Film Industry

What Is A Key Grip In Movies: Exploring The Key Grip In Film

Photograph of the blog post author, Jodie Francis

Jodie Francis

21.6.2021

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There are so many different roles in the film industry, and it can make finding the right role for you feel overwhelming at times. That being said, would you like to learn more about the role of a key grip in film? If the answer is yes, then you have come to the right place! This article will be your ultimate guide to the role in film and TV. We will cover what is a key grip, right down to the precise responsibilities of the role, and the salary expectations. We will also consider if you need a degree or qualification to be hired in the role. 

key grip holding a light

So, make sure that you keep reading. You never know, you may have just found the job for you! 

What Is A Key Grip?

key grip on set

So, what is a key grip? Or, as many people ask, ‘what is a key grip in movies’? If someone was to refer to a key grip in relation to TV and film crews, then that person would work directly with the cinematographer and gaffer. 

They would supervise the rest of the people on the grip crew, the lighting, and the rigging. Grips are the technicians on a film crew who both build and maintain all of the vital equipment that supports the cameras. 

This equipment will cover anything that a camera can attach to, such as dollies, tracks, and tripods. If the film required a camera to be mounted onto a helicopter, then it will be the grip’s responsibility to find the equipment required, mount it, and ensure its safety. 

If a person has the role of key grip, then you can safely assume that they are in charge of the rest of the grips and the assistants. This means that you will need to feel comfortable leading a team of people.

After all, working on a film is a collaborative experience between many different departments. 

What Does A Key Grip Do

So, what does a key grip do? We will now cover the responsibilities of the movie key grip. 

Pre-Production Responsibilities 

key grip on set

That’s right, the job of a key grip in film begins before the shooting does! The key grip will be provided with a copy of the script and will meet with the director of photography (DOP).

At the meeting, they will break down the script and address all of the different camera movements. They will also attend location scouting appointments so that they can assess if the equipment will fit and work in the space. 

From here the key grip will need to rent all of the necessary equipment. This will also entail figuring out how to transport the equipment to the different sets.

Finally, they must ensure that they have stuck to the budget that has been outlined for them to follow. 

Production Responsibilities 

key grip on set

Things don’t slow down for the key grip during the production of the film. The key grip will actually always be on set to assist the DOP. They will need to keep an eye on the director’s scene blocking, as they will need to set up all the equipment for every shoot. 

If it’s a bigger shoot, then it’s likely that the key grip will have a team of people to assist with this. As the equipment will often be big and heavy, the key grip will have the ultimate responsibility of the cast and crew’s safety on set.

They have the power to end a scene early if they believe that the equipment poses a danger to anyone. 

What’s A Grip Truck? 

grip truck for making movies

This is another commonly asked question when it comes to the role of a key grip. As you will likely already know, there can be many different types of vehicles on set, and the grip truck is one of them. It will also typically have a great many people surrounding it! 

Contained on the truck is plenty of tools (both large and small) and gadgets that could be required on set. It is likely that if someone has been a key grip before, then they will have the knowledge on where to get a good deal on rental trucks. 

Key grips should ensure that they also have a tool belt handy on them at all times. These tools include but are not limited to different kinds of pliers, a monkey wrench, a stud finder, duct tape, and screwdrivers. 

What Is A Best Boy Key Grip?

key grip on set with lighting

So, what is a best boy key grip? Under the key grip is the role of best boy key grip. There are actually two different types of best boy. These are the:

  • Best boy grip
  • Best boy electric

The latter role will assist the gaffer and the electrical department, whereas the best boy will directly assist the key grip. 

They are essentially the second in command for the department and they are considered to be the foreman of the grip crew.

Their workload is varied, as they can help by hiring new crew members, checking and maintaining equipment, solving problems, creating schedules, and more. 

How To Become A Key Grip

Along with the question ‘what is a key grip in film’, how to become a key grip is one of the most commonly asked questions. Firstly, you will need to decide what route to go down.

This means either going to university and obtaining a relevant degree or being hired by a company.

Make sure that you keep reading to discover the two main ways to begin a career as a key grip!

What Qualifications Do You Need To Be A Key Grip?

key grip on set with DOP

If you decide to go down the education route, then there are some qualifications that can put you in great standing for the role of key grip. You could decide to get a degree in film studies, as this can give you a wide understanding of the industry as a whole.

Or you could combine an internship with a qualification. The following are good examples of where to find a relevant placement: Creative Assess, BBC, PACT, and ScreenSkills. 

If you’re looking for some examples of where to study film in the UK, then you have plenty of fantastic options!

For example, BA (Hons) Film Studies at the University of Winchester. They state that during the first year they cover the basics, including: Film Narrative, Film Criticism, and Reading Film. 

The second year has a more specialised focus on research skills. The students can also choose what interests them, such as Gangster and Crime Film or Classical Hollywood Cinema. The third year will see you write your dissertation. 

Online Qualifications

If you would rather obtain a film qualification online, then you also have that option. For example, the London Film Academy offers people short courses like Producing Certificate or Directing: Filmmaker’s Toolkit. 

The British Film Institute (BFI) currently offers four online film courses. For example, Short Film in Language Teaching. The majority of courses focus on teaching film courses; however a lot of their courses are free and could make a nice addition to your CV. 

The education route is a useful route to go down when beginning your career as a key grip. It can give you the general and useful relevant information that you need to know about the film industry, and make you stand out from the other people applying for a job.

So, consider searching for a university course or certificate in film!

How To Become A Key Grip Without Qualifications

on set with director

So, how do you become the key grip without any qualifications? Let’s face it, university isn’t for everyone, and the good news is that you don’t need qualifications to become a key grip.

You could always start out as an intern to get the experience that you need. You never know, the company that hired you could then decide to keep you on in a paid key grip role. 

Production Assistant

Another option open to you is to get a job as a production assistant. This is a great starting point, and you can move up from there.

Becoming an assistant in the camera department is also a great starting point, as not only will you gain the relevant knowledge, but also the grip department works very closely with them. 

After working in one of these roles you can advance in the ranks, and you will also be building your CV at the same time. If you work with a certain director or key grip, they could recommend you for future roles in the industry. 

Key Skills

No matter if you obtain a degree, or decide to go down the experience route, you need to have some basic qualities and skills. For example, you need to hold great communication skills, as you will be speaking to various members of the crew from different departments.

You need clear communication skills in order to make sure that film runs smoothly. 

Additionally, you need to hold organisational skills, as there will be a great deal of planning for the key grip to do with the DOP. You will also need to have good problem solving instincts, as quite often you will need to think on your feet.

This is especially relevant when it comes to fixing broken equipment or technology and ensuring that everything is safe. 

Finally, you also need to have technical and practical knowledge. This is because you may need to fix equipment and different technologies.

These skills can be learned, especially if you begin your career as a key grip by interning or on a placement. After all, hands-on experience by being on a film set will be invaluable! 

Key Grip Salary

movie clapboard with money

The salary of a key grip can vary depending on whether you are freelancing, or you have been hired by a company. The role is typically a freelance/ self-employed one and this means that you can generate your rate per each project.

You will likely be paid a higher rate if you have more relevant experience under your belt. 

Sometimes unions like Grip Branch and BECTU can provide you with advice concerning your payment. If you’re working on a major film production, then you could make between £350-£450 per day. If it’s a lower-budget movie then this payment can go down to £250 per day. 

It’s estimated that (in the UK) the average salary for a key grip is £22,652. This would make the hourly rate £11.

There has also been an average bonus payment of £288. Of course, there’s an opportunity to earn more than this, especially if you are an experienced key grip. 

Now You Know Everything About A Key Grip

film crane

And that completes our guide to the role of key grip! We hope that we have answered the main question ‘what is a key grip in movie credits’, so that you are aware of exactly what the role requires should you get hired! 

There are many things to consider before you apply or aim for the role of key grip. You need to make the decision as to what route you wish to go down. 

For example, education won’t be for everyone, but you can work your way up the ranks by beginning as an intern or an assistant on set. You could also get a degree and then look for a job!

Having a degree will provide you with a detailed knowledge of film, and this puts you in a good place to be hired. 

Mainly, you need to display confidence, good communication skills, and an organised personality. Having these skills will greatly enhance your chances of being employed as a key grip. Good luck on your job search! 

Are you a key grip? Well we’d love to hear your experiences in the comment section below. Be sure to share this article on social media and tag us @musicgateway!

If you would like to read more useful information about the film industry, then make sure that you check our blog. Here are articles on Online Filmmaking Courses, Film Crew, and Famous Movie Props to get you started!

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