Learning how to bring all the moving parts together on the set of an indie film can be tough, so let’s break it down and dive into the roles of key grips and grips on your set to help you get started. 

If you’re unsure what a grip is, the first thing you should know is that grips are individuals on set who are able to build rigging equipment that supports lights and cameras. The grip crew is supervised by someone called the key grip.

If, right off the bat, this is a crew member you know you’re interested in having work with you on your indie film, check out all of our funding opportunities to see if you could win up to $10,000 in funding or other prizes to help bring your film to life and hire your key personnel.

If you’re not quite sold yet on whether or not you should have a grip film crew on your set, let’s dive a little deeper into what roles they can play on your film’s set and how it could be advantageous to bring them onto your team.

Grip Definition in Film

grips setting up equipment on set the film fund

As we’ve already stated, a grip is responsible for working with rigging equipment on set, equipment that supports the cameras or lighting. Beyond just setting up equipment, they are in charge of making sure everything runs efficiently, and if it does not, they must work to fix those issues.

A grip must know how to handle any and all equipment that supports the lighting and camera equipment, and if they do not have an extensive knowledge about how to handle and configure this type of equipment, they probably are not the best candidate for your grip film crew. They do not handle the lights themselves: that’s the responsibility of the gaffer and his or her electric crew.

Film Grip Equipment

Something important that your grips should know how to operate is the grip truck. This is a vehicle which holds tools essential for ensuring all technical devices run efficiently on set. 

If something malfunctions, this is the spot where you can go to find the device to fix whatever requires fixing.

Something else a grip should always have is a C-Wrench and of course, a walkie talkie. Other essential items include, but are not limited to, measuring tapes, duct tape, levels, screwdrivers, and various other wrenches. A good multi-tool doesn’t hurt, either!

Key Grip in Film

three men working together during production the film fund

While grips form an entire crew on their own, they are led by a key grip.

It is essential that this person has the ability to lead a group. 

A key grip is somebody who is able to watch over technicians and who works directly with the cinematographer, conveying messages between the two departments. 

If your key grip struggles with leading groups, they may not be the best person to fill this role for you.

Why Hire a Key Grip?

1. They Are Excellent Leaders

man overseeing production the film fund

If you’re the director, it is easy to feel like all responsibility falls on you.

While it’s true that you hold an immense amount of power and responsibility, your key grip is expected to be an excellent leader who is able to take charge of an entire department and ensure that all responsibilities get completed.

They are expected to have excellent communication skills and be problem solvers, and knowing this will help to alleviate your stress. 

There is always room for conflict, but having a strong key grip will allow you the freedom to know that should conflicts arise, your key grip will be able to solve them without requiring your assistance to do so. 

2. They Assist with Safety Protocols

Something that’s important in any field is the concern of safety. 

On a film set, this is especially important. As mentioned previously, a key grip is knowledgeable in how all film equipment works, therefore, they are hyper aware of safety precautions and making sure everything operates safely and effectively.

3. They Help Save Time

Because your key grip, and your entire grip crew, know how to operate lighting, this will help you immensely if anything begins to malfunction.

If you do not have at least a key grip on your set, then it is likely you would have to contact outside support to assist in fixing equipment. This would take precious time out of your well constructed production schedule, but if you have someone already on set who can assist you, this would work to your extreme benefit. 

4. They Make Your Life Easier

This seems like quite the obvious point, but having a key grip on set makes your life easier. It’s as simple as that.

As a director starting to produce your own film, you will have a vision in your head of what you want the project to look like. Your key grip, along with the cinematographer you’re working with, will be able to work together to make sure this vision is able to come to life.

You may not always have the time to express to your entire crew firsthand what you want your shots to look like, but the cinematographer and key grip will have enough knowledge of your vision to be able to help make executive decisions like this.

Everyone has different skill sets, and maybe rigging equipment isn’t yours. Having a key grip will be quite advantageous, especially if you don’t know how to execute your vision when it comes to setting up all the equipment.

5. They Can Help You Creatively

camera angled toward woman being interviewed the film fund

Building directly off of the previous point, even though a key grip’s job isn’t the most well known, they play an essential role on your set and will be of much assistance to you. 

If you have an atypical vision for what you want your shot to look like, you can work with your key grip and cinematographer to figure out exactly where to set up equipment that supports or affects the lights (such as diffusing materials) in order to achieve your vision.

You no longer have to work on your own; you have a team behind you.

If obtaining a grip film crew is something that you believe would benefit your production, check out all of our contests to put yourself in the running to receive funding for your latest project and help you to acquire the funds to hire a grip crew.

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