What is a Grip & What is Their Role on the Film Set?
Ever wondered who rebuilds the camera and related equipment on set? Grips have the responsibility of maintaining all equipment that supports the camera when on set. This includes static rigs, tripods, jibs, cranes, dollies, tracks and various other delicate parts of the operation. Think about the Grip this way: each scene that is filmed requires several cameras that are mounted on equipment that is extremely expensive and heavy duty yet essential to the role.
Grips are at the forefront of equipment assembly, ensuring that each piece is put together by specification and that it can be pushed, pulled, mounted, or hung properly from a variety of different settings. Sometimes Grips are responsible for maintaining equipment as basic as a tripod. Other times, they must embark on a hazardous journey to properly hang a camera from a helicopter that soars hundreds of feet above and dips through a cavernous mountain range. You really never know where a Grip may have to position a camera–and the sky is literally the limit.
Grips ensure smooth transitioning of camera moves while maintaining the artifice of film. They may work freelance but are generally requested by the Camera Operator of the Director of Photography for work on set. The hours are long, but the work is considered rewarding and fun by those who carry the Grip role.
Grip Job Requirements
Grips are responsible for positioning cameras in a way that proper movement is achievable and does not distract the actors and other crew members on set. They work closely with the Director, Director of Photography, and the Camera Operator throughout the shoot to ensure the cameras remain positioned properly. Grips are also responsible for wheeling the Dolly that carries the camera and the Camera Operator from one area to the next on set.
Large projects, with multiple cameras and Camera Operators, will have a Key Grip and secondary Grips that work to provide additional camera support through the production. Regardless of film budget, Grips begin their work in the later stages of pre-production when they can join various department heads in carrying out technical recce. Grips may work with specialists to create specially made pieces of equipment that facilitate difficult camera placement and maneuvering in potentially hazardous locations, extreme weather situations, or dangerous terrain.
Grips and their team arrive early on shoot days to unload equipment and prepare for the day’s filming. They work with other Grips, Remote Head technicians, the Crane operator, and tracking car drivers as well as various construction standbys to ensure that everything is ready for the day’s shoot. Grips will set up necessary equipment after the Director has rehearsed actors and choreographed the appropriate shots.
If a crane is used in the filming, a minimum of two Grips are hired to work closely with the crane operator to ensure proper mounting and movement of the cameras. Grips must be prepared to provide assistance when the camera starts to roll, anticipating camera movements. The also prepare the camera set up for the following day’s shoot, taking care to oversee proper packaging and placement of camera and support equipment at the commence of the shoot day.
Grips Essential Skills
Grips have strong working knowledge of cameras and the equipment used to support the camera crew. They are technical and mechanically inclined, with the ability to assemble and disassemble equipment quickly and efficiently. They generally have a passion for creativity with a technical side that allows them to see through effective solutions to problems on set.
Additional skills may include:
- Strong leadership and ability to work well with others.
- Steady focus and ability to respond quickly to problems while devising solutions on set.
- Strength and stamina to endure long working hours in various elements.
- Ability to lift heavy equipment and pull equipment safely.
Strong knowledge of occupational safety and health requirements to ensure their own safety and the safety of others on set.
Crash Course made an excellent animated video explaining just what a Grip and Electric are: