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Getting Certified


Trent Edward Arant
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Guest Stephen Murphy

Phil the current grips branch NVQ is a brilliant idea and helps promote the right level of health and safety on sets of every budget. It's very easy to become a trainee grip so I'd hardly call that a closed shop?

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My understanding of it is that in order to get the NVQ you are required to work with an existing grip, which is a course of action open only to people with the right contacts. As a practical matter this is a terribly easy way to make it a mates' club - at least, that's the impression I get.

 

P

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Unfortunately that also applies to many industries.

 

In film and TV you need to find your contacts, so if you want to be a grip you need to get involved with them and create your own contacts, which takes time. Easier if you've got a relative, but it can still be done. You need to do it at some stage in order to get freelance work.

 

http://www.creativeskillset.org/funding/SIF/trainees/article_9319_1.asp

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I won't mention names, but my feeling from having attended a couple of BECTU meetings at which it was discussed was that this was set up quite knowingly and deliberately.

 

I expect there was an element of that. I know grips outside London needed to get qualified and they were talking about making arrangements for the NVQ at the time.

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I don't think there's any reason to moan about people trying to protect their jobs.

 

I do. Life in general should be much more of a meritocracy than it is (and - let's be clear - "meritocracy" doesn't mean "richest person wins," it means "most competent person wins", or at least it should).

 

 

Training and qualifications help to maintain standards and safety on set.

 

This initiative may incidentally do that, but I don't think this was the intention.

 

Basically, I just don't like being lied to. If people are going to be acquisitive and grasping, they should at least be upfront about it, rather than trying to persuade us it's all about safety and competence. It isn't. It's about being mates with the right people, which will not, ultimately, ensure the best people are in the job.

P

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Unfortunately the only place you're going to learn is working with experienced grips on a range of productions. I was more concerned about already experienced grips who needed to get the the NVQ, but were outside London at the time it came in. For new comers it's now in the system, although they may have to spend a year or two getting accepted as a trainee.

 

Nothing new about any job in film & TV being about knowing the right people, rather than perhaps being the best. The who you know, rather than what you know thing.

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It's one thing for that to be the case, but it's quite another to decide it's desirable and put systems in place to actively encourage it.

 

And let's face it - almost nobody in the UK is "working with experienced grips on a range of productions." They're working on music videos and the occasional high-end commercial. All four of them.

 

The only good thing about this is that it's very difficult to enforce on more normal UK stuff, but I guess it's only a matter of time before it's a requirement of production insurance to have an NVQ-certified grip to carry the tripod on the average no-budget music video. That prospect is what really worries me.

 

P

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Pfft - how many really decent TV dramas do we have who'd need a proper crew?

 

Three?

Every TV show I ever worked on in the UK had a proper crew.

 

Given the wide range of tasks that the Grips are required to perform, I'm certainly much happier knowing that they've been properly trained.

 

I've worked on shows here where the grip crew were all inexperienced kids. They were being asked to rig car mounts, never having done it before, potentially risking thousands of dollars in damage to the camera and the car. They were building 20x20 frames in weather conditions that were unsafe, because none of them had the experience to say 'No'. There was a whole list of unsafe working practice.

 

Some producers will always hire a cheap, inexperienced person over someone who know what they are doing, but costs more. That's when accidents happen.

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The catering and hospitality industries are now heavily into qualifying people. With colour coded chopping boards and a huge amount of legislation around everything.

It's like the medical business, too. I hear all those doctors and nurses have to have qualifications these days as well.

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Stuart, I couldn't possibly agree more that people need to be qualified; I too have seen people doing car rigs that will be taken out on public roads and winced at both their inexperience and the obvious inadequacy of their approach (experience, let's not forget, is not always a prerequisite for competence).

 

But that's sort of the point. The arrangements that currently exist in the world of British grip training are not really intended to train people to be good grips, they're intended to allow a cabal of two or three people to control who gets to be a grip.

 

P

 

PS - Oh, and edit, if nothing you've ever worked on had shonky crewing, you've done better than most of us. Remember that most productions that actually happen are not high end, and it's actually those which are (at least in my experience) likely to be unsafe. The big union stuff is invariably properly done by default, with or without NVQs. And the small stuff is invariably a bit iffy. Again, with or without NVQs.

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It depends on who is acting as assessors on the grip qualification and the initial selection as trainee grips. I don't know when the union meeting you mentioned was, but from memory the grip NVQ have been around for about 10 years. However, in the end, there will always be a selection process.

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It may have been four or five years ago. It was some sort of initiative to ensure people were required to have gone through a certain period of apprenticeship. The NVQ was mentioned in passing but I got the firm impression it was more about creating a closed, or at least closely controlled, shop. I could mention names, but if you've ever been to a BECTU London camera branch meeting, you know who the big-mouthed grip is.

 

P

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The NVQ's are run though colleges, I suspect there are more people involved in the selection of the trainees than 2 or 3 grips. It doesn't sound too dissimilar to the old FT2 type scheme and is probably more open than it has been in the past.

 

I've been to BECTU meetings where a variety of branches from London have attended, so I know the type.

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You can learn how to operate the controls a condor or sissor lift in a equipment rental parking lot. It will not make you a safe operator on a film set, nor will it teach you safe rigging of lights, safe distance from energized line, etc. Even a union program, IASTE or similar certification program is only the beginning of being a safe operator for both you, another crew person in the basket or those on the ground.

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