A dolly grip is a film technician considered part of the camera or grip and electric (G&E) department. They are primarily responsible for positioning and moving the camera dolly, a wheeled device on which the camera and camera operators are placed for certain shots. The dolly grip is essential in maintaining the smooth movements required in dolly shots, as any bump or jiggle can destroy a shot.
Dolly grips may have several jobs on a shoot, depending on the style and type of shots required. Some dolly shots make use of a dolly track, a metal grid laid out similarly to a train track on which the dolly is placed. If a track is required, the grip may be responsible for laying it out according to the shot specifications, as well as pulling the dolly across the tracks.
The camera crew is dependent on the dolly grip’s ability to hit predetermined marks for stopping and starting position. As the camera moves on the dolly, a focus puller must manually adjust the focus of the lens to keep the shot clear. If a dolly grip goes over their ending mark, the shot may be out of focus. Although there is sometimes time to place colored tape or other indicators to help the grip start and stop correctly, many dolly grips develop an innate sense of where and when to stop.
Some dollies include a mechanic or hydraulic arm that can be attached to the camera for certain shots. Often, the dolly grip, rather than a member of the camera crew, will be assigned to operate the arm. In some cases, the grip must not only move the arm but also pull or push the cart as well.
If no dolly is used for handheld or Steadicam work, a dolly grip may still find employment as a spotter for the camera man. Typically, they will guide the camera operator around any obstacles, keep them from tripping and prevent them from encountering anything that could damage the shot or cause injury to themselves or the actors. While other technicians can do this job, the dolly grip’s ability to move smoothly and assess distances correctly can make them an invaluable asset to this type of camera work.
Dolly grips possess a unique skill set that requires considerable training and a lot of experience. As such, good dolly grips are typically highly sought-after and well-paid. If you are considering a career as a film technician, the world of the dolly grip offers a good mix between camera and G&E work, and can be rewarding both creatively and financially.