What in the World
is a Grip & Gaffer?
The final product of movie making is based on an intricate
process usually involving the collaboration of scores of people.
Of course it is common knowledge what the role of actor, director
and producer are, but we could not see their work without the
involvement of grips, gaffers and photography directors.
Shane Shauer, currently a key grip, has had an interesting
career path in the film industry. He has had experience doing
work as a gaffer as well as director of photography (DP). Talking
to him, he was able to illustrate the roles of the grip, gaffer
and DP and the interplay between them.
As described by Shane,
the DP is in “charge of creating
the look of the film by controlling light.” The key grip
and gaffer assist him in making this possible. The gaffer is
in charge of lighting while the key grip is in charge of shading.
The support staff of the gaffer are electricians who run power
cables and control lighting. Grips work under the direction
of the key grip, and they are involved with setting up stands,
building and support rigs and carrying sand bags.
With respect to how one can get involved in the business,
Shane shared his insights. He was fortunate to have graduated
from a great program for film, that is, Florida State University
(FSU) Film School. Shane describes the school as providing
an excellent overview and examination of the film production
process, from pre-production to post-production. While there
were some courses focusing on the technical aspects of gripping,
but mostly the school provides the encouragement and resources
to support and enrich one's talents and goals in the field
During his time at the university, Shane had the opportunity
to work with excellent equipment and he became adept at working
with it, to the point of even knowing how to repair it. After
graduating from FSU, Shane segued directly into the role of Key
Grip. Since then, he has also worked as gaffer and occasionally
Shane finds all aspects
of filmmaking enjoyable. There are interesting challenges
involved. He recalled how on the last film he worked he was
able to creatively deal with a lighting difficulty. The challenge
was to recreate lighting that had been filmed earlier that
day. Light kept showing up on camera, but Shane came up with
the idea of removing the ceiling tile, hiding the lights
above, and covering the hole with diffusion paper, thus recreating
the appropriate lighting. According to Shane, “the
biggest part of filmmaking is taking whatever resources you
have and making them work. Things might seem impossible,
but I always tell myself there has to be a way to make it
work so just find it out.”
Additional advice Shane has for those wishing to enter the
world of filmmaking, working behind the camera, is that there
is a lot of competition in the field, and that initially the
hours are long with relatively low salary, but good work is
recognized in the field and with persistence and dedication,
one can work at tasks which are more personally enjoyable.
The important thing is to start working on film sets in any
capacity, read the set technician handbooks, build a network
of friends, and of course, never give up.
Shane has moved his way up the path of filmmaking, only recently
having graduated from FSU, and having already accomplished such
tasks as serving as the DP for several commercials as well as
movies including Hunger and Slingshot. His dream is to become a recognized cinematographer,
with acceptance in the American Society of Cinematography.
According to Shane this will involve lots of work and dedication,
don't get there by giving up.”#