Thinking Ahead

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October 19, 2015 Career Feature: What is a grip?

This article is part of a series called Thinking Ahead by Compass.

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Ever sat through the credits of a film and marvelled at some of the job titles? “Best boy? Gaffer? Grip?” you mutter to yourself. “What the hell is a grip?”

Well, we asked a couple of film people, and it turns out that grips are super important! So important, in fact, that we’re going to commence our new series on careers in creative industries by looking at grips and other roles that most people don’t talk about.

To get us started, we reached out to director Clayton Jacobsen, who is perhaps best known for directing his brother Shane (who co-wrote the script with Clayton) in the acclaimed film Kenny. Here’s what Clayton said about the role of a grip:

“A grip does a lot of the heavy lifting on a shoot – commonly he or she is the person loading, unloading, building and operating the dolly and tracks you see on film sets. They will build the scaffolding supports on camera tracking car rigs and a whole lot more.”

Indeed, there are many duties a grip can play on a film set, and often they will be broken down into more specific categories such as “construction grip”, who is solely involved in construction and dismantling of sets, and the “dolly grip”, who operates the dollies and occasionally camera cranes.

The dolly is basically a camera on wheels, running along a track, which creates the smooth movement you experience in a film – probably without realising it!

There’s also the “best boy”, who assists either the gaffer (the head of the electrical department) or the grip, and the supervisor of all the grips is called the “key grip”.

The term “grip” itself, meanwhile, according to writer Judith B. Herman, “was adapted from the American theatre, where it was used for a stagehand who helps shift scenery”.

So all that’s well and good! Now you know.

Just one more question: if the best boy helps out the grip, then what does the worst boy do?!

Worst Boy

This article is part of a series called Thinking Ahead by Compass.

Read the series >