As any film gaffer or key grip knows, having the right equipment on hand is essential to getting the job done.

Setting things up, adjusting dollies and cranes, and ensuring everything is running smoothly are all part of the job.

A grip’s work is vital to the flow of a production, which is why it’s so important for you to have a full set of tools that can keep you working smoothly, efficiently, and safely.

Here are five essential tools every film grip and every gaffer needs, plus a few additional items you might want to add to your toolset as you become more experienced.

What A Gaffer Should Always Carry

Let’s start by looking at what a gaffer should always carry.

A Light Meter

A light meter is a great aid in lighting your scene and taking a reading of your Key light, backlight and fill light.

There are handfuls of manufacturers in the market producing meters to suit all budgets.

A Flashlight

If you don’t already own an LED flashlight, you might not yet be familiar with its many benefits. As solid-state lights, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) don’t have filaments that can expand, contract, and burn out.

They can handle being dropped and some models can even withstand being submerged in water. LEDs have very focused, directional light, so the beam goes directly where you aim it—particularly useful when you want a bright light on a troublesome bolt or screw.

LED flashlights also get very good battery life and produce an ample amount of light. Even small ones powered by AAA batteries do.

Some LED flashlights give you varying degrees of brightness that help extend battery life. Some are designed with rugged housings that hold up well to constant, professional use.

But despite these reliability benefits, it’s still a good idea to have at least two in your kit, since you just never know if you might lose one or when the batteries will let you down.

film grip tools

A Good Knife

A good knife is a vital part of your equipment as a grip. You’ll need a knife to cut things like gels, ropes and plastic ties, so it’s a great idea to have both a regular heavy-duty utility knife as well as a versatile multi-tool.

Along with a multi-tool that has a Philips and a flat-head screwdriver, you should look for one that has pliers as well as a serrated blade that can cut through a rope.

A Pair Of Gloves

Generally speaking, you’re going to want to have a pair of durable work gloves to protect your hands while adjusting hot lights, building a rig for the camera, or any number of duties that could come your way.

Leatherwork gloves are best. Though in some circumstances, like shooting outside in the winter, you might also want to have a pair of fleece gloves or ones made with Thinsulate.

Some gloves have flaps on the index finger and thumb that can be flipped back for more tactile interaction with equipment, which can prove especially useful when shooting in the cold or in the rain.

It might make sense for you to get a couple pairs of gloves to use for different situations or different seasons.

Gaffer Tape

Much like duct tape, gaffer tape can be one of those multi-use solutions to dozens of unexpected problems. But it differs in that it’s made of cloth and is much easier to tear with your hand.

Along with anchoring cables and cords and keeping a shooting area safe, gaffer tape can also be used to hold a gel in place, to fashion a temporary fix for a piece of equipment, or even to just mark your radio or water bottle.

Gaffer tape is easy to remove from a surface without leaving any residue, making it the professional choice for stage blocking or even just to attach a note to a piece of equipment.

It also comes in a variety of colors, from matte black to fluorescent orange and just about anything in between.

Matte black is the most common type used and the 2-inch size can be the most useful, so you should pick up at least a couple of these.

A light-colored, 1-inch roll that you can label easily is also very useful.

A Multitool

You should always have this accessory in your pocket, even when you’re not on the job! It’s basically a 12- to 26-item toolkit (depending on the make and model you choose) in one package.

The basic incorporated tools that you’ll want in the multitool are:

  • Regular pliers,
  • Philips screwdriver,
  • Flathead screwdriver,
  • A straight blade,
  • A bottle and can opener.

A good multitool will let you quickly repair, cut, and unscrew things, whether related to camera, light, or grip.

A Crescent Wrench

A crescent wrench is one of the tools that you’ll use most often on the set, particularly when you’re rigging or setting up lamps.

You might also find that a more specialized wrench, such as a lighting wrench that’s specifically designed to work with stage lighting, might come in handy.

It’s a good idea to always make sure that you’ve got your tools (especially your wrench, knife, and flashlight) tethered to your tool belt or pouch to prevent people from getting hurt or equipment from being damaged by a falling tool.

When it comes to being a professional film gaffer, these are just a few of the essential tools you’ll always need handy and available.

Having the right, high-quality equipment at your disposal can make a world of difference in the film world!

film grip tools

Tools A Film Gaffer Should Keep In Their Bag

Now let’s look at what a film gaffer should keep in their bag.

A Cardellini Clamp

Having a good, solid clamp onset is essential. The Cardellini Clamp® is perfect for rigging lighting and camera equipment and can be used on just about any surface.

The “Center Jaw” style clamp (with the fixed jaw in the center of the shaft) is one of the most versatile clamps out there and provides the most secure mount because the jaws are always right at the base of the baby pin.

On the other hand, the “End Jaw” clamp (with the fixed jaw at the end of the shaft) will fit into more places than the Center Jaw.

It also works better if you are using the clamp to hold a bounce card, mirror, 2×4, pipe, etc, because more of the pin will be sticking out from the clamp.

A Multimeter

A good multimeter will allow you to read voltage on a given line.

You can also use the continuity tester function to see if a globe has gone bad or if something is properly grounded.

Some will include an amp clamp to tell you how much amperage is on a given cable run.

Diagonal Cutters

These are great for a variety of things – cutting zip ties, rope, anything where your knife might be a little dangerous to cut with.

What A Key Grip Should Always Carry With Them

What should a key grip carry with them? Let’s take a look!

A Multi-Tool

As we mentioned above, a multi-tool is an essential part of any toolkit. You should always have this accessory in your pocket, even when you’re not on the job! It’s basically a 12- to 26-item toolkit (depending on the make and model you choose) in one package.

The basic incorporated tools that you’ll want in the multitool are:

  • Regular pliers
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver

A Crescent Wrench

A C-Wrench is another tool key grips cannot work without.  This is essential for rigging jobs, which is one of their main jobs on set.

You will use a C-wrench in almost every job you perform when working on set, so we advise that you keep it close to you at all times.

You’ll even want to consider keeping it on a belt for easy access when you are climbing ladders to do rigging jobs.

A Screwdriver

A good screwdriver is always necessary to have on hand when you’re a key grip, particularly for those odds-and-ends tasks.

A 3/16” Allen Wrench

A solid 3/16 Allen head ratcheting wrench comes in handy for speed rail fittings.

 

Tools A Key Grip Should Keep In Their Bag

Next up let’s see what a key grip should keep in their bag.

A Cardellini Clamp

The Cardellini Clamp® is great for a key grip to have on hand, and can be used on just about any surface.

A Hammer

A hammer is handy to keep close by for any construction needs that may arise on set, such as getting set walls in place.

Cordless Drill/Driver

Like a hammer, a cordless drill comes in handy for the odd construction job that may come up; including last-minute rigging, lighting, and set work.

A Flashlight

LED Flashlights offer a balanced light and are brighter than your typical filament light. LEDs can also typically survive being submerged in water and withstand elements much better you’re your traditional flashlights would. Long battery life is another must-have in a LED light.

It’s essential to make sure you have one top-notch LED flashlight and a few other options (such as a few smaller ones) to keep in your bag on set. A good grip will usually have a couple of LED flashlights in their toolbox, and of course, some extra batteries.

While it’s not a fully comprehensive list, this is a great place to start if you’re a key grip or film gaffer looking for must-have tools!