Friday, July 18, 2008

So you wanna work in the movies?

I used to work with a guy that supplemented his day job by moonlighting as a grip on film crews in New York City. It may sound glamorous, but it's not. Grips do a lot of the "grunt work" on a movie set, which often involves supporting the lighting and camera departments -- but don't confuse them with the gaffer who's in charge of the lighting. The tools of the trade include a hammer, flashlight and walkie-talkie. While the actors are sipping Perrier in their trailers and the director is huddling with the DP, the grips are doing the heavy lifting. If you're a hard worker and quick learner you might eventually move up the chain of command to key grip or best boy grip.

According to Wikipedia there's more than one theory as to the exact origin of the term grip:

The term 'grip' dates back to the early era of the circus. From there it was used in vaudeville and then in today's film sound stages and sets. Some have suggested the name comes from the 1930s-40s slang term for a tool bag or "grip" that these technicians use to carry their tools to work. Another popular theory states that in the days of hand-cranked cameras, it would be necessary for a few burly men to hang on to the tripod legs to stop excessive movement of the camera. These men became known as the 'good grips'- as they were constantly being instructed to 'keep a good grip on the tripod'.

I enjoy the last explanation the most. Most of the work done by the grip crew is before the camera rolls. Here's a time-lapse video of a crew building a track for a camera crane.

All that work for a shot that will last only a few seconds in the finished film. Let's hear it for the grips -- the unsung heroes of moviemaking!

1 comment:

David said...

Wow, I always wondered about the grips-- I usually wait for them to come up in the credits at the theater, and then pretend I recognize their names and know their other films...