Reel Opportunities

Key Grip

What is a Key Grip?
What does a Key Grip do?

The Key Grip is the head of the grip department on a production. Key Grips have the same qualifications as Grips, but they are the ones in charge of all the grips working on the production.

Before filming starts, the Key Grip breaks down the script and works out (with the DoP and Director) what equipment will be needed to support the cameras for each scene. They make a list of any special equipment they may need and work with the production to get the best crew. They go on scouts to check out the location. If filming is taking place at a location with extreme climates, like the Sahara desert or the top of Mount Everest, they might need to adapt the equipment for the camera maneuvers.

Key Grips need to figure out how to correctly build the rigs and equipment so the rest of the team can execute the creative vision. They map all the supports for the lighting and camera departments to coincide with the plans created.

During production, the Key Grip will be in charge of the grip department and organize the construction or adjustments to any structure created. They do this with the help of the Best Person Grip, who manages the day-to-day tasks.

What's a Key Grip good at?
  • Knowledge of cameras and supports

    Understand the technical requirements of cameras and of the baseplates, dollies, cranes, and jib arms on which they are mounted

  • Leadership

    Motivate and communicate well with everyone throughout the project, take responsibility for decisions and outcomes, create a good working atmosphere

  • Innovation

    Think quickly of practical solutions to problems, adapt equipment to particular environments

  • Communication

    Listen to the Director of Photography, be able to explain and share information with actors and the rest of the crew, especially when under pressure

  • Lifting

    Know how to lift safely, and have the stamina

Who does a Key Grip work with?

The Key Grip will work very closely with the Grip Department. They also will work closely with the Director of Photography and the Director to work out the rigging plans for production. Along with the Director of Photography, they will also work alongside the Camera department and electrical department.

How do I become a Key Grip?

The best way to begin would be to contact your local IATSE union for trainee programs. They may be able to place you on a production willing to take on a Grip Trainee. After you’ve met the qualifications of a Grip, you can begin to apply for positions on unionized productions.

After being a grip for a number of productions and feeling confident in the field, you can use that experience to become a Best Person Grip. This is the second in command in the Grip department, before finally moving up to Key Grip.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Professional Organizations Associated With This Role

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Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.