Documentary Mode Activity #1

On a film set, dozens are working behind the scenes, some of them get more recognition than others. Outside the industry, people doesn’t know what a grip does and their labor is often ignored by those who don’t know how a film set works.

This documentary was shot from the perspective of a grip, in which the filmmaker is an observer and captures all the labor of the grip/electric department.

The spontaneity of the action and the fluidity of the camera makes this film observational,in which no interviews or voice over takes precedence and the result resembles “life as it is lived”. As seen in Some Kind of Monster (2004) the filmmaker is present on the scene and observes the subjects as if he was invisible, although sometimes the camera is acknowledged, the filmmaker never tries to influence the action.

As the title of the documentary suggests, the film is also influenced by the soviet film Man With a Movie Camera (1929) and the early city symphonies. These films are characterized by the editing that sacrifices continuity and their poetic way to treat the historical world, in which the filmmaker tries to present a portrait of the daily within a city; Gip With a Movie Camera tries to present a portrait of the daily life within a film set.

As Bill Nichols said: “The poetic mode of documentary shares a common terrain with the modernist avant-garde” and this is one of the reasons I decided to experiment with speed and show the action of the subjects in a way that sacrifices continuity and also avoids giving the appearance that the action is happening in real time.

The music, Solfeggio in C minor by Eugen cicero, was very important to me because I wanted it to resemble a live performance in which the music follows the action. The  juxtaposing images of the grips working on set and the rest of the cast and crew are accompanied by the music that follows the speed of the images.

Grip With a Movie Camera was intended to be a “poetic observation” informed by the films seen in class and the experimentation with two modes of documentary.

2 thoughts on “Documentary Mode Activity #1”

  1. This was fantastic! I actually saw you filming on set and was curious what you were going to make with it and “Grip with a movie camera” didn’t disappoint. Seeing this simultaneously through the lens of this class and as a film student who’s been on numerous sets (occasionally as a grip!), I couldn’t agree more that this piece gives a little-seen/recognized window into the involvement of the grip on set. I especially loved the assembly of the track, there are so many little steps that go to setting up that one piece of equipment and by the time it’s all done the DP, Director, etc have very little to set up (as it should be for a smooth set), and the grips are off working on something else. You created an excellent narrative from the footage you shot.

  2. I really like the music you chose to accompany this film. It is very upbeat and fast paced, which gives some insight when juxtaposed with the images. The first is that at times it does a good job of portraying how hectic and busy a movie can set, especially when juxtaposed with the footage of dolly tracks being set up, the trailer being unloaded, etc. At other times, the fast paced music is juxtaposed with images of people standing around, watching, messing around, etc. The music still gives a sense of urgency, but, instead of showing people actively participating in the film making, it shows that there is down time on set when you can’t continue your job until someone else finishes theirs. These elements, interrupted by the diegetic sound of the shots and the real-time shots, give a fair impression of what it’s like on a film set.

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