Grips and Key Grips

The key grip is the handyperson on set. Grips' responsibility is to build and maintain all the equipment that supports cameras. This equipment, which includes tripods, dollies, tracks, jibs, cranes, and static rigs, is constructed of delicate yet heavy duty parts requiring a high level of experience to operate and move. This role can also entail things such as lift and pull heavy equipment and laying tracks for the camera to move. The Key Grip is the chief of a group of Grips, often doubling for a construction coordinator and a backup for the camera crew, that also moves a dolly. Key Grips work closely with the gaffer.

Grips begin work in the later stages of preproduction, when they join all other Heads of Department to carry out a technical recce. If particular challenges are identified, Grips work with specialist companies to devise tailor-made pieces of equipment to facilitate difficult camera manoeuvres which are sometimes performed on location in extreme terrain and/or severe weather. During shooting days, Grips and their team (which may include other Grips, a Remote Head technician, a Crane Operator, tracking car drivers, and all construction standbys) arrive on set early, unload all the equipment, and ensure that everything is prepared for the day's filming. After the Director has rehearsed the actors, all the shots are choreographed, using stand-ins (the line-up), and Grips subsequently set-up any required equipment. Whenever a crane is used, a minimum of two Grips are always employed, collaborating closely with the Crane Operator about mounting and moving the camera. Grips should be ready as soon as the camera starts to roll, and they must anticipate all the camera moves, whilst also keeping in mind the preparations required for the next camera set-up. At the end of each day's shooting, Grips oversee the packing up of all camera-support equipment. 

Job/task description

  • Prepare the set for filming
  • Set construction
  • Set-up any required equipment
  • Work closely with the Director, Director of Photography (DoP) and the Camera Operator to ensure that all positioning or movement of cameras is achievable
  • Usually responsible for pushing the Dolly (the wheeled platform which carries the camera and the Camera Operator)
  • Create smooth movements that do not distract from the onscreen action
  • On large projects with multiple cameras, the Key Grip is responsible for the main camera (camera A), with other Grips providing additional camera support
  • In charge of non-electrical equipment that change the light
  • Carry hand tools necessary for the required tasks
  • Anticipate all the camera moves
  • Keeping in mind the preparations required for the next camera set-up
  • Packing up of all camera-support equipment at the end of the day