The Key Grip is one of the most important crew members that can be found on a set. Depending on his experience and ability to guide his team properly, the budget of a film can be lowered significantly.
By definition, a Key Grip is a person that’s responsible for all the grip crews, which are responsible for lighting and rigging. The Key Grip reports directly to the Director of Photography.
However, what he does is not as simple as it looks. Therefore, let’s have a look into all of the responsibilities of a Key Grip.
Who Is the Key Grip?
We’ve mentioned some things about the Key Grip, but there are plenty left for you to know. He works with the grip crews, but not alone – with the help of the Cinematographer and the Gaffer, the Key Grip must also report the progress of the gearing up process on the set.
Moreover, the Director of Photography, the Gaffer, and the Key Grip are the three people that will analyze the shooting locations in order to figure out the budget that’s going to be required and matters that regard logistics.
The grip crews will leave some tricky situations, such as those involving advanced camera and lighting techniques, to the Key Grip. The latter is also responsible for most planning that is required on set: rigs, tracks, dollies, tripods, jibs, cranes, and everything that’s related to equipment. Furthermore, renting vehicles and preparing the set for stunts are his responsibilities as well.
Key Grip’s Responsibilities
The Key Grip must have his eyes wide open at all times, as he is responsible for the safety of the crew. He has to analyze everything on set and predict any possible issue, and he must also come up with the precautionary and preventive measure so that the filmmaking always runs smoothly.
Moreover, when accompanied by the Gaffer, the Key Grip has to adapt the rigging and the equipment to the lighting positions that are required by a certain scene.
Even though the Key Grip handles more administrative tasks, he will also join the other grip crews in order to carry, move, and set up parts of the equipment. All of this has to be done while also communicating constantly with the Director of Photography – he must tend to shot blocking and to shaping and controlling the light on the set so that every shot is perfect and just the way the director wanted it to be.
What Does It Take to Be a Key Grip?
One can’t just be a Key Grip. You must possess a rather long list of skills in order to be allowed to manage all of the crew grips on a set of a movie. Here are some of them:
- Lots of Technical Knowledge – because the Key Grip has to handle a variety of gadgets while on the set, he must know how to set up and use them.
- Communication Skills – as a Key Grip has to manage all of the grip crews, he must know how to make himself understood but also how to explain things to juniors properly.
- Problem Solving Skills – the Key Grip is the one that will act in case something goes wrong in the middle of a shot. If a lighting failure happens, he must act immediately and fix the issue or come up with alternatives for it.
- Patience – working under a Director of Photography can be stressful sometimes. Therefore, a Key Grip must come equipped with a lot of patience as he will have to report every single thing that’s happening on his part of the set to the Director of Photography, Gaffer, and Cinematographer – this includes progress, as well as failures.
- Creativity – yes, a Key Grip must be creative and speak up if he has an idea that will change the look of a scene in better. After all, the grip crews are the ones that make the actors look good – with the help of proper camera angles and lighting effects. Therefore, a Key Grip must intervene if he comes up with a new technique that will improve the quality of a shot – and, ultimately, of the movie.
Difference throughout the World
In US and Canada, the Key Grip rules over the grip crews and is responsible for gearing up camera and lighting. But they don’t have the same responsibilities if they’re working with a production team that’s located in New Zealand and UK, for example.
In the UK, the Key Grip is responsible only for the camera group, while in New Zealand he is the person that owns the equipment required – such as tracks, dollies, cranes, camera cars, and insert trailers.
While the Key Grip job is mostly unknown to some of us, the one that has it makes the movie look the way we see it on the big screen – when we were children, we probably thought that he is responsible for gripping/ holding some keys for the actors.
Still, handling all the cameras and lighting is not an easy job, and we hope that our article showed you how hard is to be the Key Grip on a movie set.