Grips are responsible for the equipment that supports the cameras, whether that be a tripod or a 100-foot crane. While the director is responsible for the artistry of the shots, grips work out how to position cameras so they move to achieve the desired effect. Whether they are setting up minicams in cars, cranes (jibs) or wheeled carts (a dolly), grips help achieve smooth, continuous shots.
If filming is on location, they might go on a recce ahead of the shoot with the camera operator. They look at the practical issues of where cameras will be placed and work out what supports will be needed. Grips hire suitable equipment from rental companies and on occasion may have to work with them to devise tailor-made pieces of kit.
During filming, they set up the equipment and are responsible for helping the jib or dolly operator. At the end of a shoot, they are responsible for de-rigging and re-packing the camera equipment.
It’s common for camera supervisors to request the services of grips with whom they have formed good relationships.
Grips work with the other members of the camera department to move and set up kit. These include camera supervisors, camera operators, jib operators and camera assistants. They also work directly with equipment rental companies, including staff such as kit room assistants.
There’s an established career route to becoming a grip in the UK.
Once you’ve had two years’ experience as a grip, take a Level 2 Diploma in Professional Competence for Grips. This will mean you can get on to the list of certified grips.
When you’ve been qualified for another two or three years, take a Level 3 Diploma in Professional Competence for Advanced Grips.
At school or college:
You can take A-levels or Highers in any subjects, though maths and physics are good if you want to take an engineering degree.
If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:
Get an apprenticeship:
These are the relevant apprenticeships in England that might be available:
Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will give you the skills you want. Go to where can I find an apprenticeship? to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region, or approach companies directly.
Work for an equipment company:
Contact rental companies like Proav, Gripvan, Panavision, ARRI and Chapman Leonard. Ask them if they have any openings for work experience of jobs as trainees or for work as kit room assistants. This is how many grips start out. Look at our advice on approaching employers to learn how to do this.
Get a degree:
You don’t need a degree to become a grip, although studying engineering may give you useful skills for this role.
Get to know people in the unscripted TV industry by attending events. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest in and knowledge of the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people making unscripted TV in your area. There might even be groups for runners and trainees. Join them. Create a ScreenSkills profile. There are a lot of crewing agencies that will charge you to be on their books. Sign up to the free ones initially. Wales Screen, Northern Ireland Screen and other areas offer free crew databases. Find a film office near you and get connected. If you do sign up to paid sites, make sure they specialise in the areas in which you’re interested.
Being a grip in the film and TV drama industries.
Covers genres ranging from period dramas to epic fantasies screened at the cinema, on TV or on streaming sites
Involves making sequences on a computer that can't be created on set, like enormous crowds and fire-breathing dragons
Combines art with programming as well as production, design and testing - the UK’s fastest growing entertainment industry