than when chained to a dolly or crane. The danger is the length of takes, especially in digital. After about ten minutes, you just can't effectively hold it any more. I wouldn't do it again without a significant bump in the rate. Anyway, this is the way the business is going. Please email me with any detailed questions. I'm out.

PS: By the way, I am really good on it. My rate is now 60.00 an hour. Hit me up! (I won't hold my breath)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Mr. Carroll

  About twenty-five years ago, I worked on my first tv series. It was a weekly crime drama, popular among the older set, called In The Heat Of The Night. We shot in the little town of Covington about thirty miles east of Atlanta. This last week, the movie I'm presently working on shot in that little town and that, along with the sudden death of one of my coworkers from that show, got me thinking...
  I had signed onto the show as an extra hammer. The grip crew consisted of an LA key, dolly grip and best boy and all local hammers. The hammers were all guys who had been in the fledgling Atlanta film industry for years. I was a wide eyed young grip, still learning the ropes as well as the politics that invariably accompany film crews. I met a future Business Agent of the local, several future key grips, and a cast of actors that to this day still all hold a special place in my memory. Of course the leader of all this was Carroll O'Conner. Most of us knew him as Archie Bunker even though he had by this time been a movie star for the better part of forty years. Carroll, or Mr. Carroll, as I called him, was the executive producer as well as the star and writer of many of the episodes.  Many of the cast and crew called him "Pops." I for some reason never did. Maybe it was because I was still trying to fit in and didn't think I had yet earned the right to call him by this familiar nickname. "Mr. O'Conner" was too formal. "Carroll" was out of the question. So I resorted to the Southern tradition of mixing formal with casual, yet still showing respect for my elders, and calling him "Mr. Carroll." Mr Carroll was the heart of the show. A gentle, friendly man, he ruled the show fairly and graciously, yet there was no question who the boss was.  He loved his cast and crew and was loyal to those who deserved it. I have many great memories of Mr. Carroll and those long days in Covington. He always had a joke or an observation. In my twenties, I was a smoker. Seeing me with a cigarette hanging out of my lips one day (I think, being around 24 years old at the time, I thought it made me look older.) he pulled me to the side and said, "Darryl, I wish you would quit those things. I smoked for years. I even had a cigarette when I was taking a crap. They're no good for you." by now, he had had his famous heart surgery wherein Joe Don Baker had been recruited to fill in for him. It's these types of moments I remember. He gave me my first dolly job.  He was a good man.
  Another person I met in those days was a blustery, swaggering electrician named Carl Johnson. Carl was a huge presence on the set. His big personality filled any room he was in. He worked hard and played hard and I learned a lot from watching him and working beside him. Carl was from the small town of Willacootchie, Georgia. He had gone to Vietnam as a soldier and come home to somehow find his way into the film business. I learned this week that Carl has left us. Although I hadn't seen him in a few years, not many days went by that I didn't think of him, mostly inspired by some saying I'd learned from him. Carl was also a good man. A big hole has opened up in the Atlanta film industry. I wish I had taken the time to keep up with him for all those years.
  Anyway, I'm rambling. I just started thinking about those days and felt the need to write about them.

Rest in peace, Carl. And you too, Mr. Carroll. I'm a better person for having known both of you.

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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Dolly Dock

  I received a cool little gadget last week that I've been trying out. It's called the Dolly Dock and it's from a company called Cinegack. It started out with a dolly grip friend of mine voicing his need for something he could use to mount his monitor and still use his push bar extension, as well as be an extra rigging point for lights, flags, etc. It has threaded holes for 3/8" as well as 1/4"20 on all sides.
One very cool feature is also that the pushbar extension can also be mounted vertically for better control of the dolly when doing a move in crab. It also features a quick release attachment for a 1/4"20 mount. It's basically a multi-tool for your dolly.

 The Dolly Dock screws into the threaded holes on the ends of the pushbar. The locknut allows you to fix it at any angle, and if you wish, the extension bar can screw into the other end.

  It comes in it's own plastic case.
   My first thoughts are that it's a pretty handy little device to have in your tool kit. As a matter of fact, we almost used it to mount a light on the dolly for the first shot the first time I took it out of the case. It's very well made, and if you like to mount a monitor on your pushbar, its the perfect thing. An inch and a half wrench fits it, although I have been advised by the maker that due to the anodizing, not all Chapman wrenches will fit it perfectly, but your personal ratchet will. They are coming out with a Chapman "master key" later that will fit it as well as other tools on the dolly.

  The Dolly Dock goes for 100.00.

You can purchase it and see more pictures of it in action at cinegack.com
 Check it out!

PS: That's not my cupholder in the picture.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Coming up for air

Just a quick intermission between shows, barely enough time to catch my breath nor catch up on sleep. It’s crazy stupid work wise here!

Next show, the operator has requested Fisher dollies for us to use. I’ll be the first to say “I’m a Chapman guy”, but I’ll also try anything -  once… I’ve done shows with Fishers which have been both good experiences and bad experiences.

The most recent Fisher experience was bad. Once again, the DP had suggested the use of a Fisher Ten. I had squeaky track wheels that I could not fix - Zep, Pledge, water, baby powder, locked wheels, unlocked wheels (not all at once) - nothing worked. I tried for as long as I could then finally the Key Grip stepped in and gently suggested a change.

I’m perplexed as to why I wouldn’t be asked what I feel comfortable using. Budgets aside, would production force one lens manufacture over another on a Director of Photography? Doesn’t a Gaffer have a preference of the manufacture of lighting fixtures? An operator be forced to use one fluid head over another? So why can’t I pick the dollies? (wow - doesn’t that sound like a six year girl whine!).

Thankfully I work in a market where there are choices, but in this case the choices are being made for me. What would you do? 
Hopefully once the dust has settled and the hangover has cleared, D will be able to deal with his technical challenges and share his most recent adventures!

Friday, January 29, 2016

OK, Here's My Explanation

Computer down. Typing on pad. I'll be checking in soon.