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Getting a Grip

When the cinematographer decides what the scene's going to look like, he sends the electric department to light it and the grip department to shape it...and then some. Having one of these guys is key (pun intended).

Photo: Sean Devine

Key Grip

The key grip oversees everyone who sets up all the flags and stands, plus anything else that supports the camera. If a certain take calls for the camera to be mounted on a dolly over a track, the key grip ensures that the whole thing won’t fly off the rails. Even if the production has a whole camera department, the key grip will act as the cinematographer’s left hand man for a lot of the shots. Any issue might travel down the chain of responsibility to the key grip, so problem solving skills are a good trait for this.


Grip and Electric Department Breakdown by Sam Taybi.

Best Boy Grip

When the key grip tells the department to set up the lighting, the best boy grip makes sure the lights stay standing in the right positions throughout the shot. Like a lot of these jobs, the best boy grip might only get noticed when things go wrong. The best boy grip might also handle any administrative tasks the grip department has to deal with during the production.

Grips

A good grip can not only set up a combo stand and tripod, but also understand what keeps everything from keeling over and destroying thousands of dollars worth of equipment. It’s one of the few jobs on the set where some basic knowledge of physics and engineering will come in handy for stabilizing the rigs and lights. Being a fan of “Mythbusters” isn’t necessarily a prerequisite, but it does describe the mindset. If the grip keeps things steady, someone like the dolly grip makes them go. It’s a fun job to have for anyone who likes to push and pull things, so if any of your friends never got over outgrowing that red wagon toy, now is their time to shine. The dolly grips operate the carts that hold the camera, as well as some of the camera operators, to create those fluid tracking shots we basically take for granted. Of course, if all you can afford is a slider or some speed rails, you may not need the specialized skills of a seasoned dolly grip.


“Part tutorial, part love letter…” by Mark Vargo.

The Rest of the Production Team:

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