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.

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Posted on November 18, 2013, in Adventures, Productions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Not to sound overly pessimistic here, but do you think that perhaps your view on being the ‘grunt’ (in your case ‘grip’) might hinge on the optimistic side? I’ve always appreciated hard work and all that but being overly-reliable can get you into different sorts of troubles, or perhaps you disagree?

    • I’m just trying to show a little of both sides of being a grip. It is where everyone basically will start off and those things that you do as a grunt are the basic things you need to know to move further into the field. It could be easy to get in trouble if you don’t know what youre doing or arent comfortable with handling expensive equipment that doesnt belong to you. (I was that way for the longest time). It is just something that when being a grip on a crew you need to get comfortable with.

  2. where were you a grip? did you get to meet any celebrities?

    • I was a grip for a company that is now based out of springfield called New York Sound and Motion. They are basically a video commercial business that works with a lot of locals and other state businesses. I dont know if you would consider him a celebrity but I did meet MA Representative Richard Neal.

  3. What are your experiences as being a grip?

    • I worked with a company called New York Sound and Motion for about 3 months. My experience was a lot of carrying around heavy equipment (The cases probably weight more than what was inside of them) and setting up some basic rigs and lighting. Here and there i was able to operate the camera when it wasnt so crucial to the shoot but it was definitely a good experience.

  4. What is the next level after being a grip? What level do you plan to reach at?

    • Moving upward from a grip you could really try and go for anything. Lighting director, audio director, or assistants to any of the higher ups even. I’d love to be able to full out direct some kind of production and make a vision come alive.

  5. How long does one need to stay at this position before taking the next step?

    • I think it really depends on when you feel you are ready to take the next step or if someone notices that you put in the work and are willing to move ahead and become more of an assistant to a director than just some lackey. It can be all about making people know you are there and that you genuinely have a passion for what you do. I wouldnt know how to put any specific time frame where someone could or should be at the position of being a grip.

  6. What was the best thing about being a grip to you?

    • Well it is a lot of work. You are helping out from the beginning to the end of the production. So while you are moving around and setting up you can still get to see all the creative minds at work. I certainly like being able to pick the minds of the people I work with.

  7. Do they ever give a hands on view of the process of production while being handed the “dirty” work of it?

  8. What’s your best experience in being a grip?

  9. What is your favorite thing about being a grip?

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