I ran into a situation on the last show that retaught me a rule I've always tried to work by: Do what you know is right. We were in a room with carpet and the floor underneath was clearly less than perfect. It was a dance floor shot and I called for the pieces I needed for a standard single layer surface. In the back of my head my spider sense was tingling that I was making a mistake but I brushed it aside and laid the floor. I was in a hurry and wanted to get it done and get the camera up so I'd be ready once we were lit. On the first run through all the marks with just me and the operator, it was clear that I had made a mistake. There were bumps on the joints and the floor was a little wavy so the camera was wobbling from side-to-side and it was completely unusable. The DP and the guys were in the middle of lighting so I had plenty of time still. I told the operator I needed to redo some things. I then went to the key grip and told him I needed to relay the floor. Now my key grip on this job was a veteran dolly grip of forty years. Most of you would recognize his name. He had taken the job as key because the DP, a very talented young up and comer, is the son of a camera man he had pushed for for years. So I went to him and said I needed to lay a double floor (two layers of plywood instead of one, and the tops, screwed together to form a solid base to roll on). He said, "I wanted to suggest it but didn't want to get in your rice bowl." That's the way he is. He's respectful and trusts his dolly grip to know best. I told him that I had known better but took a shortcut and made a mistake. So, in the middle of lighting, I pulled it all out and relayed a double floor. And it worked perfectly. Somewhere in the 12 years of posts on this site is the instruction, "Double lay floors on carpet." I still remember typing it many years ago. Everything is shot specific, and an experienced dolly grip knows what he or she can get away with. But I knew better and still took the quick and easy way out against my better judgement. I broke my own rule, And it bit me in the ass (well, almost).
So here is the gist of this post. Go the extra mile. If your experience is telling you to do a little extra to save yourself grief down the line, listen to it. It's the most important tool in your bag. There are a lot of times that I'll have a shot on a wood floor and the key grip will ask if I just want the tops with no plywood. I almost always say no. I would rather do a little extra work and know it's right rather than do the minimum and then fight a bump or wave in the floor and have to fix it with actors and director waiting around. Do yourself a favor. Go the extra mile. Believe me, there are few things worse than rolling toward a bump that you know is there because you half assed it and wondering if it's going to blow the take. Your work will be much stronger if you can concentrate on the move rather than wondering if that little bump halfway through the move is going to show.
Anyway, there's a thunderstorm rolling in, I've got a nice glass of wine, and another week off coming up. Life is good.
Stay safe out there,
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I have been pushing Dolly for well over 30 years and could not agree more with you. At the end of the shot, they don't remember it took an extra 10 minutes, they remember the move felt good. No bumps. I can't tell you how many times an insecure key said just lay the skins and I lobbied against that.
Thanks, Smitty. Great to have your input!
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