When movie-goers are watching a movie, they usually give very little thought to what does go on behind the scenes unless something happens to bring it to their attention. However, this rarely happens thanks to the hard work of motion picture set, studio and stage grips and set-up workers. They are the ones that ensure that overhead microphones are not seen in the finished work or that the scenery does not move out of place unless it is supposed to.
In some instances, these workers can be as important as the actors, directors and other well-known entertainment professionals. It is for this and other reasons that closing credits now include practically anyone, both on- and off-camera, who participated in a production – including grips and set-up workers.
Set and Stage Grips Job Summary
- This job can be held by someone possessing a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some people do obtain college degrees in theater or the performing arts or other related subjects.
- Training can be on the job, provided by the employer or movie company.
- Employment opportunities exist anywhere that movies are made, including studios and on location venues.
- Projected growth in this occupation, according to the Bureau of Labor, is estimated at 14% through 2018.
The work environment can be either indoors or outdoors, depending on where particular motion picture scenes are occurring. If indoors, the work area may be almost cavernous in size, with large pieces of equipment and scene sets everywhere, to a very small intimate setting, with only a small amount of scenery and a few cameras and microphones.
The work environment may be very intense, with several things happening at once, or may be very meticulous. Grips and set-up workers may remain in one location or may finish setting up one scene and move on to another almost instantaneously.
Education, Training and Licensing
It may be possible to obtain employment in this field with a high school diploma or equivalent, however some people choose to pursue a college degree in theater or the performing arts with intentions to make grips and set-up workers opportunities their chosen field. Their first contact with these duties may have come in high school or college when they participated in productions and carried over into their career choice.
Training will most likely be on the job, unless one has earned a degree, which usually makes further training unnecessary. Training will include how to properly set up and disassemble sets and scenery, the placement of microphones, lighting, and other equipment, and the operation of cranes, dollies, or other machinery necessary for making sure the equipment gets to where it is needed.
Depending on where grips and set-up workers are employed, they may be required to be eligible to receive certification from such motion picture organizations or may be strongly encouraged to join specific unions or other trade groups.
Movie Production Job Projections, Outlook and Earnings Potential
What is the jobs outlook for movie production jobs? According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2008, there are approximately 362,000 workers employed as grips and set-up workers. It is estimated that this field will increase by 14% through 2018. Grips and set-up workers make an average annual salary of $32,000 a year. Union affiliation and other circumstances can make this figure slightly or lower.