The Life of a Grip
No matter what the career path people choose it is almost always the case that you need to start at the bottom and work your way up. This is the case for many of us film makers and those who aspire to be involved with production crews. Being a grip is being at the bottom of the food chain basically. You are asked to do all the back breaking work like moving heavy equipment around the sets and setting up all the stands and basically the most basic of basics. Sometimes it feels like it is something a monkey could do.
However being a grip can be just a stepping stone to bigger and better things. You get to be on set with all the other directors of lighting and audio and videography and all that so you are able to see how they work. While you are doing the grunt work you are still able to get a feel for what it takes to become something more important. But make sure you are prepared for anything you might be asked to assist with. Carry around extra things like clips, scrim, tape, small tools and so on. When somebody is looking for one of these and you are the guy that is ready right away with them then you are going to be looking good for future reference.
One of the tasks you might be asked to assist with as a grip might be setting up the lights. Always making sure the scene and talent are not over or under exposed. Adjusting the flaps on the lights to narrow down where you want the scene to start and end. Always try and start with basic three point lighting and if anybody tells you that it should be changed then just do what they ask, all shots are different and I struggle with lighting a lot. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you aren’t sure if it looks right and be open to advice that your lead and directors give. The more you get to know what the people you work with want then the easier your job will be.
One thing I can say that I have learned as a grip is to not get in the way. You are basically an extra hand for work and are not exactly part of the whole creative process. So even though you might want to get in the middle of everything that is going on and learn new things you might just be causing a nuisance for the director. You’re time will come for that. Let the director block out his shots the way the he wants them. I’ve definitely learned not to make suggestions when it is not my project. I’m not the one getting paid the big bucks so the director wants it to be solely their responsibility for making the calls.
Being a grip has its ups and downs but can definitely be worth the experience. You will get to know a lot of people that could help in a future production career. And if you work hard at being a good grip then you have a much better chance at landing the lead positions on future crews. Hard work almost never goes unnoticed.