The Rare and Elusive "Grip/Gaffer"

This post will contain information that to my knowledge is current and factual at the time of writing.

But, I must warn you, this is totally a pet peeve post.

Knowledge of correct nomenclature is very important in any profession and the film industry is no exception. On Craigslist you will find countless examples of people that have no clue about the lighting department. I don't hold it against them; typically, if you are posting on Craigslist for your crew, you aren't a professional. If you were professional, you would know that the typical method of hiring a crew is by word of mouth/recommendation from the top down. You hire department heads and they find the crew that will be working under them. So you find yourself posting on Craigslist and thinking to yourself, "Okay, I need a sound mixer.... I need a DP... and I need some of those guys that setup the lights and equipment... what are they called again? Well, I've heard the names GRIP and GAFFER tossed around, they must have something to do with lighting... but I don't know which one's which.... I'll just assume they are the same thing and put a slash there."

"Looking for a few grip/gaffers to help light my short"

If you were looking to start a football team, you just asked for a few linebackers/coaches to help you out.

When you say things like grip/gaffer you not only show your own ignorance, but you show your lack of respect for the professions of the people you're looking to hire. When I have enough money to make a project of my own, I'm going to post on Craigslist looking for a couple of PA/UPMs.

So just to dispel any false impressions people have about the words GRIP and GAFFER, let me spell it out for you. There are two departments within the Lighting Department, the GRIP department and the ELECTRIC department.

The Grip department is headed by the Key Grip and has a Best Boy Grip. The rest of the people in the department are Grips and there are some Dolly grips. The Grip department is responsible for three main things: helping light the scene by bouncing light, diffusing light, coloring light, and creating shadows; helping the Electric department rig lights when they go anywhere other than a stand; and supporting the Camera department with dollies, cranes, and rigging the camera anywhere other than a tripod.

The Electric department is headed by the Gaffer and has a Best Boy Electric. The rest of the people in the department are Electrics(or SLT's Set Lighting Technicians). The Electric department is responsible for operating the generator, running power to where it's needed on set, and setting up and operating the lights needed to light the scene.

To review(each department is in order of seniority):

Electric Department

  • Gaffer
  • Best Boy Electric
  • Electrics

 Grip Department

  • Key Grip
  • Best Boy Grip
  • Dolly Grips
  • Grips

If you want to be professional, hire a DP and he'll hire his Gaffer and Key Grip.

If you want to look professional, say you're looking for a Gaffer and a Key Grip.

If you don't care.... keep posting whatever the hell you want on Craigslist and have fun working with amatuers.