A grip is part of the production team that develops and builds the set for a movie, commercial, or television show. Grips work primarily on the complex equipment which supports the cameras and on lighting. Those who wish to obtain higher-level positions in the film production industry often start off as grips. Specializations include best boy grips, key grips, and dolly grips.
|Required Education||On-the-job training|
|Other Requirements||Highly flexible, teamwork-oriented, and capable of physically-taxing work|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||8% for all camera operators, television, video, and motion picture|
|Median Salary (2019)**||$36,932 for production assistants|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
Job Description of a Grip
Types of grips include the key grip, the best boy grip, and the dolly grip. Typically, individuals start as grips and, as they gain experience, may be promoted through the various levels to become the key grip. Grips build, take down, and repair flats - the structures on the stage - and moving or stationary platforms.
The dolly grip works with the camera dolly, which is a camera placed at various heights on a platform constructed above a unit on wheels. Dolly grips also set up the tracks on which the camera dolly will travel for a particular scene.
The construction grip helps to build and break down sets and to unpack and pack parts of sets from storage. Construction grips build scaffolding and platforms for cameras that are required to be at specified positions and heights.
The key grip, along with the gaffer and head camera operator, are the main personnel whose duty it is to create the required set. Key grips have budgetary responsibilities, including estimates for building costs. This head grip collaborates with camera operators to determine the necessary grip equipment.
Best Boy Grip
The best boy grip (so-called whether male or female) often determines which grips will work at which locations. If a big facility is to be shot and additional cameras are needed, this grip arranges for more grips to be hired. Best boy grips are responsible for having the right equipment at the right location.
As a scene is being shot, the dolly grip moves the camera dolly, typically with at least one camera operator aboard it. This grip ensures that the dolly moves smoothly so the camera operators riding in it are not jolted or jarred as the crew films.
Grips set up, maintain, and dismantle backings - the large, painted backgrounds which create the distant views that look as if they exist outside a window. They may also order and rent equipment. Many have administrative duties, such as maintaining records on equipment.
Skills and Fitness
Knowledge of carpentry, electricity, and cameras are very helpful to grips. Physically, they must be in good shape. They may have to move camera cranes or dollies as heavy as 400 pounds or climb heights as tall as 65 feet. They must also be physically agile enough to avoid the hazards associated with working on sets, such as tripping over wires and being hit with falling equipment and set sections.
The most important requirement for a grip is experience, gained through on-the-job training. Significant experience is required to operate equipment that carries cameras. The more experience a grip acquires by working on sets, the greater the chances of employment and promotion.
Grips are required to be very flexible regarding work hours. They may work only two days a week and from 12-18 hours a day. If a scene to be shot takes place at night, the grip must work at night. Because producing scenes is a group effort, grips must be able to work well with others and be patient. A particular shot may have to be set up repeatedly.
Salary and Job Outlook
Because grips are often hired for one or two days at a time, and change productions - and employers - frequently, determining the average amount made in such a job is difficult. PayScale.com reported as recently as September 2019 that production assistants, such as grips, made a median of $36,932 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) predicts that employment of camera operators, with whom grips work in conjunction, will grow by 8% from 2018-2028.
Once they have gained enough industry experience, grips can advance to higher positions on a production crew, with some of the specializations including dolly grips, best boy grips and key grips. Grips should be prepared to work at night or up to 18 hours at a time.