Grip Job Description: What Does a Grip Do?
A grip is the technician who sets up, operates, and maintains the rigging/equipment that supports the camera (i.e. dollies, cranes, tracks, jibs, tripods, process trailers, etc.) and lighting (stands, diffusers, nets, etc.) to achieve the desired shot. Under the direction of the best boy electrical (who reports to the key grip), a grip builds, lifts, moves, and adjusts the production gear that helps a scene feel alive.
On larger productions, there are three different types of grips: the company grip, sometimes known as the 3rd grip, works onset and is guided by the key grip; the construction grip, who builds and dismantles sets, clears obstacles that may get in the way of shooting, adjusts set pieces to make room for cameras or lights, and/or builds platforms for cameras that need to be in specific spots; and the dolly grip, the technician who sets up and operates the camera dolly, a wheeled platform on tracks that creates smooth horizontal movements on-screen.
On a smaller production, the work of a grip and that of a gaffer tend to get rolled into one position without any support staff who reports to the director of photography. On very small productions, all three of these jobs—grip, gaffer, DP—may fall under the job description of the DP, meaning they’ll be setting up lights and gear and working the camera themselves.
Grip + Electrical
Alternate Titles for Grip
Grips report directly to the best boy grip. On smaller sets, it’s not uncommon for the grip, gaffer, and best boy grip to be the same person, which means they report to the director of photography.
While salary is dependent on experience, working conditions (budget, location, hours of work, union status), a 2019 report from Career Trend found that an average salary for grips is $30,000, while dolly grips earn between $200 and $300 per shooting day, according to Saddleback University.
How to Become a Grip
Grips most commonly start as production assistants or trainees, loading and unloading trucks filled with gear, shadowing the professional grips, and learning the trade firsthand. While the job schedule isn’t concrete, with experience and knowledge, a grip can expect to work a lot, eventually advancing to best boy grip or key grip.
Grip Required Experience + Skills
A grip should have knowledge of camera and lighting equipment, construction, carpentry, mechanics, electrics, wiring, and be generally technical-minded. It’s also important to be in good physical condition as a large part of the workday will be spent lugging heavy equipment and climbing ladders. The best education is on a set, but a degree and/or background in the different elements of the job would be beneficial before starting.
And while much of a grip’s job is “on the technical side, you want to be open-minded and creative,” says grip Paul Critzman III. “The best grips are resourceful and use what is around to solve the issue, and not necessarily only what is supposed to be done.”
Mark Manchester, an industry veteran with 35 years of experience as a grip and key grip (“Chicago,” “Cinderella Man”) says, “you can bring anything you’ve ever done to [work as a grip]. It’s an ongoing learning experience.”
For more on how to get work on a film crew, visit Backstage’s crew hub!