This is an in-depth blog breaking down Working as a low level grip or electric in film and television. Please comment below. As a reader it is your responsibility to help us make this post better! What is it missing? Have any questions?
This post began as two separate posts, but were merged due to the similarities in the jobs.
Working as a general Grip or Electric is one of the stepping stones to Working as a Best Boy Electric and eventually moving all the way up to Working as a Gaffer.
Working as a Grip or Electric
In this in-depth blog post, we will break down the job and show you how to make sure you are remembered and get the call back for the next job!
Although the general Grips or Electrics are the lowest position in the grip or lighting department, it is still a great job and how many gaffers or key grips get their start.
What is a General Grip or Electric?
By a general grip or electric, I mean the lowest level technician on the film set or anyone below the Best Boy. Some sets might have as many as a 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grips or electrics.
Generally, the more skilled technicians are higher up in the tier.
Example: On a crew with 3 technicians below the best boy, the 3rd would be the most skilled of the group and most likely the right hand of the best boy.The 4th would most likely be a little less experience and would support the Best Boy & 3rd. The lowest level person would usually be in charge or keeping the gear stash tidy, flying in gear and general support, like running power or taking away gear that is no longer needed on set.
Key Grip or Gaffer: Right Hand of DP and in charge of the dept.
Best Boy: Right hand of Key. In charge of logistics for the department.
3rd: Supports Key & Best Boy. Often times sticks by gaffer as the Best Boy is off doing other things.
4th: Supports the Best Boy, 3rd and Key.
5th: Supports everyone!
The above examples are very general.
All crews run differently, but that is a very basic breakdown of how many crews run.
The rest of this post will shine some light the duties and responsibilities of the people that work below the Best Boy
- Supporting the Key & Best Boy – This can be anything from rigging, manning a light or helping the best boy to pre-light upcoming scenes.
- Flying in gear – On some smaller sets, often times the Key will handle all of the work that is done right on the set. As a grip or electric, it can be your responsibility to fly in gear for them as they call for it.
- Setting up gear – depending on the level of the set, you might end up getting to play with a lot of lights. Knowing the gear is a must.
- Baby sitting gear staging area – Usually between takes you will be sitting by your staging area, keeping and eye on all the toys.
- Keeping the set tidy – Some of your work will consist of just keeping the set tidy by cleaning up after the higher level technicians or making sure your staging area is neat and everything is accessible.
- Ability to anticipate needs – The best grip or electric is one that knows what you need without you having to tell them. It can be as simple as running power while a high level tech begins placing the lamp and setting it up or handing your boss some titches of tape while they stand on a ladder. A good 3rd is constantly watching what is going on around them and anticipating needs within their department.
- Knowledge of grip and lighting gear – Even at the bottom, you still need to know how to safely and effectively set up the gear. This comes with time and on many high level sets, the lowest people in the grip and lighting department mostly run cable and huff sandbags.
- Ability to take orders – You need to be able to take orders, execute and communicate back once finished.
Pouches & Tools all Technicians Should Carry
Just like all other lighting technician’s, you’ll need to carry tools on you. 3rd’s should actually be carrying more than anyone else.
Why? Well, the key will be on set, next to the DP and the Best Boy will be in their office doing paper work, so the 3rds would be on set doing all the grunt work.
There are several posts on the site that talk about your pouches and tools. Rather than making another list here, I will be linking to articles that talk about the tools needed.
Check some of these posts out:
- Lighting Technician’s Tools Blog Post
- 7 Tool Every Electric Needs Blog Post
- 7 Tools Every Grip Needs Blog Post
Low level grip and electrics won’t usually be involved in prep days like the Key or their Best Boy. At the most. you might get to help them load a truck or pre-light some scenes, but you generally won’t be involved in any scouting or production meetings.
Keep a tool bag with all your stuff ready to go at all times. There will be jobs where you might get a last minute call the night before or morning of. The last thing you want is to be fumbling for tools at the last minute.
On Set as a Grip or Electric
On set you will mostly be taking your queues from the Gaffer or Key Grip, but when the Key is not around you might need to step up and deal with the DOP directly. Don’t be afraid of this. If your DOP needs something and you are the only person around who can execute their wishes, the worst thing you can do it give them an excuse as to why you shouldn’t or cant do what he or she asked.
Not executing their wishes is only acceptable if you are certain you are not capable of performing the task or feel unsafe.
Once you have completed what ever they have asked of you, be sure you inform them that you are finished and get their feedback. Communication is important.
When the Gaffer or Key Grip returns, let them know of any changes that you have made. Not doing so may result if the Key thinking something was bumped or accidentally changed. They might reset that light or flag not knowing that you DOP had requested this work done. This makes your Key and entire department look bad. Again, communication is important.
When not on any particular task, the best thing you can do is clean up the set. Your Keys and Best Boys will love you for it. This can mean cleaning up or organizing the stash, organizing gels, tidying cables, anything that will make your department look more professional. The best grip and electrics are always keeping things tidy for their department when not on a task. You don’t want to to known for sitting around and never taking initiative. If you see something that needs doing feel free to ask your Best Boy, they will love you for it and remember you for that next job.
Working as a low level grip or electric is a great starting point for any career in film and television. Many Keys, Best Boys and even Cinematographers started that way and were able to move up or make careers for themselves because of it. It is hard work, you must always be learning and increasing your skill set, but it can be very rewarding and pay quite well.
The next time you’re on set, show the lowest level grip and electrics some love.
Do you have an questions or comments? Do you have a correction or addition that you would like to make to this post? Feel free to leave it in the comments below!