Friday, August 29, 2014

Eyelines Revisited

  I taught a dolly class for our local last Saturday. We had a great crowd and at least this time they were all grips (the first one I taught consisted of mostly people with little or no set experience and, strangely, a wardrobe lady. I was happy to have all of them I just thought it a little premature to be taking a class on dolly when they hadn't even put in any time as a set grip). I any case, it was a good group and several of them displayed potential. We briefly touched on eyelines for crane marks and it got me thinking that it may be time to revisit this subject. I've been asked several times about lasers on the bucket. Most here know my views on the subject: Bad Idea. When you are swinging around a fifty foot arm, your eyes need to be on that camera, not only to see what the actors are doing, but to keep you from doing embarrassing and potentially dangerous things like decapitating extras or slamming the camera into low hanging obstacles. I don't have a problem with using lasers to get back to number one or make it quicker to get to number two to look at something. But if you develop your eyeline skills, the fact is, you just don't need them. By eyelines, I simply mean finding an easily distinguishable point on the head, or camera and lining it up with both a vertical and horizontal point. For instance, you may find yourself at a number one which is directly up from a light pole, and horizontally lined up with the roof of a nearby building. This gives you your longitude and latitude for quickly finding it again. The only thing is, your eyes have to be in the same spot in relation to the bucket for this to work every time. I always place my head just off the corner of the handrail on a Technocrane. It may take a while to get into this habit, but now I do it without much conscious thought. Going to number two? just head over until the matte box is directly in the lower left hand corner of that window. Eyelines also keep you from constantly erasing and remarking the floor as the shot changes. You just have to develop a memory for relationships with objects to the camera. It takes a while (or it did me) to develop this on a consistant level and be able to quickly spot horizontal and vertical references. But once you do, you will find that setting up shots and changing marks happens a lot quicker and without as much drama. Give it a shot, and turn off the laser.

  By the way, I would also like to thank Bill Wynn for stepping in and helping out with the class after I worked all night and was a little bleary.

  I'll try not to go so long between posts next time. I'm just a little snowed under with stuff.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Track Laying: A Primer

  Ok, so if you search over the last few years of this blog,you will find a few track posts. I think it's time to revisit this.  Mainly because I seem to be working with a lot of young grips lately who don't know how to do it. Track laying is the most basic of grip jobs. It's literally the easiest but creates the most stress. Everybody calm down. Track laying is not a great mystery. Here's what you do. Lay it out. Leave four feet for the chassis on whichever end it's on,. I connect it all together at this point, but some don't. Find the highest point on the track. Whichever side it's on is now called the HIGH RAIL. All that matters is that you bring the track up level with THE HIGH RAIL. Don't fill it yet. All that matters is the joints (where the track fastens together) and the ends (the ends). Then go side to side and bring the low rail up to it. That's it. That's all there is. Now sometimes you go LAY OF THE LAND. All this means is that it is still straight, but not level to the world (Earth). La y it out. Find the highest point. Get down on your knees and sight down it and make it straight to eye. Then get a level and go side to side at each joint and bring each joint up level with the high rail. That's it,  Don't fill it until the dolly grip says, " Pack it." And that's all there is to it.
The Captain has spoken,
Lay it straight,

Saturday, June 07, 2014

It's June Already

  Hi everyone. It's been a while and I apologize but it's been a madhouse around here. Between the work, a three year old son, a daughter starting college, a wife, three dogs and two cats, and an aquarium full of beetles that all need attention, I have little time or energy to devote to the site. Oh yeah, I have to cut the grass too. The last figure on the logo for Dollygrippery should be a guy pushing a lawnmower. I'm now in the midst of a new tv series which I shall leave next week to start a forty day movie for HBO.
  Now, I have a couple of orders of business to get out of the way. A website called Talenthouse has contacted me and asked me to spread the word about an offer they are presenting in conjunction with Spotify. You make a video for Spotify showcasing the power of music and you can win stuff. The details are at this link. Sounds like a good deal. The winner can get 12 months of Spotify Premium, a paid media campaign, and up to six large in cash. Check it out.
    The next thing is an interview I did with The Anonymous Production Assistant in which I discuss my languishing career, the danger of wearing flip-flops on set, and how to become a Dolly Grip. Also, I use the word "generally," a lot. Like, a lot. You can also learn how to talk Southern. It's at this link. While you're at it, check out the interview with my pal, Michael Taylor from Blood, Sweat and Tedium, here.
  I know that there has been a paucity of tech talk on the site lately. I plan to get back to it soon, when I have the time to give it the attention it demands. I don't want to half ass it at three in the morning so I'll wait until I have the time to devote to it. Also, as always, give me some ideas of what you would like to see. Ask questions or if you have an idea, offer to guest blog. Help me out. All right, I just got in from a split day on a Friday so I'm done.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Holy Sh&*t!

I just looked up and it was May already. I know I haven't been very good about posting lately, but.....I have no excuse. In the last month I've done an entire movie, part of a tv series, and then come back to finish a movie I started the year before, so it's been a little crazy. In between this I've graduated a daughter from high school and tried to wrangle a three year old boy who will not be tamed. Next, I start a small movie in June followed by a bigger movie in mid-June. All this really leaves little time to post, but I will try.Here's the short of it- Always have a low mode, always have a riser, flat stock sux, keep an extra Chapman bolt around, check for flares, not crazy about the Hybrid 4, although I love the new rotating offset, remember the rule of thirds, know your eyelines, etc etc etc.

Friday, April 25, 2014


  It's been a while, guys. I'm sorry. I've just had so much going on and to be quite honest, the whole Sarah Jones situation just kind of took the interest out of it for me. But, I'm here now and a post was suggested to me by my Best Boy the other day that got me thinking. I was slated to start a movie a while back. It was a huge (I mean really big) studio movie and the DP had some reservations, having not worked with me before. I got a call from the operator who said that they had not been particularly pleased with their last two dolly grips and he asked if I could possibly use a laser on crane shots. I'm a strict sightline guy. I have no time for looking down at laser marks when I'm swinging a crane arm (especially a Technocrane) around. I've done it the same way for over twenty years and I've done fine. Being the upstanding, set-in-my-ways dolly grip that I am, I said "absolutely," (Hey, I've got a daughter starting at Florida State). I tried it for about three days and then abandoned it and you know what? The DP didn't notice. Guys, sightlines work. You can't watch actors and camera while you are swooping around and also glance down at a laser mark on the ground. Trust yourself. Use the Force. If you have any sense at all of where the camera should be, you don't need them, If you don't have a sense of where the camera should be then it's time to develop it. Lasers, while they have their place and are a tool in your toolkit, can become a crutch. Let them go. Plus, they just show everyone how far off the mark you are. The Captain has spoken.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Fisher Open House

  It's that time of year again. Every year JL Fisher hosts an open house at their facility at 1000 W Isabel St in Burbank. It's a great time to meet with old friends and make new ones over barbeque and beer (Beer!). It's one of the few days that is set aside for Dolly Grips alone. They put on a great event and really pull out all the stops. Please try to attend this year. It's on May 17th from 9AM until 4PM. You won't regret it. Tell Frank I said Hi!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


  Thank you to all who have sent their slates in to Slates for Sarah. You are now part of an industry-wide movement that has covered the globe in just a few days. Together, we can ensure that Sarah's death wasn't in vain. Let's keep it going.

  I attended a Celebration of Sarah's Life last Sunday, organized by Local 600. The room was packed. Grips, Camera people, electricians, and others from all departments of the industry, along with her family, there to pay their respects. The love for her was palpable.The sense of togetherness and resolve in the room was something I have never seen in my twenty-five years in the film industry.  Slate  pictures continue to pour in from around the world. We all stand together and say, "Never forget, never again." If you wish to be a part of this, please visit and take the pledge. They aren't going to look out for us. We have to look out for each other.

  While you're at it, visit my friends at Stop and Care.

  I will return with another post shortly. I'm working long days and with everything going on it didn't seem right to return to business as usual. Thanks again.

We miss you, Sarah.....