On Saturday 6th February 2010 the "Grips & Crane Technicians Branch" celebrated its 25th anniversary in Panavision's Preview Theatre, Greenford, Middx, barely a stones throw away from its very first fledgling meeting held at Grip House in 1985. This landmark meeting of the Branch was not only an achievement for the Grips themselves but an opportunity for them to honour one of their founding members, Dennis Fraser MBE who along with several other motion picture grips formed the first "Grips Branch" committee to represent the grips & promote the grade as a professional body of highly trained technicians. Over the last quarter century the Branch has grown from around 35 members who worked exclusively in Film & TV Commercial production as freelance grips to a current membership of over 150 Grips & Crane Technicians working in all sectors of the industry predominantly in London & the South East.
What is unique about this group of individuals is that the majority of them now hold a Grips or Crane Techs qualification and carry a Skills Passport in the form of a photo I.D. Laminate card issued by Skillset. Achieving the Grips/Crane Techs NVQ is the aim of all branch members. The branch wants to ensure that all its members are working to the highest professional standards and have competence in either their Level 2 Grips qualification, or for the most experienced Grips an "Advanced" Level 3. There is also a "Crane Techs" Level 2 which has been specifically tailored to the professional abilities needed to do that job. Each individual is assessed by a City & Guilds qualified assessor who is also a professional working Grip and holds the "Advanced" Level 3 Grips qualification. What the grips have achieved over the last decade with this qualification is now being adopted by other departments who want to promote their particular job with a dedicated NVQ which reflects the specialist skills associated with each grade and raises the standards across the industry.
Dennis Fraser MBE has been the standard bearer of the Grips qualification and through his belief in this route to excellence and his tireless hard work and dedication in promoting the Grips over the last two decades and what their unique talents bring to film making, has achieved almost single handed across the industry recognition for a craft grade that had previously only existed within the confines of the camera department. Now that department has decided that it too must have it own dedicated qualification, and both the Focus Pullers ( 1st AC ) & Loaders ( 2nd AC ) have written a set of standards that reflect their respective skills and specialist knowledge that encompass all aspects of their job. Dennis has also promoted the skills of UK Technicians overseas and our friends & colleagues across the pond are aware of what the UK Grips have achieved over the last several years. They too are beginning to realise that this is indeed the route forward to ensure the highest standards. British Grips are the only craft grade worldwide within the motion picture industry who have their own dedicated qualification and carry a skills passport. This ensures that when crewing up for a production the Producer knows they are getting the right person for the job, and that that individual is trained to the highest standards. You can be sure of a persons skills if that individual holds the necessary qualification and is an expert in their field.
Dennis also pioneered the first official Grips Apprenticeship scheme and both he and the branch are hoping that later this year a second scheme will be launched through the Skillset Screen Academy @ E.I.M. The apprenticeship will be limited to four places, it will last for two years and be structured around attending the college, specialist workshops & Masterclasses, and include placements at facility houses as well as on films & TV drama's under the wing of an "Advanced Level 3" Grip. It was for all these achievements and his unwavering belief in being able to bring all these elements together that Dennis was honoured by his piers on the 6th February this year at the 25th anniversary of the Branch. This recognition was given in the form of a gold plaque presented to Dennis by the first branch Chairman Jimmy Dawes who Dennis worked with at MGM Studios in Borhamwood from the early fifties until its closure in the 1970's. The plaque was carved with a figure of a grip pushing a Chapman Pee Wee Dolly,and inscribed with the words " In recognition of your achievements in the Motion Picture Industry. From all your friends & colleagues in the Grip Branch & your dear friend Lenny Chapman". Lenny and Dennis have been close friends for many years and Dennis is MD of Chapman Studio Equipment UK. It was the wish of every Branch member that Lenny's name appeared on the plaque because of the unique part he too has played in championing our profession, Chapman Cranes & Dollies have been an integral part of the Grips kit almost every day any Grip goes to work on a film set.
The Branch's aims and ideals run parallel with Dennis's in that it can continue to promote its members skills and that each of them will contribute towards raising the standards of excellence and safety within their department and across the motion picture industry as a whole.