What is a Grip, Key Grip, Best Boy & Gaffer

Film production set showing a grip, key grip, best boy and gafferLooking to start your future in digital video? As you begin learning about the industry, you may see jobs such as grip, key grip, best boy, or gaffer.  If you’re not familiar with these titles, you might be asking yourself what a grip, key grip, best boy, or gaffer does. After laying a solid foundation at a career college that offers digital video production, you could break into the film industry.  Skills you need to succeed in these roles include good communication, creativity, patience, physical stamina and strength, problem solving skills and technical knowledge. With these skills you are ready take the reigns as a grip, key grip, best boy or gaffer on the set of a commercial, TV show or movie.

What is a Grip?

The grip is the person in charge of setting up equipment to support the camera in a movie, commercial or television show. The grip sets up the rigging that allows the camera to move around the set to capture footage. The grip works on the camera dollies, cranes, tracks and camera setup.

The grip that manages the cranes and dollies is also called a dolly grip. The dolly grip places the camera at various heights on a platform constructed above a unit on wheels.

There is also a construction grip that is responsible for building and breakdown sets. They also pack and unpack parts of the set. Construction grips build scaffolding and platforms for the camera to get the perfect shot.

What is a Key Grip?

Key grip is the supervisor of the team of grips on the film set. The key grip executes tasks from the cinematographer for light placement and camera movement with assistance from their team. The key grip coordinates the rigging on the film set similar to how the gaffer coordinates the lighting.  The key grip works with the gaffer to convert lighting positions. The key grip is also responsible for the budget of the set, including estimates for building costs.

What is a Best Boy?

The best boy is the assistant to the grip. They manage the crew members in their department, schedule work and hire equipment. The best boy is responsible for having the right grips and equipment at the right location.

What is a Gaffer?

The gaffer is responsible for the lighting in the film and runs the electrical department for film production. They determine the set up of lights, while the best boy sets up the lighting arrangement.

Skills Need to Be A Grip, Key Grip, Best Boy or Gaffer

A solid set of skills will prepare you for a job as the grip, best boy and gaffer. They all need good communication skills, creativity, patience, physical stamina and strength, problem solving skills and technical knowledge to succeed on a movie or commercial set.

Communication Skills

Everyone on the movie set needs to be responsive to ever-changing plans. Good communication is important for everyone to stay on the same page and be prepared to get the right shot. The grip, key grip, best boy or gaffer all need to coordinate with their crew and bosses effectively.


The grip, key grip, best boy and gaffer must be creative in a pinch. They may need to do something out of the ordinary or come up with a solution on the spot. Experience supplements creativity, which is important to come up with out of the box solutions.

Forward Thinking

Similarly, the key grip must anticipate the unexpected and have a plan of action in case something occurs. They ensure that equipment is rented and the crew is safe. This means that the key grip may need to use creativity to create a plan.

Leadership Skills

The key grip must be able to lead a team and work with their colleagues. The key grip is responsible for leading grips in managing the set, lighting, camera and the cinematographer’s needs. It is the key grips responsibility for making sure the production is successful and on budget.


Patience is key to playing a role of a grip, key grip, best boy or gaffer when making a successful movie or commercial. The grip needs to ensure they are patient enough to work under a director of photography. Grips also need to communicate progress or failure to their cinematographer or gaffer at all times.

Physical Stamina & Strength

A grip, key grip, best boy and gaffer are on their feet most of the day Some sets may last for up to 12 or more hours. They are also required to lift heavy lighting and camera equipment. The grip, key grip, best boy and gaffer must keep up with the schedule of a movie set. They need to have the stamina to meet film deadlines, sometimes working into the wee hours of the night.

Problem Solving Skills

Everything happens fast on set and a grip, key grip, best boy or gaffer need to have problem solving skills. These jobs require coming up with solutions on the fly. The lighting may be off, and the gaffer must build scaffolding to create a new angle. Grips will figure out how to position the camera crane to get the perfect shot. Problem solving skills are vital in the film and TV industry.

Technical Knowledge

The grip, key grip, best boy and gaffer must be technically savvy to get the perfect shot. New cameras, lighting and stage equipment are introduced regularly. The grip, key grip, best boy and gaffer must be able to learn how to use the new technology properly, sometimes within hours. Finally, they must also be able to assemble and disassemble complex equipment in a timely fashion.

Interested in learning more about becoming a grip, key grip, best boy or gaffer? IPR’s digital video and media production associate and bachelor’s degree programs prepare you for a real-world role in video editing, production management, camera and lighting effects, and visual story development through a learning experience in professional studio classrooms.

Our digital video and media production associate and bachelor’s degree paths can lead to a variety of entry points in the video and film production. We help you build a strong visual portfolio for your career search through time in our studios.

Using the latest industry-standard tools, our digital video production school immerses you in your video and film production artistry, both in theory and application, emphasizing corporate and commercial production, as well as short and feature narrative filmmaking. We equip you with a toolbox that includes all aspects of film and video production skill.

Contact us today to learn more about the digital video and media production associate and bachelor’s degree. Starting a rewarding career as an associate producer is closer than you may think!