I did a post a few years ago called Freeballing which talked about freeform finding a shot when they don't really know what they want. This happens when you usually have a montage piece and you find shots as they happen. I recently (last night) had a chance to revisit this situation and as it turns out, had a lot of fun doing it. This is literally when you as a dolly grip get a chance to be creative and, if you're experienced, know what they might need in editing and can deliver. The setup was a mission control type room with a main character facing a huge screen. We had a technocrane swooping around over the various desks and my camera on a stabilized head "mowing the lawn" in front of him. As the scene unfolded, my main job was to stay out of the crane shot and keep them out of my shot on a longer lens. The instructions from the DP were to travel in on an angle and then travel out on a mirror angle. as this happened, and the crane shot changed, I had an opportunity to find shots. If the crane camera was on the right side of frame, I decided to give them a left to right tighter shot, which I knew they didn't have yet.have but would be valuable. Although the DP or operator hadn't really given me instructions, I saw an opportunity and took it. After we cut and moved on, the DP came up and said, "That was crafty." I said , "Crappy?" and he said ,"No, crafty." And I knew I did the right thing. This reinforced to me the importance of experience for a dolly grip. I knew what they didn't have already, but would probably need and gave it to them.
I work in a boom town. Production in Atlanta has increased tenfold from what it was when I started here thirty years ago when we had one series and one feature a year. Now, if you do a season of "B" camera on a series and know how to put the sideboards on, you're a "dolly grip." Forget that you don't understand editing, or eyelines, or crane placement. None of that matters anymore until you don't understand the shot and five takes in, you still can't get it. As dolly grips we are more than just some monkey who moves the camera from one place to another. Often, as was proven last night, it's up to us to give them what they need. If you don't know what they need you can't give it to them.
It all comes back to what we have been harping on for over ten years on this page: Learn your craft. This job is a craft and it's up to you to learn it.
Learn your craft.