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Could you define what a grip does in the production of a movie, and then what makes the key grip, key?

When looking at the crew list of "Big Trouble in Little China" I noted it also shows, in addition to a grip, and key grip, a company grip.

Is a key grip in charge of all the grips?

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Undeleted and purged comments. I think this question can be a good (albiet short) example of a good production questions. Maybe list why they are called "grips" in the first place. While we're not trying to replicate external sources verbatim, Having a quality answer to these questions is not a bad thing at all. –  TylerShads May 29 at 23:09
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I added some additional information to the question, perhaps this will help with the 'too short' 'not enough research' issues. –  CGCampbell May 29 at 23:15

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

There are several different types of "grips", each with varying levels of responsibility.

The Key Grip is basically the unit head, and reports to the Director of Photography on a feature. They are responsible for scouting the locations, ordering, arranging transport and setup of equipment for filming and lighting. They are sometimes billed as first company grip.

Other grips work with the lighting, cameras, camera cranes, dollies, setting up rigging for lighting, and other tasks relating to the filming and lighting. According to union rules, however, they do not touch lights or electrical distribution elements, that is the responsibility of the electricians onsite, who work under a gaffer.

There are a few different theories on where the term "grip" comes from, but it has been in use dating back to the early days of the circus. (Late 1700's - early 1800's).

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Which is why black electrical tape is sometimes referred as "gaffer's tape" I would imagine. –  CGCampbell May 30 at 15:23
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@CGCampbell Gaffers tape is not the same as electrical tape. Gaffers tape resembles duct tape (same size roughly) and comes in many colors, but is designed to be removed without leaving any stickiness or residue behind. Also, electrical tape is electrically insulating. Gaffers tape does not insulate electrically. –  Leatherwing May 30 at 20:08

Additional Grip- Riffing their own credits

So if you pick something up once, you're considered a grip?

-Mike Nelson, riffing their own credits in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)

Indeed, A Key Grip usually doesn't do any gripping, that is to say it's just a fancy way of saying "Grip Manager". And while we're at it, Mike is basically right that Grips just hold things such as cameras and lights to make shots quicker to set up.

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