Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Paradox Of 4/0.

On the first day of a new crew, we were laying out cable. When it came to putting down the first stick of 4/0, my seasoned coworkers promptly came to my side, gave me a mini lecture about how I should never pick up a coil of that stuff on my own (a rule a whole-heartedly agree with) and we continued our work by double-teaming the cable each time a coil needed to by lifted.

A couple days later, the job ended and I never heard from the Best Boy again. After running into a former colleague, I heard that the reason I never get called to work with that particular crew is because the Best Boy didn't think I could "handle the work." (Read: "I wasn't able to lift a coil of 4/0 by myself.")

Sometime later, I'm on another crew. We're counting in the cable. We get to the 4/0 and I ask my partner, who's been in this business for a long time, if we could two-man the hundred pound coils. He gives me a look and says he'll just do it himself. It's just easier that way. So I sit back, let him do his thing, and eventually, I'm assigned to other, non-cable related tasks.

Sometime after that, I find myself on another new crew peppered with seasoned veterans of the business. One of the "old timers" and I start chatting while we wait for the next shot and we land on the topic of putting in a cable rig. The first thing he says to me about it? "Don't you EVER pick up a stick of 4/0 by yourself." Again, I wholeheartedly agree.

But inside, I'm thinking, "If only it were that simple..."

It's one of those things where I feel like I'm in a no-win situation. If I lift it by myself, I fuck up my body and possibly my future in the biz. If I don't, I lose out on work. And while no job is worth the damage you could to do yourself, I also have a reputation on the line. Best Boys don't go around saying, "I never saw her lift a hundred feet coil of 4/0 by herself. She always had a second hand on it." Instead, they go around saying stuff like, "She couldn't handle the work load" or "She always needed help." That's a big difference.

And even if I'm on a crew where my colleagues are telling me that we should never handle the stuff by ourselves, that view may not necessarily be shared by our boss and vise-versa.

I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.


Michael Taylor said...

It really is a no-win situation -- but such is the harsh nature of free-lance life in Hollywood.

If those fellow juicers who keep warning you not to lift 4/0 by yourself aren't issuing the same warning to the other male juicers, then you're being treated in a paternalistic (and sexist) manner. In effect, they're patting you on the head, like a mascot. No doubt they mean well (I've done the same thing myself), but if the guys are carrying 4/0 solo and you're not, a chasm of perception inevitably opens between you and them.

It's a given among most Best Boys that although a juicer shouldn't HAVE to lift, carry, and deploy hundred foot rolls of 4/0 alone, he or she should be ABLE to do so. If you can't or won't, then your name will drop down their list of prospective hires -- but if you demonstrate that you can and will wrangle 4/0 solo, you'll earn the kind of respect that moves you a lot closer to the top.

It's not worth doing serious, long-term damage to your body, of course, but you already know how to lift in a manner that will at least minimize such risks. 4/0 hurts us all in the long run, and unless/until you show those Best Boys that you're willing to take the same hits and suffer the same pain as everyone else, you'll be viewed through a slightly jaundiced eye.

It's an ugly choice you face -- risk the kind of injuries that can dog you for the rest of your life, or else accept being seen as a lesser among equals in the day-to-day scramble for work in Hollywood.

My hunch is that if you continue to bring your "A" game and make the best of each work situation, you'll eventually land a spot on a good crew that appreciates what you bring to the table -- brains, experience, and professionalism -- rather than sheer muscular brawn. There are plenty of neck-down mesomorphs in the juicer ranks already, guys who were born to lift 4/0. There's no need for you to kill yourself trying to be something you're not.

The Grip Works said...

The grip equivalent is a Hybrid or Fisher10 up stairs.
The grips who conveniently disappear when the dolly has to be heaved up stairs are the ones who dont get invited back.

Niall said...

I agree with Michael, do your best and bring your A game you'll be fine. You got the advantage of being small and deploy-able in tight cramped sets or stages. Someone the gaffer wants near by, out of sight yet close.

I suffer the problem of being 6'5" and only a scrawny 200 - 206lbs. I also have a bad back so 4/0 and I do not get along on the best of days. I'll sling it around when it counts but I use a cart when I can and a second person when I'm lucky.

Work smart not hard. I think you covered this a couple of posts ago.

@grip works: Dolly parties are like funerals. No one wants to go but eventually you have to.

Nathan said...


Its been my experience that the Location Manager who chose the place with all those stairs is the one they try to get blackballed. :)

A.J. said...

Michael - "It's a given among most Best Boys that although a juicer shouldn't HAVE to lift, carry, and deploy hundred foot rolls of 4/0 alone, he or she should be ABLE to do so."

That part, I understand. But from my experience, if the Best Boy expects you to be able to do such a task, they'll also expect you to do it.

Either way, I hope your hunch is right. :)

The Grip Works - I treat lifting dollies like I do coils of 4/0: I'll gladly join in any dolly parties if I'm invited. I will not, however, lug one up some stairs alone.

Niall - I don't think anyone gets along with 4/0. Or if they do, check back with them in a few years.

JD said...

Wonder if the is a Dept. of Labor rule, either state of federal that covers how much you have to be able to lift solo? In most industries and in retail, it's 50lbs.

A.J. said...

JD - Thank you for bringing up a valid point. Yes, OSHA limits the amount of weight you're required to lift to 50 pounds.

However, as I'm sure you already know, our industry isn't always the best when it comes to following the rules.

Anonymous said...

I love dolly parties. " Fisher, party of four, your dolly's ready."
Yesterday at work, i'm day playing and a 12step is called to set. Were on stage after doing a car rig with 12/20 greenscreen plus 18k's so we are a little heavy, no shortage of grips. Theres people on set so to two-man it isn't such a bad idea. However, i usually one man a 12footer, just as i would a 4/8 sheet of birch-its just easier. So i asked my fellow grip "wanna 2man that?" he shoots me a look and quips "yeah, if i were a little girl." as though i would need a hand. Whatever. So he picks it up and puts a side on each shoulder with his head in the center (pet peeve! Thats a -pinchpoint-, jacka$$!) and all i can think is hero on, my friend. Oh and don't trip. I'll be at crafty. Mj

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