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THE JOB GRIPS are employed in the motion picture and television industry and perform a variety of tasks in the process of film making. Films are made within and outside the structure of major studios, and the function of Grips vary accordingly. Within the studio, Grip work is considered to be in three categories: production, construction, and administration. A film production company, or unit, consists of many people in many crafts and professions working together to produce a film. The Grip crew within the company is made up of the Key Grip, Second Company Grip, the Crane or Dolly Grip, and any number of Company Grips. The Key Grip, the gaffer (head of the set lighting department within the company) and the cameraman are the core of the technical crew which implement the director's vision. The Dolly Grips prepare for a moving camera shot by constructing the track upon which the dolly or crane will roll, carrying the camera. Dolly Grips are also responsible for moving the crane or dolly during this shot. Grips also contribute to the lighting process; after the set 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 work. Construction Grip work is done before and after the production of actual photography. Before photography begins, Grips help by unloading the parts of the sets that come from storage and placing them for the carpenters or propmakers to revamp. Whenever the sets need to be reassembled from storage, it is done by Grips. 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 Grips who install it. Grips also maintain these backings by use of their sewing room. After the photography is completed, the Construction Grip crew is responsible for dismantling the backings, sets, and scaffolding. Although most Grip work requires physical labor, some administrative work is also involved. The Key Grip is required to accompany the cameraman when scouting locations to assess the need for Grip equipment. The Key Grip also gains advance knowledge of the equipment needed for the sound stages by reading the script and conferring with both the director and cameraman. The Second Company Grip is usually responsible for ordering the equipment and any items or supplies needed to perform the Grip work necessary for production. Grips have a large part in preparing and planning activities needed to meet production schedules. In the Grip Department, several Grips are usually responsible for maintaining records to insure that the inventory of Grip equipment remains stable. Grips will check out, rent, or requisition, if necessary, all equipment needed, whether on production or for construction. In the Diffusion Room, where various types of light diffusers are fabricated and stored, records must also be maintained. The Grip Boss, who is head of the Grip Department, has a job that is almost all administrative. The Grip Boss estimates construction costs, makes work assignments for Grip personnel (including decisions for hiring, firing, and layoffs), works within a yearly budget to maintain income and expenditures, and performs other administrative tasks. 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 insure proper payroll for the department each week. WORKING CONDITIONS Work in the motion picture industry is generally conducted in a pleasant and enjoyable atmosphere. However, the work can frequently be repetitive. For example, the same shot may have to be lined up over and over again, so that one quality essential for Grips is patience. The workweek in the film industry is irregular, and many Grips work an average of only one or two days a week. However, they may work 12-18 hour shifts on these work days, sometimes including weekends. Consequently, Grips must remain flexible in their work availability. Various occupational hazards are connected with this job. The sets that Grips move around can fall, sometimes causing considerable damage; lights and light fittings can also fall. Occasionally Grips can 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 and wear safety shoes. Grips belong to Local 80 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, and the occupation is almost totally unionized. EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK In 1990 approximately 1,080 Grips of various kind were working mainly in the Los Angeles area of California. Nearly full union membership employment occurred during the first four months of the year, with the usual hiatus about June through September. Turnover is low, with generally more than enough Grips to fill available positions. Consequently, job opportunities for new entrants often tend to be limited. Traditionally, recruitment for these positions has been entirely by personal contact, and workers stay for most of their working careers. Some growth in the employment of Grips is anticipated during the next few years with the increased demand for movies produced for network and cable/pay television and as independent producers sign the basic union agreement. Other additional job openings will continue to result from the need to replace those who retire or otherwise leave the labor force. WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS Grips earn $19.71 to $23.83 hourly, depending on the exact function. The current weekly salary for a Grip Boss or Head Grip is $1,235 to $1,374. These are union scales, and overtime (at one and one-half times the regular basic hourly rate) is paid after eight hours work per day. A standard workweek does not exist for these occupations. The number of days worked in each week will vary, as will the number of hours worked in each day. Sometimes there is weekend work or all night work. Grips normally have to work a minimum of 600 hours each year, otherwise they have to requalify for health and welfare benefits. Grips participate in the usual range of union fringe benefits including vacation and holiday pay, pension plans, and group health and life insurance coverage. ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING Applicants for Grip jobs do not need any particular education or training, but rigging and carpentry skills are helpful. Because the work is of a physical nature, Grips must be strong; able to work with their hands; able to work 65 feet above ground; and be alert for potentially dangerous objects and structures on the set. Moreover, because the filming of a motion picture is a cooperative effort requiring the blending of many skills, Grips must be able to work well with other professionals. ADVANCEMENT A person interested in becoming a Grip usually starts as part of a basic crew, and then works up through various Grip levels to Grip Boss. Studios usually promote from within, although there is a lot of interchanging between studios as the various studios tend to be busy at different times. The promotion process is slow and may take many years since openings are few. Advancement really comes in the form of an increasing pay level, based on growing professional status and recognition. FINDING THE JOB Although applicants may apply at studios for Grip jobs, the few vacancies which arise in this occupation are usually filled by word-of-mouth. Grip positions are very rarely, if at all, advertised in newspapers or through employment agencies. When union members are unemployed or only partly employed, these workers must be considered before new applicants would be accepted in the occupation. ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION Motion Picture Studio Grips, Local 80 6926 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90038 (213) 931-1419 RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES Lighting Technicians No. 546 OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev. 1) Grip 962.687-022 OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System A/O Freight, Stock, and Mat. Movers, Hand 987990 Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.Note: This is NOT a job opening. The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions. If you are searching for a job, go to:
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