Friday, December 03, 2021

Dance Floor Revisit

   Something that happened earlier this week put me in mind of a post. I'm sure most of you who still pay attention have noticed that posts are few and far between these days.  Honestly,  it's hard to come up with anything new after almost fifteen years of  Dollygrippery. Every now and then, though, something happens that gives me an idea. 

  A lot of the movie I'm doing now takes place on an enormous interior mansion set. The rooms are huge, the hallways are huge, and as a result, we do a lot of the shooting on this set with a 23' Scorpio Crane. It's a no brainer really. I can put the camera anywhere, and I don't have to lay a lot of track etc. This all worked out fine until one day last week when we devised a big master with several actors on the Techno, and the Techno wouldn't boot up. Time for Plan B. We threw the Matrix head on the dolly and basically did a huge dance floor shot. This of course entailed going somewhat old school and getting floor marks as well as several boom marks.  It occurred to me as we were setting it up that twenty or so years ago I would have been sweating bullets as more and more camera positions were added. I think I ended up with six floor marks and three boom marks, As it was, it was no sweat and I have one thing to thank for it: television. Around fifteen years ago I did three seasons on a very popular HBO series. And it was brutal. I had already been a dolly grip for ten years or so and had some fairly big features under my belt so I was decent. This show however showed me how unprepared I was. Every shot was a dance floor. We even did them outside. And I never rested. I would basically lay half the room, shoot it out and lay the other half for the reverse. It was the most intense training I could ask for. I was exhausted,  I got to the point that I could generally get 90% in the first take and nail it by the second. I didn't have a choice, We moved fast and things had to be figured out and corrected on the fly. This brings me to my point. For a Dolly Grip there is no better training than a dolly intensive tv series. You have to move fast, be accurate, and get it with minimal rehearsal. You learn to break the dance floor moves into chunks, because trying to think of it all in one will scare the hell out of you. The next thing that was hammered home was to let the actors tell you where the moves are. I don't mean to ask them, I mean that if you understand the blocking, their movements will remind you where you next mark is. Some of the best dolly grips in the world work in television and I was reminded of that last week. So if you are a young up and comer, don't be so fired up to get to feature world. Take a few years in television to learn your craft, After that, everything is easy.

till next time,



Michael Taylor said...

Good to see you back. You started blogging before me -- I've only got 14 years in -- and I certainly hear you on the difficulty of coming up with something I haven't said six times before.

You're giving the kids some excellent advice -- plus, doing time in episodic television will make them appreciate every other arena of the film and television industry, most of which are more humane than the meat-grinder of episodics. Perspective may not be everything, but it's a lot -- and I think it's best to do the serious suffering early in one's career.

That said, the fewer music videos you have to work on, the better...

I wish you and your family all the best in the holiday season!

Wick said...

What Michael said, including the last two sentences.

Best wishes to everybody out there, stay healthy. The way things look around the production world, 2022 will be even more busy than 2021. As an aside, this is a very good time to stand up for your rights, and to raise your rates. (I'll stop now).


D said...

Thanks Mike

D said...

Merry Christmas Wick!

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Anvy said...

Just discovered this blog, I am super interested!

But I'd like to ask more about this post, I didn't understand everything. What do you mean by "big master" ? And what are boom marks, and their differences with floor marks?
The answers are probably around somewhere, but I have to say I just started reading this blog..... I'll need time to find the dictionnary ! lol


(I hope you'll clean up the spam comments a bit)

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Hi Anvy. I know the spam is out of control. Ive kinda given up on it because the folters dont work and it just fills up again. Big master refers to the master shot. The wide shot that establishes geography and all the actors and their movements. Followed up by going in closer for tighter shots(closeups etc). Floor marks are dolly chassis position on the floor and boom marks are marks on the arm of the dolly indicating camera height.

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