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Grip (Theatrical)

California Occupational Guide Number 527
Interest Area 5-B

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 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Motion Picture Studio Grips, Local 80
6926 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(213) 931-1419


Lighting Technicians            No. 546


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:

California Occupational Guides

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