grip

In the U.S. and Canada, grips are lighting and rigging technicians in the filmmaking and video production industries. They constitute their own department on a film set and are directed by a key grip. Grips have two main functions. The first is to work closely with the camera department to provide camera support, especially if the camera is mounted to a dolly, crane, or in an unusual position, such as the top of a ladder. Some grips may specialize in operating camera dollies or camera cranes. The second main function of grips is to work closely with the electrical department to create lighting set-ups necessary for a shot under the direction of the Director of Photography. In the UK, Australia and most parts of Europe, grips are not involved in lighting. In the “British System”, adopted throughout Europe and the British Commonwealth (excluding Canada), a grip is solely responsible for camera mounting and support. The term “grip” dates back to the early era of the circus. From there it was used in vaudeville and then in today’s film sound stages and sets. Some have suggested the name comes from the 1930s–40s slang term for a tool bag or “grip” that these technicians use to carry their tools to work. Another popular theory states that in the days of hand-cranked cameras, it would be necessary for a few burly men to hang on to the tripod legs to stop excessive movement of the camera. These men became known as the “good grips”—as they were constantly being instructed to “keep a good grip on the tripod”. U.S. grips typically belong to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Canadian grips may also belong to IATSE or to Canada’s other professional trade unions including Toronto’s Nabet 700, or Vancouver’s ACFC. British grips usually belong to BECTU (Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph & Theatre Union).

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