Young Camera Assistants, Grips and anyone else on set, heed these words and keep you job!!:
Edited by James Steven Beverly, 06 April 2013 - 04:13 PM.
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Sage advice for novice grips
16 replies to this topic
Posted 06 April 2013 - 11:34 PM
Interesting article, and thats how it often works, but I have a different take on it, and try and ensure (not always possible) that the movies that I am Key Grip on work differently.
For example in David Elkins case :
"I was on a union show as 1st AC, and during a setup for a new scene, the DP [director of photography]Â asked me to move the camera dolly a few inches. I unlocked the dolly, moved it, and as I was locking it in place, the Key Grip was right in my face and said, “If you touch that dolly again I’ll report you to the union.” "
If I was the Key Grip, my first reaction would be to ask why the Dolly Grip was not at the Dolly. If he needs relief, he should have another Grip standing by until he returns. I would thank the 1st AC for covering for an inattentive Grip Dept.
Edited by Sanjay Sami, 06 April 2013 - 11:34 PM.
Posted 07 April 2013 - 11:53 AM
Why thank you Bryan ! How have you been ? I am thawing out after a freezing 4 months in Germany :-)
Posted 07 April 2013 - 07:56 PM
Most of what I've done is small indie and there tends to be less formality on set, even so, there are distinct chain of command and departmental boundaries that must be observed at least until one definitively ascertains the lay of the land so to speak. The Key Grip I worked with much of the time owned the doorway dolly he used on many sets and he is somewhat protective of his equipment though he certainly would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS start screaming in the DOP's face. To ME that is crossing the line and VERY unprofessional. I can however see him speaking to the DOP privately and expressing his concerns over the infringement on his department. I also see know wrong in the way you would have handled this particular situation. I didn't even think about the fact that the dolly grip was AOL and not at his post so HE'S the one that should be taken aside and made aware that leaving the dolly unattended is not acceptable.
Of course there is always the wild factor, someone calls him away for whatever reason, there's no one near to take over and he follows orders, leaving the dolly unattended where upon the DOP, being in a hurry to get the next shot ready, again for whatever reason, oversteps his authority and asks the Camera PA to move the dolly to save time. The Key Grip sees someone moving his equipment that is NOT in his department. He quickly looks around to see if the director is wondering why the Key Grip is not doing his job but letting someone from the camera department do it and the Key Grip gets angry because it will come down on him. Toss in the very real possibility that the company could be under the gun to stay on schedule and tempers flaring can be the result.
On a lighter note, I remember a "The Making Of" sort of thing for "Faster Pussycat Kill, Kill" where Russ Meyer talked about making the movie and how EVERYONE on set did everyone else's job, the actresses were moving grip equipment etc. It was crazy but it was an ICONIC movie. It was also1965 and I'm sure you could get away with more back then.
Edited by James Steven Beverly, 07 April 2013 - 07:59 PM.
Posted 08 April 2013 - 10:35 AM
Just to be clear, I am not trying to say that this does not happen.
It happens a lot.
I just dont agree with it.
Movie making is movie making and we have a movie to be made.
Sometimes a Dolly Grip needs to take a leak.
Maybe there is a big lighting setup in progress and there is no grip available to step in.
The Dolly Grip thinks "OK, its all locked off, lightings going on, nows a good time to go."
Just then, the DP wants to move the camera, so he asks the 1st AC.
No big deal.
If the Key Grip comes and starts bawling out the 1st AC, he is not just out of line - he is out of a job, as far as I am concerned.
Everyone is a part of a team.
Now as far as this is concerned :
" the DOP, being in a hurry to get the next shot ready, again for whatever reason, oversteps his authority and asks the Camera PA to move the dolly to save time"
This is absolutely not overstepping his authority. The DoP has every right to intervene in any department that falls in his purview - Camera, Grip and Electric certainly do.
He is my Boss, and if he needs to step in, so be it.
As far as I am concerned, the DoP is the guy who can hire or fire the Key Grip.
I WANT him to be happy with my department.
I certainly dont want to reprimand him for stepping in to cover for the screw ups of my department.
Posted 08 April 2013 - 06:23 PM
Well, to my way of thinking, the DOP should have asked the 1st AC...no ACTUALLY the Camera PA to find the Key Grip and request he get it handled. Of course the DOP is the boss and has authority over the production under the director but to my way of thinking, telling the AC to do the dolly grip's job is a breach of protocol. First of all, is the 1st AC qualified to reposition the dolly? Does he know how to properly level and secure it? The reason there are divisions of labor on a film set is because each department specializes in the tasks they are given and are supervised by experts in their respective fields. As a Best Boy Grip, I would never even contemplate, for example, pulling focus on set and it would be irresponsible for any qualified DOP to even suggest such a thing.
Though a DOP is second in command, the is an implied covenant as the one in charge to respect the rules and conditions of the work done under him and clearly that DOP did not honor that covenant. This DID NOT, however, justify the Key Grip's reaction and you are right, the Key Grip should have been fired on the spot. I also agree there are times when the people on set might want to lend a hand cross-departmentally to get the job done but that should also be something that is agreed to between department heads and the DOP and/or director unless it's a matter of safety that must be taken care of immediately like a sudden wind storm, which happened once while I was on set or flash flood like what happened on the set of Don Quixote as chronically in Lost in La Mancha.
Everyone on a film set wants things to go smoothly and their work to be appreciated which is why observing the rules are important. It allows for production to move smoothly through the process with everyone knowing what is expected of them and making sure that job gets done correctly. A film production is a fluid entity and there must be some flexibility but that would be the exception rather that the rule for keeping a schedule on time and a production on budget.
Edited by James Steven Beverly, 08 April 2013 - 06:26 PM.
Posted 08 April 2013 - 11:10 PM
To get back to the example at hand, I would be upset if the first AC tried to rebuild a platform with a Techno 50 on track riding on the platform. But he wouldn't . And no DoP would be rash enough to ask him to. But to roll a dolly a few inches left or right - no big deal. I have been on set, standing by the DoP whilst we are lighting a set, where the 1st AC has stepped off set to smoke a cigarette (few opportunities for them) and the DoP wants focus thrown to the background, but there is a motor on, and he cant do it by hand, I have reached for the Preston hand unit, hanging on the dolly push bar, on several occasions and done it myself. Doesnt mean I would pull focus on the shot - we'd wait for the 1st to finish his cigarette.
Similarly, If it was a 17 point dancefloor move, I am sure the DoP would wait for the dolly grip.
The DoP will excersize his judgement in situations like these. He has the ability to excersize his discretion - its how he became the boss.
I am not saying that you are wrong, I just don't agree with it, and to a large degree I dont work like that.
Posted 09 April 2013 - 03:39 AM
Me, personally, I just figure it's better to err on the side of caution and respect the traditional established boundaries rather than cause an unintentional incident that might create bad blood, which is not to say I wouldn't help a different department if asked and given permission by my own head to proceed but to each his own. You've obviously made a career doing things your way and it hasn't caused you any problems so who am I to tell you anything. Let's just call it 2 different approaches to a the same situation that works for each of us.
Edited by James Steven Beverly, 09 April 2013 - 03:40 AM.
Posted 19 May 2013 - 11:50 PM
In my opinion no one should touch equipment that does not belong to them without premission.
I don't like people I don't know touching my stuff. Too many people break things, lose things and damage things that I either own or am going to look bad to production for it being L&D. My biggest pet peeve is people who go into my bag and take things without asking because they see it. People who don't have the manners to ask first are the ones that don't have the respect to return things. If someone asks, I have no problem helping them 99% of the time.
I've been dolly grip before and once a camera intern I had not met before that moment started booming up on the dolly cause I was busy doing something else. It was a low budget show where I could not be standing by the dolly all the time. The 1st, 2nd and I discussed the situation and they had agreed to help and I gave them permission to move the dolly when I was not there. The camera intern I had never met. I did not know his level of experience and I had no idea if he knew how to properly operate it or to do things like check for the DP's foot being clear before booming down. If he messed up and injured someone, it would come down to the question of where was I when the injury happened? If he damaged the dolly somehow, I would lose my job.
It makes someone else's job harder when they have to search for their equipment because they don't know who took it. The best crews are ones where everyone helps each other out, this includes union too, but sometimes trying to be too helpful if you don't have rapport, can make things more complicated.
Posted 20 May 2013 - 07:27 AM
The problem is that I've found instances of every piece of advice on that list being overlooked by people both experienced and inexperienced.
People like to compare a film set to the military (in fact, more or less everyone seems to like to compare their civilian jobs to the military at some time or other, to the discredit of both), but it really isn't. Training is haphazard at best and people are free to attempt to promote themselves at more or less any time. People who are in charge (department heads, comparably senior NCOs or junior officers) frequently have absolutely no formal management training and I have seen this cause easily avoidable problems on several occasions.
Personally I've been offended by people being standoffish because they thought they were following these rules. I've offered to get people coffee when I was getting one for myself, and been told I wasn't part of the right department. Okay, make your own damn drinks, who needs to be friendly! And that's on far less unionised British sets.
As to the core of it I have very little tolerance for the rigid demarcation of dolly pushing and apple-box shifting. Moving a dolly a few inches, subject to common sense, is trivial. Anybody who feels the need to be protectionist about such a vanishingly insignificant piece of labour is clearly trying to obfuscate their own inadequacies. Obviously, obviously, highly technical or safety-critical work needs to be done by skilled people, but the recognition of that sort of task is down to common sense. And yes, that means there's inevitably going to be a grey area between one person's interpretation and another's, but that's why we - humans, in general, this isn't specific to the film industry - should try to be tolerant and see things from other people's point of view.
And yes, that's hopelessly obvious social politics that we try to teach to five year olds. Why does it take unions to drag the schoolyard turf war back up again?
Posted 25 May 2013 - 10:56 PM
I think maybe some things are getting a little blown out of proportion, with all due respect to Phil. I've done nothing but union movies, most of them studio pictures for twenty years and have never seen the kind of division you speak of. Of course I'm not talking about the division of labor, but the little day to day instances of crew members helping each other out. I think people just generally don't like others messing with their stuff. More than once I've come back onto set after stepping off to get something and found that a juicer or camera assistant has adjusted the dolly six inches because they happened to be standing there when the DP asks for it. I'm always grateful for the assist. I've also panned a light or dropped a double just because I was closest to it. I've even raced electrics to do it before they get there. It's all in good fun and it has happened many times. Nobody cares. I'm not going to go off and lay banded or head up an 18k though because it's not my gig and frankly I don't know anything about it. It's more about walking in and seeing someone you don't know messing with your stuff. If I have to leave to get something and walk in and find a juicer putting on the low mode or laying track, that's an entirely different thing. Contrary to popular opinion, there aren't a bunch of union goons standing nearby to bust someone for helping out another department in some small way. I help set dressers move furniture, rotate tvs for reflections, have been asked more than once by a special effects guy to help move his fan. Union jobs do not negate common courtesy, you just have to know where the line is.
Posted 25 May 2013 - 11:02 PM
By the way, any key grip whose response to that situation is to "report someone to the union," is a jackass. I've never seen or heard anything like this.
Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:33 AM
dropped a double
Whatted a what?
And don't worry, I'm not sure much respect is due to me. If you've done two decades of big american feature films, your experience eclipses mine embarrassingly.
Posted 27 May 2013 - 09:01 AM
"...dropped a double..." placing a double scrim (1 stop) into a light.
Posted 27 May 2013 - 09:17 PM
Obviously, YOU'VE never dealt with the Teamsters.