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Rigger


Description

How do they make Spider-Man leap high into the air? Or how is mountain climbing controlled in film? Films about adventure and climbing often require the services of a rigger. Film and theater riggers use special equipment and tackle to transport heavy machinery or to enhance a film or theatrical production. Both of their bodies (actors and riggers) are attached to strings and other rigged components and they are mechanically rigged through the air. The rigger assesses structures, sets and locations for rigging requirements and works closely with the key grip to determine the safest possible options.

Riggers are in charge of calculating the load bearing capacity of structures for rigging cable and hardware and sometimes preparing sketches or blueprints of different rigging techniques. They must maintain a budget and keep an inventory system of all materials and items used. The rigger is usually in charge of arranging the delivery of materials and equipment, and the returning of items when they are no longer needed. Riggers decide how to attach things like pulleys and blocks onto overhead beams, ceilings or gin pole booms with bolts and clamps. They may need to build supporting structures or rigs using hand and power tools.

If a rig part breaks or needs repair work, the rigger is in charge of fixing it. Sometimes, riggers with building experience fabricate rigging hardware, such as basket hitches and shackles, from materials. The job description of the rigger and grips often cross paths and on small sets or theatrical productions, the rigger and grip person is often performed by the same person. Other duties in a rigger's job description include hanging and installing catwalks, grids, belays and trusses. When building and installing these items, riggers must work with safety as their number one priority. Since many of the machines are heavy, if anything were to break off, there could be major injury and disaster on sets. Accordingly, when operating cranes and attaching loads, they must be extra careful.

Riggers are essential technical workers on set. They make sure the scenery stays in the right place and might also build the scaffolding for the lighting and sound equipment. Creativity is an asset as every set is different and requires a new rig. Again, safety is always a key element, as wobbly scaffolding is a major risk to all crew members.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Riggers must be able to work well under pressure situations and solve technical problems. They often use mathematical and scientific methods to solve problems, working with a vision of how their systems should work. They must be able to work well with others (as a team), because riggers usually work in close contact with grips and other set builders.

Since safety is a large concern for riggers, therefore they must be excellent troubleshooters, so that they help prevent problems before they occur. They are methodical in their work and follow specific guidelines.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Determine set specifications and discuss set design requirements with production personnel
  • Climb ladders and scaffolding to set up proper sets, stages and lights
  • Transport and position stage fixtures and props
  • Operate dollies and handcarts and install rigs to raise, lower and support stage equipment
  • Change scenery between acts and scenes according to scripts
  • Rig, place, move and dismantle sets, backdrops, scenery and other stage equipment
  • Test apparatus to ensure proper functioning and safety
  • Manipulate and direct heavy equipment through small openings or tight spaces
  • Arrange rigging gear in order to move or support heavy objects
  • Clean, dress and take apart machine parts, and store rigging equipment
  • Test rigging to make sure it is secure and safe
  • Direct workers in the process of moving loads using signals or verbal cues
  • As with most positions in the film industry, riggers work long, extended and often irregular days, which may include weekends. In theater, the days will not be as long; however, riggers should be willing to put in overtime. They work in high places, rigging loads and in cramped work places that require getting into awkward positions. Also, due to the safety level of the job, they must be alert to avoid injuries and errors. Riggers work both indoors and outdoors, depending on the location of the set, studio or theater.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Film and theater riggers work for film production companies, theater troupes or independently as freelance contract workers.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for film and theater riggers? Riggers can move to more supervisory or managerial positions on film sets and theater stages with experience. They can also perform other similarly related jobs on sets, such as grips or technical help. Riggers can also work in the oil and petroleum industries as well as with any construction company that requires rigging machinery.
 

  Educational Paths  
Although there is no specified educational route to becoming a rigger, most have the minimum of a high school diploma. Riggers should be knowledgeable with hand tools, such as drills, buffers, grinders and have some welding experience.

Most riggers learn their job through on-the-job experience. Most start out apprenticing or interning on a film or theater set and then make connections and work their way up the technical ladder. Classes in construction, welding and electricity provide a good background. Industrial technology, auto mechanics, power machinery and physics are also helpful courses.
 

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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