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Grip


Description

Grips move and set up camera tracks and scenery in motion picture, theater or television productions. They are the jack-of-all-trades that do things like moving big set pieces in between scenes, propping up phony set walls and holding the ladder for the lighting technicians. A grip directly reports to the key grip or grip boss who is usually in charge of the grips crew. Grips usually work in construction, production or administration.

In the grip department, one task is maintaining records to ensure that the inventory of equipment remains stable. Grips are responsible for checking out, renting, or requisitioning all equipment needed for production and construction. Grips work as constructors, doing lighting as well as administrative work. Once the lighting technicians have placed, aimed, and adjusted the lights, grips set up the equipment used to cast shadows necessary to achieve desired effects. If placement of the camera requires moving the walls of the set, the grips perform the manual work. Grips unload the parts of the set that come from storage and place them for the carpenters or prop-makers to revamp. Also, whenever the sets need to be reassembled from storage, grips do it.
Grips build hanging scaffolding above the perimeter of sets upon which lights used in the photography are placed. They also construct stationary and rolling scaffolds for platforms to hold the sets, the lights, and the camera. When a backing or a large painted background is required to simulate a view through windows and doors, it is the grip who installs it. After the photography is completed, the grip crew is responsible for dismantling the backings, sets, and scaffolding.

Although most grip work requires physical labor, some administrative work is also involved. Usually the key grip is required to accompany the cameraman when scouting locations to assess the need for grip equipment. They also gain advance knowledge of the equipment needed for the sound stages by reading the script and conferring with both the director and cameraman.

Grips also estimate construction costs and try to work within their budget to maintain income and expenditures. A clerk is usually assigned to the grip department to help with the administrative burden, including keeping accurate records of the daily grip personnel to ensure proper payroll for the department each week.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Grips must be solid team players. They should be able to adapt to a variety of production styles and deadline requirements. Grips must keep up with changes in technology and in the industry. They often move heavy equipment and set up difficult sets. The work is most rewarding for those who enjoy working with tools and equipment on tasks requiring precision.

Grips should also be really comfortable with heights. Setting up scaffolds is always done at a considerable height. Finally, they should maintain a good sense of humor when it comes to pressure situations, fix problems immediately and be able to meet stringent deadlines when filming is behind schedule.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Pickup and deliver equipment and supplies
  • Operate all grip equipment and associated equipment
  • Move big set pieces on and off stages and set in between scenes (quietly in live theater)
  • Prop up phony set walls and background scenes
  • Negotiate with producers and directors to determine grip equipment needs
  • Set safety standards on sets and stages
  • Maintain administrative and inventory records
  • Set up and dismantle sets quickly and safely
  • Build hanging scaffolds for lighting
  • Provide their own tools normally used in the trade
  • Due to the physical nature of the job, grips must be strong, in good shape and have the ability to work with their hands. As the workweek in the film industry is irregular, some grips work an average of only one or two days a week. However, the hours are always long (approximately 12-18 hour shifts) on these work days, which may sometimes include weekends. Consequently, grips must remain flexible in their work availability. The work ranges from indoor set and theater work to outdoor location work, which will including working in all types of weather.
  • There are various occupational hazards are connected with this job. Sometimes sets fall on grips causing considerable damage and lights and light fittings can also fall. Occasionally grips bump their heads against low hanging fixtures or trip over the many wires that lie on the floor during filming. They can also get splinters, injuries from boards with nails, and suffer other cuts and bruises. They normally bring their own tools to the set and wear safety shoes.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Grips are employed by television and radio stations and networks, recording studios, motion picture and video production companies and by theater and stage companies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for grips? A grip usually starts as part of a basic crew and then works up through various grip levels to key grip or grip boss. Studios usually promote from within, although there is a lot of interchanging between studios depending on how many productions are going on. Advancement is a slow process and may take many years since openings are few.
 

  Educational Paths  
There are no standard educational or training requirements for becoming a grip. Education and training in carpentry and rigging are helpful for grips. Volunteering and apprenticeship work are always great methods of gaining experience along with making the right connections. Learning directly from grips is valuable experience.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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