This post began as two separate posts, but were merged due to the similarities in the jobs
This is an in-depth blog breaking down Working as a Best Boy Grip or Electric in film and television. Please comment below. As a reader is is your responsibility to help us make this post better! What is it missing? Have any questions?
The Best Boy is the right hand man of the Gaffer or Key Grip. They help the keys run the crew, pre light upcoming scenes or sets, manage the equipment and much more.
Like all jobs on set working as a Best Boy Electric is a tough job that takes a lot of skill and attention to detail.
As usual, The Set Lighting Technicians Handbook is your bible. Seriously! Book stores don’t normally carry it, so buying it on Amazon.com is the easiest way of getting it. A great option for grips is Michael Uva’s The Grip Book. This one is also hard to find in stores so it’s best to order from Amazon.com.
Read these and have them with you on set. They are a fantastic aid for learning about gear, trouble shooting, general reference and definitely very handy for anyone working in these departments.
Working as a Best Boy Grip or Electric:
- Help the gaffer or key grip run the crew.
- Paper work. This is actually my least favorite part of the job. This can mean anything from time sheets, deal memos, equipment orders, anything the departments needs paperwork wise.
- The hiring, scheduling, and management of crew. As a Best Boy you may be needing to find extra crew members, coordinate and schedule with them and other departments and anything else logistical while the key is on set.
- Ordering gear, inventory of gear and gear returns/exchanges. Just like with crew members, you might have days that require a few extra toys. You also need to keep track of what is available and make sure that anything that gets damaged or won’t be needed anymore gets returned.
- Pre-Lighting and/or rigging up coming sets and/or scenes. This is one of the most important aspects of the job as far as I’m concerned. Working on set is all about being efficient and a huge part of that is pre-lighting. Often times the Best Boy will schedule lighting technicians to do pre-lights, over see these pre-lights and on smaller sets will do this work him or her self.
- Act as a representative of the department to the Production Manager and/or Production Departments. The key doesn’t always have time to talk to the Assistant Directors or the PM. A good Best Boy can deal with a lot of this.
- Repair and/or maintain equipment. This may not always be possible as some lighting equipment is extremely complicated, but there is a lot of good Best can do to make sure equipments is in proper working order.
- High level of technical skill & knowledge. You will not only need to know how to use the gear, but also trouble shoot and potentially make small repairs.
- Strong problem solving skills. You’ll have to deal with broken gear, trouble shoot lamps, and determine cable runs.
- Strong communication skills. Dealing with other departments and production can be difficult and stressful. Communication is more important than ever.
- Attention to detail. Film making is all about the details. As a best boy you are almost like the 1st & 2nd AD of the grip or lighting departments rolled into one package.
Pouches & Tools all Technicians Should Carry
Three easiest places to get Pouches, Belts and Tools:
8 or 10 inch crescent wrenches work best. If trying to be light weight look for a 6inch crescent wrench with an extra wide jaw
Leatherman is just about industry standard. Feel free to purchase a lower end multitool if you don’t want to spend too much, but be sure it can do everything you need.
You might be doing rewiring, or god knows what on set. Picquics are the best because you can put the bit in a drill.
You’ll be using a knife everyday on set, so be sure to get some extra blades for it. Be careful though, they are razor sharp!
C-47s, Clothes Pegs, bullets, what ever you call them. Did you know you can pull one apart and use for very tiny precise leveling or flip them backwards (c-74) and use them to pull scrims out of lights? Pay a little more and get the heavy-duty ones, it’s worth it.
It didn’t make the main list of bonus because it is considered an expandable and is usually provided on most jobs. Clothes pegs are also an expandable, but they are so important to the job that they had to make the main list.
Electric Specific Tools
Used to split a line of AC into 3 U-grounds, these are extremely handy. Stay under 15amps though, you don’t want to melt it! Package trucks will carry these, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some with you at all times. Label them with your name or initials, but be sure to collect them at the end of the day.
A line tester will show if a wire has a current flowing through it. Great for quick trouble shooting. A circuit tester plugs in to an Edison and tells you if its hot, it will also let you know if the ground is correct and polarization. Spend a little extra and get one with the GFCI tester built-in. A must have for every Gaffer.
Measures AC/DC voltage, AC current, and resistance. Also use these to test diodes and continuity
Use these to make repairs, build special fixtures and more.
One of these can be a great thing to keep stashed away for a rainy day. As a best boy electric you never know when you might have to do some very precise repairs.
Grip Department Specific Tools
Measuring tapes aren’t just for playing swords, but a major part of a grips job. Use it to measure a window before cutting gel or plan out your dolly track before you start laying.
Great for quick rigging, you won’t use it as often as some of the other tools, but definitely a must have.
On many lower budget or indie jobs there will be no dolly grip and dolly responsibilities will fall on to the key grip. Imagine having to lay 24feet of dolly track quickly without a level. Check some out!
Use these to repair stands!
Prep & Production Meetings
Sometimes the grip and electric departments will be given a couple of days or even weeks of prep for a project. This time is needed to do several things that will make your life easier while on the project.
- Read the script!
- Watch any look references given to you by the cinematographer or anything the Director and Cinematographer are discussing
- Further discuss lighting approach, equipments needs and scheduling with the key
- Attend any necessary production meetings
- Work on equipment lists
Make a Best Boy Binder
This is a must for all best boys! A binder helps you to keep track of paper work, schedules, contact info and any other paper work.
I recommend something that zips up, you can get some pretty inexpensive ones on Amazon.com
What to Keep in Your Binder
- The Script
- The Schedule for the film
- Equipment lists
- Contact Info for crew, equipment houses and anything else
- Time sheets
- Deal memos
- A calendar
- Spare sheets of paper
If you are lucky enough to have an office, I would also recommend putting up a calendar and keeping it up to date.
The Tech Scout
Tech Scouting is a very important process for any department in the prep stage for a project, especially grip and lighting.
The tech scout is your opportunity to get an idea of how and where the scenes will play out, ask questions and coordinate with other departments or crew members.
As a best boy grip or electric there are some very specific things you need to look out for during your tech scout.
- Listen in and participate in lighting and gear discussions. Make diagrams, lists and take notes as needed
- Make equipment lists or make sure package truck lists meet the needs of the film
- Figure out cable runs & find safe places for 4As, diefs and gear storage
- Determine genny and/or truck placement
- Special Equipment requirements & Discuss rigging requirements, including lights, special stands, scaffolding, aerial lifts etc.
- Equipment staging area
On Set as a Best Boy
At the top of the day running cable, staging gear and helping the gaffer or key grip get set up is your top priority. Hopefully you were able to plan your cable run or staging on the tech scout. If not, talk to the key and determine what is safe and where power will be needed.
I would not recommend talking to the cinematographer directly, unless completely necessary. Some keys may feel like you are stepping on their toes, so it’s best to just avoid any awkward situations.
Once things get going you can take some time to work on any paper work you need to take care of, make phone calls or deal with production. You are essentially the 1st and 2nd ADs for your department, so you need to really be on the ball when it comes to paperwork, scheduling and communicating with other departments.
A big part of the job involves pre-lighting up coming scenes or sets. Even getting into a location 30mintues early and running some cable or standing by gear can be a huge time saver for the production. It is your responsibility to think ahead and pay attention for anything you can do that will speed things up.
On bigger jobs you may also need to schedule extra technicians to come in for rigging and pre-lighting. Your needs can be determined through discussion with the key and cinematographer and as you gain experience this will become easier and easier.
The rest of the job is just like being a regular technician. They key is to learn to balance your time and manage people and gear all while supporting your key.
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