Have you ever wondered how movies are made?

Director of Photography in silhouette standing on a box truck with camera mounted on top of a ladder. Photo by author

Beyond the behind-the-scenes commentaries and interviews of the major creatives involved, it's a lot of communication and hard work.

And a lot of heavy lifting, literally.

Who does all that heavy lifting? Grips!

Character repeatedly lifting and moving a green box.

Get a grip on what you'll do

Grips work behind the scenes on movie and TV sets to support the camera and lighting departments with equipment needs.

Grips work under the key grip who works under the director of photography (often called a cinematographer) and sometimes with the gaffer and other departments as needed.

Grips handle the equipment. Whether they're...

  • storing it on set or in an equipment truck

  • setting it up for a new shot

  • moving it

  • or taking it down

...the grip is busiest from when the director calls "cut" to when they call "action."

Ladders, c-stands, lights and other equipment staged in parking lot of film set at a two-story motel. Photo by author

Life on Set

What does every film or tv set have in common?

Every day is going to be different.

You'll need to be ready for a long day, or night, of hard work.

A film can have as many as 100 or more scenes with dozens of shots within each. Each shot has different equipment setups. So you'll be busy!

A variety of illustrated people in action on set with lights, bounce cards, c-stands, and a drone, all surrounding an actor. Image created by author using Undraw illustrations and Inkscape

You'll be on your feet constantly. The only real breaks you'll have come when a meal is called for cast and crew, but you can rest your feet during active filming.

Where grips work

There are a few cities you might immediately identify for film and TV production, like Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Vancouver, or Toronto.

Grips work anywhere and anytime, like:

Grip setting up equipment at night in the street. Photo by author

Film set in dusty old western town during the day Unsplash image

Typically, grips work in a specific geographical region, near where they live.

How grips find work

Find work and build your network through:

  • Local film and TV production schools — student films (while typically unpaid) can give you early experience

  • Local and regional film offices — often have a directory of local talent and other resources

IATSE logo Image from Wikimedia

  • IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists, and Allied Crafts) — a union with local chapters that provide resources to members and non-members looking to join, including training

  • Local equipment rental stores — may recommend grips in their area to out-of-town producers

How much do grips make?

Wages are similar across the US and Canada, but vary from project to project. A grip's wages will also vary based on whether the project is:

  • Union or non-union

  • Location, i.e. production city or non-production city, sound stage or on-location

  • Film or TV

  • Budget size

IATSE union wages are between $25/hour and $40/hour.

Flaticon Icon

Higher wages are for a higher budget production, theatrical length films, or production cities.

Flaticon Icon

Lower wages are for lower budget productions, short content, or non-production cities.

Is this job for me?

Illustrated woman carrying a box with a check mark icon. Image created by author using Undraw illustrations and Inkscape

You'd love this job if you like...

  • Working in a variety of different situations

  • Working with different creative people

  • Problem-solving

  • Working both days and nights

Illustrated man sitting on large box next a handcart with an Image created by author using Undraw illustrations and Inkscape

You'd hate this job if you don't like...

  • Uncertainty or changing requests

  • Heavy lifting

  • Standing and moving around most of the day

  • Stress from high demands and time constraints


As a grip, you'll do the following (select all that apply):

Take Action

Flaticon Icon

Want to learn more about film production and being a grip? Check out these related Bytes and other resources:


Your feedback matters to us.

This Byte helped me better understand the topic.

Get support to take action on this Byte