Have you always wanted to work on a film set but have no desire to become an actor, a director or a producer? Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a grip, a gaffer and a best boy? If you aren’t afraid of heights, are able to lift at least 50 pounds and have some practical handyman skills, a career as a movie grip might be the right career choice for you! Sounds interesting but you don’t know much about what a grip does, much less how to become one? No worries, the team at TomCruise.com is here for you!
Like our previous Aspiring2ActWriteDirect Guides, the TomCruise.com team has gathered practical information about the most popular professions in the entertainment industry. We have organized our extensive research to provide you with the most helpful information we could find to help you launch your career as a grip, including a list of basic grip gear, books written by experts in the field, an extensive glossary of terms, training programs and a description of some of the most important skills in the field.
Our Aspiring Movie Grip Guide is a new edition in our ongoing series, joining our previous #Aspiring2ActWriteDirect guides which have included; actor, costume designer, director and filmmaker, film editor, producer, makeup artist, screenwriter, stuntman, visual effects artist and MORE…browse them all, here!
“Get a grip!” is a commonly used phrase that usually means someone should clamp down on or control his emotions. However, the phrase usually has an entirely different meaning on a film set and could be a literal request to find a crew member who is working as a grip.
But what is a grip when you are referring to a person?
A grip is part of the camera and electrical department on an entertainment production. A crew member who works closely with the director, director of photography (D.P.) and the camera operator to create the “look” of a film by determining the correct positioning and movement of the cameras.
Grips usually begin working on a project during the later stages of pre-production, collaborating with other production heads to scout out the filming locations and conduct a technical recess. Depending upon the challenges identified at the locations or sets, grips may have to devise their own equipment, or hire a company that specializes in creating customized pieces of equipment, to be able to achieve difficult camera maneuvers. Whether the location will be on extreme terrain, under water or involve aerial shots, grips must find a way to safely secure the cameras and the camera operators so a camera moves so smoothly there are no distractions when the footage is viewed on screen.
During production, grips and their crew are among the first to arrive on set because they are responsible for transporting, unloading and preparing any camera support equipment to be used during filming that day. Once the director has rehearsed the actors and all the shots are choreographed, the grips will set up any required equipment so everything is ready to go and the camera can roll. During the day, grips must anticipate all the camera moves during a shoot, while also preparing any additional equipment that would be required for the next camera setup. Of course, at the end of the day, the grips oversee packing up, loading and transporting all camera support equipment back to a storage facility.
Watch key grip, Kim Heat, in action as he explains to Cinema5D how he created a unique camera rig during the filming of Secretariat.
The Guide for Aspiring Movie Grips includes:
- A description of what a grip does, including typical skills, glossary of common terms, professional titles, equipment and apps
- Books written by industry experts with useful advice, tips and techniques
- Publications available online and/or in print to learn more about working as a grip in the entertainment industry, including insider information about film sets, rigging equipment and technology
- Colleges and universities offering classes, certification or training specifically for aspiring grips
- Training programs or vocational schools led by experienced professionals
- Unions, groups and associations for professional grips
The TomCruise.com team always welcomes your comments, feedback and suggestions, especially if you have experience in this field. If you have any additional advice, recommendations, information or resources that would be helpful to aspiring grips, we’d love to hear it so we can include them to our next update. Please leave your comments below and/or remember to use the hashtag #aspiring2actwritedirect in all your social media responses about any of the Aspiring Guides.
WHAT DO MOVIE GRIPS DO?
In a working film production, three types of crew members form a major part of the basic crew: electrical, camera and grip. Grips are the “jack-of-all-trades” on set, installing, setting up, maintaining and ensuring the safety of all necessary equipment on a set, and as such, frequently interact with other crew members.
The electrical and camera department, which are comprised of camera crew, grips, gaffers and best boys, are all working together to ensure the cameras and their operators are correctly positioned to achieve the shot desired by the director of photography. As the title implies, a cameraperson is responsible for overseeing and operating a camera. The typical career path for this position would be to start as a film loader, advance to first assistant cameraperson, then second assistant cameraperson before achieving the role of camera person.
Led by a gaffer, the electrical department manages the electrical distribution on set, including the physics of lighting and the lighting instruments. The team also controls lighting exposure so any contrast can be rendered on film in accordance to the “look” desired by the director of photography or the director. Therefore, a gaffer needs to have an understanding of photographic principles, cinematography and the role of a cameraperson. Ideally, a gaffer will collaborate with a cameraperson to create a specific lighting design and then the electrical department will provide the technical support to bring the vision to life.
The other key element of the electrical and camera department are the grips. The grip crew provides camera movement, support and safety. Prior to filming, the key and dolly grips would scout the location to determine the shooting requirements. During the production, the grip crew is responsible for selecting and managing any equipment necessary to rig static mounts, lay flat or complex tracks for camera dollies, rig camera heads and systems, rig camera cranes or car mounts as well as elevate and track a camera. While it may be necessary to secure a camera to the side of a building, a helicopter or even in a tree, grips must also reduce the risk as much as possible and adhere to industry health and safety standards.
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More than just mounting cameras and securing screens, a grip may be required to calculate load capacity, lay a dolly track on a rough surface and construct complex scaffolding all while adhering to industry standards and safety regulations. Guy Holt, President of ScreenLight & Grip, described the role of a grip to NewEnglandFilm.com as “a grown-up kid with an Erector Set.”
The London-based Skillset Craft and Technical Skills Academy has created a list of industry standards compiled by professionals in the field. A grip should be able to competently perform all these key skills, including understanding why a task is usually performed a particular way and how to solve problems that would fall under a grip’s range of responsibilities.
Key skills include:
- Good leadership skills
- Initiative along with the ability to respond quickly to different situations
- Ability to help realize a director/director of photography’s artistic vision in practical terms
- Ability to collaborate and to work as part of a team
- Diplomacy and sensitivity when working with artists and other crew
- A high level of physical stamina and strength
- A thorough knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety regulation and procedures
In addition to the above-mentioned skills, grips may also need some computer, office and math skills. If you are the head of the department, you will need to be able to keep track of the crew’s hours, over-time and their rate of pay. With advances in technology, you may also be able to use computer programs to design rigging, scaffolding structures and camera mounts. A grip should be able to read a scale, a graph and a variety of common measuring instruments. However, depending upon the complexity of the shoot, you may also need to be able to calculate amounts, sizes, scales or proportion, use mathematical formulas, interpret results and present your findings in practical terms to your team.
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GLOSSARY OF TERMS
In a job where time equals money and safety is of the utmost importance, understanding who wants what where and when is one of the most critical responsibilities of working as a grip. As such, grips must not only be familiar with phrases commonly used on a film set but with numerous slang terms used specifically by the electrical and camera crew. Not to mention have knowledge of the wide array of tools and equipment used on set on a daily basis. Not to worry, the TomCruise.com team has complied a list of common words and phrases to help you get the job done right. Once you’ve landed your first grip job, don’t blow it by handing someone a pancake when they want an apple box!
Special thanks to FilmLand, Limelight Productions and Tony Bill’s book, Movie Speak: How to Talk Like You Belong on a Movie Set, for helping us create this extensive glossary.
Apple Box (aka Manmaker, Pancake, Half Apple, Quarter Apple) – A sturdy wooden box placed under a person or an object to raise it up, such as making furniture higher or actors, camera operators, grips or an crew member taller. The boxes are available in a variety of heights, including full (8 inches high), half (4 inches high), quarter (2 inches high) and eighth (1inch high). The smallest box is known as a ‘pancake’ because it is almost flat.
Arm up (Arm down) - To raise (or lower) the arm of a crane.
Baby – Light fixtures between 750 and 1000 watts that are manufactured with a 5/8 inch female receiver for attaching to mounting hardware.
Baby Plate - Used for mounting light fixtures that have a 5/8 inch receiver, also known as a ‘baby,’ to a flat surface, such as a wall or floor.
Bar – A horizontal metal tube used to suspend lighting equipment.
Batten – A narrow length of wood or metal used to fasten or secure equipment, such as the phrase “batten down the hatches.”
Bar Clamp (Furniture Clamp) – A clamp with two jaws attached to a bar that can be used to mount a small light fixture. One jaw is fixed to the bar and the other can be adjusted with a screw mechanism. Often used on set along with a bar clamp adapter.
Beef – Refers to the power of a light, such as “beef it up.”
BFL (Big F** Light | Big Fat Light) – Can refer to any of the large, heavy lights on a set.
Big Ben – Refers to a cheeseborough clamp with a one and 1/8 inch pin attached and can be used for several options, including along with a pipe to create a temporary overhead grid.
Black Wrap – A black aluminum foil generally used as a heat insulation or to shape the direction of light.
Blonde – 2,000 watt open-faced light fixtures usually made by an Italian manufacturer.
Boom up (Boom down) – To raise, or lower, a camera or microphone that is already mounted on a crane or dolly.
Butterfly Frame – A large aluminum frame that filters light through a fabric stretched from edge to edge, often used during outdoor shoots.
C-Stand – Originally known as a century-stand, it is designed to take up very little space and is generally made up of four parts, including the base, a vertical leg with multiple stands, a gobo head and a gobo arm. One of the most common pieces of equipment on a film set, it can hold a variety of reflectors, lights, show cards or boom microphones.
Chain Vise Grip – A vise grip with a chain that is often used to hang a lighting fixtures or equipment.
Condor – Named after the company that originally made extendable boom arms, it now refers to a variety of lift devices, including cherry-pickers. Generally used on set to position light between 30 and 120 feet in the air.
Cookie (Cucoloris) – A perforated material used to break up light or project a shadow pattern. Random shapes cut out of plywood or poster board are known as hard cookies, while random shapes cut out of plastic impregnated screen, are known as soft cookies. Natural cookies are created by placing objects found in nature, such as tree limbs, between a light source and an actor or subject.
Craft Service – The catering service that provides buffet style snacks and drinks that are available to cast and crew throughout the shooting day. Should not to be confused with other catering companies that may be hired to serve full, hot sit-down meals, such as lunch or dinner.
Cutters - Generally refers to flags larger than 30 inches by 36 inches as well as odd shaped ones such as 12 inches by 42 inches or 18 inches by 48 inches which are used to block light from specific areas of the set.
Dailies – The unedited footage of the day’s filming, often viewed by the director, director of photography and key production staff after shooting has wrapped for the day.
Dance Floor – Not to be confused with a traditional dance floor used for weddings or special events. A production dance floor generally refers to putting down a double layer of 3/4 inch plywood with the seams offset, topped with Masonite, in order to allow a camera dolly to ride smoothly in any direction. This process usually occurs when a floor or surface area is not level.
Feathering - A process of slowing down and speeding up a camera dolly extremely smoothly. For example, starting from a full stop, still position, the camera dolly must smoothly move up to the desired speed to capture the shot and then ease equally smoothly back to a complete stop.
Gobo – A commonly used acronym for “Go Between,” “Go BlackOut” or “Goes Before Optics,” it is a dark plate, screen or partial screen placed in front of a lighting source to shield a lens and control the shape of emitted light. Sometimes also called a flag.
Dot - A small round scrim, mesh, net or solid material used to dim or control the brightness of a light, commonly used when a light cannot be dimmed electronically. May also be used when dimming a light would cause it to change color, such as florescent bulbs changing to an orange hue.
Duvetyne – A black, cotton fabric used to make flags, cutters and butterflies. The opaque material can also be used to reduce reflected light.
Flag – A Duvetyne-covered metal frame used to shield certain areas from unwanted light or to create shadow areas on the set. May also be known as a solid or a gobo.
Grip Head – A mount on the top of a stand used to attach flags or cutters.
Hi Hi Roller Stand – A wide based stand that may extend up to 20 feet, it provides stability when used as support for butterflies and overheads on locations or supports large backdrops in a studio setting.
Junior – A 2,000 watt light fixture that usually includes a one and 1/8 inch pin and is mounted into a female receiver on a stand.
Junior Plate – Used to mount light fixtures with a Junior pin to a flat surface, such as a wall.
Kill it – A command to turn off a light or cancel a lighting request.
Key Light – The primary light source used during a scene.
Manmaker (Apple Box, Pancake, Half Apple, Quarter Apple) – A sturdy wooden box placed under an actor, crew member or object to make it taller or raise it up. Depending upon the height required, boxes are available in several options, including one inch, two inches, four inches and eight inches high.
Mafer Clamp – Featuring one flat and one v-notched jaw, both with padded grip surfaces, the clamp is used to attach equipment to an array of irregular surface, such as furniture.
Offset Arm – A stand-mounted lighting fixture that can be extended off center over a wall or other object.
Redhead – Refers to 1,000 watt open-faced light fixtures.
Sandbag – Heavy cloth bags filled with sand that are used to secure equipment on set. Available in a variety of weights, sandbags commonly used by production companies are designed for ease of movement, such as draping over uneven objects like the legs of a lighting stand.
Side Arm – An extension tool that can be clamped onto a stand to allow for slightly offset positioning of a light or light control device. Available with baby or junior fittings, it is important to sandbag the opposite leg of the stand from the sidearm to prevent the stand from tipping over.
Slate – A board placed in front of a camera at the beginning, and sometimes at the end, of each take of each scene. The board is usually black and white and is used to identify the scene and take numbers.
Snot Tape - A nickname for Adhesive Transfer Tape (ATG) 3M Scotch 1/2 inch tape, which is used to affix lighting gels to their frames.
Storyboard - An illustrated outline of a scene or film plot sequence.
Triple Header Baby - A piece of equipment mounted on a light stand which allows multiple light fixtures to be hung on a single stand with baby pins.
Triple Header Junior - A piece of equipment mounted on a light stand which allows several light fixtures to be hung on a single stand with junior receivers.
Wrap – The completion of a shot, a day’s filming or the entire production.
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Generally requested by the director of photography or a camera operator, grips play a vital role in ensuring the look of a film is maintained and that the camera moves are as smooth as possible. While the average day for a grip can be physically demanding and the hours are generally long, the work can be very rewarding. Several of the most common roles in the Camera and Electrical Department, including grips, are described below.
First Assistant Camera (1st A.C./Focus Puller) - The person in this role is responsible for maintaining the camera lens focus as the actors move within the frame of each shot and works closely with the director of photography and grips. However, 1st A.C.s do not have the luxury of looking though the lens to focus but use their instinct and experience to set up a series of complex marks around the set to determine the proper focal lengths prior to filming. Generally, no one will know if the focus remained sharp during the shot until the rushes are screened. These individuals are also responsible for ensuring several pieces of camera equipment are available, assembled and prepared during each day of the production, including lenses, filters and matte boxes.
Best Boy (Best Person) – The second in command of an electrical or grip department, these individuals coordinate personnel and equipment as well as liaise with other members of the production team, such as the first assistant director or on location work with the building maintenance team or with the electrician. The title originated from the best electrician on a crew. A senior lighting role, the Best Boy generally acts as the gaffer’s right hand person, coordinating the other lighting technicians in the team and must be aware of health and safety regulations and procedures. Their hours are usually long and unpredictable, often 12 or more hours per day.
Director of Photography (DoP or D.P.) - Usually referred to as the D.P., this individual selects and procures any necessary camera equipment for the production and heads the camera crew as well as liaising with the technical director. Reporting to the director, the D.P. is responsible for the cinematic quality of the film.
Dolly Grip – An individual who is responsible for moving a wheeled platform (dolly) carrying a camera and camera operator smoothly so that any dolly movements are not a distraction onscreen. Although the dolly grip is just moving the camera from one point to another, it requires a high level of skill, strength, a working knowledge of camera operation and a keen sense of movement. The dolly grip must coordinate with the director, actors and the director of photography (D.P.) to execute the points of the move, the speed and timing. Aside from the focus, the movement of a dolly is the only aspect of a camera that the D.P. does not control directly.
Electrician – The individual in charge of the electrical equipment on the set and may also work as a grip.
Gaffer – The head of the electrical department during a film, television or theatre production, this individual is responsible for the design and execution of the lighting plan. It is believed the title may have been adapted from a British English term that referred to the men who tended to street lamps with a gaff, a pole with a hook on the end. A senior role on the crew, an experienced gaffer must know how to design and adjust a lighting plan to convey a specific time of day and conditions/mood as desired by the director of photography (D.P.), such as selecting the appropriate color of gel (plastic sheeting) to cover lights or windows to achieve a specific effect, recreate the flicker of lights as in a thunder storm or even depict the changing colors of a sunset. In order to achieve these types of effects, a gaffer must manage numerous resources, including electrical generators, lights, cable and personnel as well as work with the D.P., key grip, best boy and grips.
Grip – The primary responsibility of this role is to build and maintain all the equipment that would support a camera, including tripods, dollies, tracks, jibs, cranes and several types of rigs. While some setups might be as simple as standing a tripod on an even flooring, other productions may require complicated logistics, such as hanging a camera from a high crane or mounting a camera to a helicopter. Because the majority of equipment used by grips is complex, and may also be expensive with delicate parts, it can require a high level of experience to operate, move or mount a camera according to the meticulous specifications required. Remember, as a grip, you will set up lots of equipment that may not be used, but it is essential to maintain a production schedule to have any equipment that has any chance of being used that day ready to go in case the D.P. or director needs it.
Key Grip - The leader of the grip crew, this individual oversees any production equipment that facilitates the use of electricity and cameras, such as C-Stands, flags, sandbags, apple boxes, dolly and dolly track. The key grip oversees the equipment checkout and makes sure everything is securely loaded onto the truck for transport at the beginning and end of each day. It is important that the equipment truck arrives on set before the call time, otherwise the crew will not be able to begin work until their equipment arrives and is unloaded. In addition to working closely with the gaffer, the key grip may also help out as a dolly grip or assume the responsibilities of a construction coordinator.
Second Assistant Camera (2nd A.C.) - Working closely with the director of photography, camera operator and 1st A.C.s, the 2nd A.C. facilitates any tests required on film stock and with actors prior to the start of filming. While in rehearsals, the 2nd A.C. is responsible for marking the actors’ positions to help enable the 1st A.C. calculate any changes in focus. During filming, the 2nd A.C. assists the camera operator in positioning the camera, as well as loads and unloads film magazines, changes and charges camera batteries, changes lenses, coordinates with film labs and orders the film stock. The 2nd A.C. also marks each take during filming with a clapperboard to identify the take and enable the assistant editor to synchronize the sound and picture during the editing process. At the end of each day of filming, the 2nd A.C. labels the film cans and sends them off to the labs along with detailed camera sheets.
Rigger (Rigging Grip) – The individual(s) responsible for mounting, hanging and focusing lighting equipment. May also construct any necessary scaffolding used during filming.
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EQUIPMENT & TOOLS
The muscle behind the movie, professional grips are the go-to crew if something needs to be lifted, held, propped, moved, adjusted or rigged. A “can-do” attitude is one of the most important attributes of a grip and having the ingenuity to set up a camera so the director can get the shot he wants will help ensure a successful career in the industry. Over the years, a wide variety of equipment has been developed, frequently by inventive grips themselves. While it would be almost impossible to cover all of the specialized equipment in this guide, the TomCruise.com team has created a list of basic grip gear, tools and equipment.
- Adhesive tape
- Apple boxes
- Bags, pouches and covers
- Bailing wire, sash cord and trick line
- Belts and suspenders
- Bungee cords
- Camera bags, ditty bags, backpacks and tool bags
- Camera dollies, track and accessories
- Chain, rope, wire and ties
- Clamps and clips
- Dolly wedges
- Equipment carts
- Fabric: Duvetyne or black velour
- Flags and reflectors
- Foam core and bead board
- Furniture moving pads
- Hand tools
- Laser pointers
- Markers, chalk and pencils
- Mounting systems and accessories
- Office supplies: paper, stapler, calculator
- Pouches and holsters
- Scrims, flags, Cucoloris and frames
- Sprays, adhesives, lubricants and solvents
- Stands, bases and frames
- Suction cups
- Tape lanyards and straps
- Tie down straps
- Work gloves
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Part handyman, part electrician and part engineer, grips are the go-to guys to get things done on set. But how do grips keep everything moving like clockwork? Of course, knowledge and experience are the most important factors but if they have a smartphone, they can also use some apps to help make their job a little easier. The TomCruise.com team has researched numerous apps currently on the market and compiled a list of some of the ones that would be most useful for a grip working on a film or television production. If you are currently working in the field and have any suggestions for other applicable apps for grips, please send us a link in the comments section below or in a social media post with the hashtag #aspiring2actwritedirect.
Bubble Level by Antoine Vianey (Google Play) No Internet access is required to use this spirit level, simply hold any side of your smartphone against an object to test for level. You can calibrate the app for roof pitch or to show an angle. There are currently no ads running on the free, open source app.
Gobo (Filmmakers Dictionary) by Agent 49 (iTunes) Knowing the meanings of the terms and slang commonly used on a production is an invaluable tool for anyone working in or aspiring to work in the entertainment industry. The Filmmakers Dictionary app not only features a glossary of industry words and phrases but also defines vocabulary used within different departments.
iHandy Carpenter By iHandy Inc. (Google Play) (iTunes) Listed as a “Top 20 iPhone app in 2009″ by Tribune Media, the carpenter tool kit app features five handy tools, including a plumb bob, a surface level, a bubble level bar, a protractor and a ruler. In addition to measuring angels up to 180 degrees, you can calibrate, the plumb bob, surface level and level bar so the app can be used as an inclinometer/clinometer. The ruler can measure either in inches or centimeters and can determine the length of objects longer than your smartphone.
IMDb by Internet Movie Database – (Google Play) (iTunes) One of the most popular resources used by entertainment industry professional, IMDb features comprehensive information about current, past and upcoming motion picture and television productions, such as biographies, credits, and awards.
The Grip App by Enlightened Shenanigans (iTunes) Created by grip and electric department professionals, the educational and instructional app is a useful reference tool for aspiring grips. Featuring an array of equipment images and a dictionary of grip terms, the app also provides equipment specifications, how-to guides and step-by-step instructions to teach users about dollies, cranes, hardware and rigs. While the app introduces novice grips to a wealth of practical information, experienced grips can also extend their knowledge and use the app as a teaching aid.
The Weather Channel by The Weather Channel (Google Play) (iTunes) The preeminent source of weather conditions around the world, The Weather Channel developed an app to provides you with the latest conditions for any location you choose. Utilizing the resources of more than 200 meteorologists as well as “ultra-local forecasting technology,” the app will help you prepare for today, tomorrow or next week so you can decide what equipment is necessary or what changes you might need to make to keep the production running on schedule.
ShotList by Soluble (iTunes) Designed for the production side of film shoots, the app features the option to create, manage and share shot lists and storyboards. You can cross off completed shots and set-ups as the filming progresses and share your updates with other members of the crew, such as the director of photography.
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Interested in learning more about a career as a grip, gaffer or best boy but not yet ready to commit your time and money into a training program? Why not find out more about the behind-the-scenes roles these talented technicians play from some of the most respected names in the business. The TomCruise.com team has put together a list of resources, entertaining books and insider industry publications to help you keep up with the latest news, equipment and techniques for grips of all levels.
Gaffers, Grips and Best Boys: From Producer-Director to Gaffer and Computer Special Effects Creator, a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Who Does What in the Making of a Motion Picture by Eric Taub – From pre-production through post-production, Eric Taub brings his experience as a film-industry insider to explore the world of making movies. Presented in narrative form, Taub offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the entertainment world as professional actors, directors, cinematographers, producers and publicists talk about their role in some of the most well-known movies ever made. In addition to explaining some of the less famous film jobs, such as sound mixer and story analyst, the book features a detailed index and glossary.
Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers by Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salvato – Learn how the look of a film is developed and controlled as the authors present in-depth interviews with 15 professional cinematographers. Aspiring lighting technicians, cameramen and cinematographers as well as movie enthusiasts alike can benefit from the practical and aesthetic techniques discussed in detail by knowledgeable experts. In addition to traditional lighting and camera techniques employed during some of the most iconic films during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the book reveals how recent breakthroughs in technology have allowed a new range of visual creativity to emerge in modern feature films.
Motion Picture and Video Lighting, Second Edition by Blain Brown – Educated at C.W. Post College; M.I.T. and Harvard Graduate School of Design, Blain Brown’s professional experience includes working as a commercial still photographer, a gaffer, a cinematographer and the Director of Photography on 14 feature films. He is also the author of Cinematography: Theory and Practice, Second Edition: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors and The Filmmaker’s Pocket Reference. In the second edition of Motion Picture and Video Lighting, Blain reviews the technical, aesthetic and practical aspects of lighting for film and videos. Applying his wealth of technical knowledge, the author explains light and color theory as well as the necessary equipment and techniques to capture each scene, so the reader learns not only how to light, but why. The comprehensive book features numerous illustrations, photos and diagrams as well as a behind-the-scenes DVD demonstrating technical procedures, equipment, lighting demonstrations, technical tests and fundamentals of lighting demos.
Movie Speak: How to Talk Like You Belong on a Movie Set by Tony Bill – Actor (Dr. Kildare, Washington: Behind Closed Doors, Must Love Dogs) director (Five Corners, Flyboys, My Bodyguard) and Academy-award winning producer (The Sting), Tony Bill combines more than 30 years of entertainment industry experience with his love of language to create a collection of hundreds of film terms. Developed by an industry of creative personalities, the lexicon of moviemaking is full of colorful, obscure and technical words and phrases that separates a true insider from the wannabes. A closer look at entertainment jargon also reveals hidden hierarchies, etiquette and verbal shortcuts that have developed over more than a hundred years of the film industry. So, is there trouble on set when the assistant director (A.D.) starts grumbling phrases like, “Gone With the Wind” and “Dukes of Hazzard?” Find out with this fun and information guide!
Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook, Fourth Edition: Film Lighting Equipment, Practice, and Electrical Distribution by Harry Box – Harry C. Box has worked in television and motion picture production since 1989. Working as a lighting technician, gaffer, camera operator, director of photography and educator since 1989, including on Heroes, Brothers and Sisters and Everybody Hates Chris, the author applies his extensive knowledge to create an informative manual about film lighting. From lighting and rigging equipment to tricks of the trade, lamp operators, best boys, riggers, gaffers and directors of photography can benefit from this comprehensive guide to lighting designs, set protocol, rigging safety, equipment troubleshooting and advanced electrical systems planning. The fourth edition features sections on technical and computer lighting, control networks, automated and digital lighting devices as well as current industry safety standards, guidelines, practices and codes. A companion website provides additional exclusive content, including illustrations, articles and historical information.
The Backstage Handbook: An Illustrated Almanac of Technical Information by Paul Carter (Author) and George Chiang (Illustrator) –Originally published in 1988, the popular reference book provides a wealth of practical information for anyone who works behind the scenes in theatre, film or television. Designers and technicians of all levels can benefit from the hundreds of detailed illustrations, tables and charts about a wide range of tools and equipment, such as the stock sizes and specs of wood screws as well as the twenty-two types of standard lamp bases. In addition to existing chapters on tools, hardware, materials, electrics, shop math and architecture, the third edition features new terminology and information about the latest materials as well as numerous new illustrations of grip hardware, film lighting equipment and painting tools. Bound in a durable leatherette, the book should withstand years of handling and use.
The Grip Book, Fourth Edition by Michael Uva – The title says it all! Updated and revised, the fourth edition of this essential resource for anyone working in the industry includes valuable information about the latest equipment and technology, such as CGI screen setup and “cleaning up the perms.” An experienced grip himself, the author also provides insider knowledge into becoming a professional grip, including numerous illustrations and a glossary of common terms used in the field. If you purchase the book, you will receive a login code to an affiliated website featuring bonus demonstration videos and illustrations.
Grips and Gaffers Designed by Jonathan Chaffer – Have some fun while you learn! Ok, so this is a game, not a book but it still can be considered educational. In a case of art imitates life, in this game you must manage a crew of grips and gaffers to complete as many scenes as possible before a film production wraps. Competing against other crew teams, the “film set is a “puzzle” in which you attempt to slide the cameras, lights, and director around the board to match the needs of one of the scenes to be filmed.” To add to the challenge, you must make sure the actors aren’t busy on another set and you might not have time to earn a bonus for a perfect set up – just get it done and it will be fixed in “post.” How many professions, aside from aspiring surgeon’s playing Operation, have their own game?
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Whether you’re trying to land your first job as a grip or you’re looking for your next gig, insider knowledge about upcoming productions could give you a leg up on the competition. Film crews can be a tight-knit group and there is no doubt that one of the best ways to keep working in the entertainment industry is through connections, referrals and recommendations. However, there are several entertainment industry trades that specialize in posting information about calls for crew, projects in development and industry news.
ACTORSandCREW – The online trade publication features employment postings, networking opportunities and informative articles for the global entertainment industry. In addition to production news and industry resources, you can create a professional profile page to promote your career credentials.
Creative COW – Founded by Kathlyn and Ron Lindeboom, the comprehensive entertainment industry resource offers both online and print publications featuring tutorials, training, podcasts, newsletters and blogs for professionals working in film, broadcast, post-production, visual effects, motion graphics, camera & lights and audio. The acronym for “Communities of the World” (COW) is well demonstrated by their active online forum.
Reel Carpet – The online entertainment industry magazine offers talent and crew the opportunity interact with a professional community through free networking tools as well as showcase their skills and resume. Production companies can book talent and crew by viewing demo reels and profiles with head shots as well as view equipment listings with photos and rates posted on the site. You can also link your profile page to your personal website and IMDB pages to let the community know about your current and upcoming projects. Fully integrated with several major social networking sites, members can easily share posts, blogs and events from Facebook, Digg or Twitter.
Variety – For anyone currently working or aspiring to work in film, television and related digital arts, the renown entertainment industry trade has been providing the latest news and insider information since 1905. In addition to reporting on projects in development, casting news and industry events, the publication features in-depth coverage of award ceremonies, movie reviews and a job board.
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Skills, experience and connections may be among the most important attributes to establish a successful career in any industry, but a solid education is always a plus. Although a degree is not required to become a grip, many colleges and universities offer film industry degrees. In addition to learning about the history of the film industry, students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program can also gain practical skills that would be useful in the field as well as hands on production experience. Another option would be to enroll in a professional training or certificate program, a short-term commitment that would focus specifically on the necessary skills to become a grip.
While there does not seem to be a specific college major to become a professional grip, the TomCruise.com team has created a list of training programs as well as some of the most well-known universities offering film degrees.
Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts (FSU) While the Florida panhandle is not exactly the film capital of the world, the FSU in Tallahassee offers a unique opportunity to gain hands-on production experience while earning a degree. Featuring a six-to-one student/faculty ratio, curriculum combining courses in motion picture production with a liberal studies core and generous funding of student films, FSU offers both Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in production.
New York University Tisch School of the Arts (NYU) The famous university features one of the most respected film programs in the world as well as the opportunity to live and study in the East Coast hub of the entertainment industry, New York City. A very different setting than the palm trees and sprawling studios of Hollywood, New York University Tisch School of the Arts has launched the careers of gritty Oscar-winning artists such as Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone. Aspiring grips might be most interested in the Design for Stage & Film program, which focuses on scenic, lighting, costume and production design courses. In addition to B.A., B.F.A., M.F.A., M.P.S., M.A. and Ph.D. degree programs in cinema or performance studies as well as moving-image archiving and preservation offered at the New York campus, Tisch School of the Arts Asia, located in Singapore, offers MFA degrees in animation and digital arts, dramatic writing and film production.
University of Southern California (USC) With generous contributions by graduates, such as George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis, as well thousands of alums currently working in the field, the renown Los Angeles university offers both a practical education and invaluable connections in the entertainment industry. According to The Hollywood Reporter, USC School of Cinematic Arts Dean Elizabeth M. Daley said, “one of the hardest things to understand is the culture of filmmaking. You’re not gonna get that out of a book. Come here and you’ll understand.” The numerous B.A., M.A., M.F.A. and Ph.D. degree programs in a wide range of film, television, animation and digital arts along with hands-on technical production training would give you both marketable and practical skills to launch your career.
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Center For Film Studies (CFS) Based in Farmington Hills, Michigan, students can learn the basic skills to become an entry-level grip, advanced skills for experienced grips or electrical/lighting skills necessary to become a gaffer. Each 40-hour program provides hands-on experience consistent with current industry standards. Taught by professionals in the field, the General Grip course teaches students all of the rules, terminology and equipment necessary for an entry-level position. Topics may include set etiquette, camera supports, mounts and dollies, identifying lighting, electrical and grip equipment, understanding the relationships between the lighting, electric and grip departments as well as crew hierarchy. After completing the General Grip course, you may decide to continue your studies with the Advanced Grip program to gain more in-depth knowledge of proper equipment assembly and use. With an emphasis on hands-on experience, students will learn more about overheads, dolly track and jib arms as well as support equipment, working with rental houses, using a condor, scissor lift and forklift as well as a variety of camera mounting techniques. For those interested in furthering their career options, there is the 40-hour Electrical/Lighting course. Focusing on the responsibilities of a film electrician as well as on safe and proper operation procedures, you will learn about the electrical equipment and lighting techniques commonly used on set, including generator use, tapping into power, power distribution and load balancing.
Contract Services Administration Trust Fund (CSATF) As part of the Safety Pass Program conceived by the Motion Picture and Television Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee, CSATF offers classes and training to address the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) requirements and standards. Because OSHA requires employees be trained in the safe use of equipment and work practices for their job, and the training must be documented, the Safety Pass Program provides industry-wide general safety and skills training to the many freelancers working in the film and television industry. Enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis and is open to all I.A.T.S.E. and Basic Craft members who are listed on the Industry Experience Roster or the Television Commercial Roster. The Safety Pass Program training starts with an introductory General Safety Pass Course, covering topics such as injury and illness prevention, personal protection equipment, lifting safety and hazard communication. Upon successful completion of the course, you are issued a Safety Passcard, which can be shown to current and prospective entertainment industry employers as a record of your safety training. Once the basic general safety course has been completed, you will be eligible to enroll in other safety courses that may provide lecture and experiential instruction about a specific craft or technique, such as the I.A.T.S.E. Local 80 Grip “E2″ Fire Extinguisher Safety course.
Film Connection Film Institute Receive hands-on training as part of a working film company in this unique training program as you focus on one lesson per week for six months. Because your classes are located within film production companies located in numerous cities across the U.S., you can enroll in a film school program that is most convenient for you. Students enrolled in the General Production Course follow a structured course curriculum to learn about a variety of off-camera positions, such as a camera operator, gaffer, grip and electric, best boy, production designer, set decorator, production manager, art department coordinator, script supervisor or a post-production supervisor. Accredited by several respected organizations, including the United States Bureau of Accredited Schools (USBAS) and the American Association for the Arts, the Film Connection Film Institute specializes in mentor/apprentice training programs that can give you valuable experience and contacts in the entertainment industry.
Hollywood Cinema Production Resources’ Training Program Located in Los Angeles, the training program offers a variety of classes designed to help students land an entry-level position in the art, crafts or technicians departments of film and television production. In addition to marketable industry-specific training, you will also receive common life skills coaching and social skills to help you not only land a position but keep it. Through a collaboration with West Los Angeles College, students may also be eligible to earn college credits. In the Career Track program, students study with experienced industry professionals to learn practical skills in a variety of fields, such as stagecraft, set dressing/decoration, grip, craft service, camera loader, apprentice editor, costume manufacturing, set lighting or scenic and graphic arts. Prospective students must be a legal resident of Los Angeles County for more than one year. In the Grip training program, students will learn how to safely work with and build platforms to support stages as well as practical skills such as non-electrical lighting, rigging systems and assemble the tracks for dollies. Because of the nature of the work, students must not be afraid of heights and need to be able to lift at least 50 pounds.
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Behind every movie, theatre production and television program, there are skilled technicians and craftspeople working together so the show can go on. Often working long hours in a wide range of settings, one way freelance artistic and technical crew can ensure safe working conditions and a reasonable salary rate is to become a member of a labor union or professional association. By joining together with other professionals in their field to form a collective bargaining unit, labor union members may receive assistance negotiating employment contracts, attaining health benefits and ensuring safe working conditions. Professional associations and labor unions may also provide additional training or classes, industry publications, job boards and networking opportunities.
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada (I.A.T.S.E.) Founded in 1893, the I.A.T.S.E. is one of the biggest labor unions in the entertainment industry, representing almost every type of behind-the-scenes crew, including technicians and artisans. Union members work in live theater, motion picture and television production, trade shows and exhibitions, television broadcasting or concerts as well as the technical, construction and support workers employed in their crafts. The collective bargaining unit acts as an advocate to secure safe working environments, minimum salary rates, health insurance options and educational opportunities for its members.
I.A.T.S.E. Local 80 Specifically representing motion picture studio grips, crafts service, marine department and scenic workers, this branch of the I.A.T.S.E. also offers several training classes and certifications, including classes on installing hood mounts and hostess trays, rigging math, camera crane operation and a written test to receive a rigging certification.
So now you know. These professional handy people do much more than “get a grip” on a film set! From practical knowledge of a wide variety of tools, equipment and production etiquette to physical strength and ingenuity, grips are the behind-the-scene crew that are the backbone of any crew. If you have the skills and drive to make it in this field, you can make a good living in the entertainment industry without facing the glare of the spotlight. If you are trying to break into the business or if you are a professional grip, the TomCruise.com team would love to hear from you!
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