Grips tend to be large, beefy blue-collar guys with walrus mustaches and baseball caps and big wrists and beer guts but extremely alert, intelligent eyes; they look like very bright professional movers, which is basically what they are. The production’s electricians, lighting guys, and effects guys, who are also as a rule male and large, are distinguished from the grips via their tendency to have long hair in a ponytail and to wear elaborate tool belts and T-shirts advertising various brands of esoteric high-tech gear.
None of the grips wear earrings, but more than 50 percent of the technical guys wear earrings, and a couple have beards, and four of the five electricians for some reason have Fu Manchu mustaches, and with their ponytails and pallor they all have the distinctive look of guys who work in record or head shops; plus in general the recreational-chemical vibe around these more technical blue-collar guys is very decidedly not a beer vibe.
A lot of the camera and sound and makeup crew are female, but a lot of these, too, have a similar look: thirtyish, makeupless, insouciantly pretty, wearing faded jeans and old running shoes and black T-shirts, and with lush, well-conditioned hair tied carelessly out of the way so that strands tend to escape and trail and have to be chuffed out of the eyes periodically or brushed away with the back of a ringless hand-in sum, the sort of sloppily pretty tech-savvy young woman you can just tell smokes pot and owns a dog. Most of these hands-on technical females have that certain expression around the eyes that communicates “Been there, done that.” A bunch of them at lunch won’t eat anything but bean curd and don’t regard certain grips’ comments about what bean curd looks like as in any way worthy of response. One of the technical women, the production’s still photographer, has on the inside of her forearm a tattoo of the Japanese character for “strength,” and she can manipulate her forearm’s muscles in such a way as to make the ideogram bulge Nietzscheanly and then recede.
A lot of the script people and assistant wardrobe people and production assistants are also female, but they’re of a different genus - younger, less lean, more vulnerable, without the technically savvy self-esteem of the camera or sound women. As opposed to the hands-on women’s weltschmerzian serenity, the script and PA females all have the same pained I-went-to-a-really-good-college-and-what-am-l-doing-with-my-life look around the eyes, the sort of look where you know that if they’re not in twice-a-week therapy it’s only because they can’t afford it. Another way to distinguish different crewpeople’s status and function is to look at what kind of personal communication gear they have. The rank-and-file grips are pretty much the only people without any kind of personal communicative gear. The rest of the hands-on and technical crew carry walkie-talkies, as do the location manager, the people in touch with the camera truck, and the burly guys manning the road’s barricades. Many of the other crew carry cellular phones in snazzy hipside holsters, and the amount of cellular-phone talking going on more than lives up to popular stereotypes about L.A. and cellulars. The second AD, a thirtyish black lady named Simone, whom I get to interact with a lot because she’s always having to politely inform me that I’m in the way of something and need to move, has an actual cellular headset instead of just a bolstered cellular phone, though with Simone the headset isn’t an affectation-the headset leaves her hands free to write stuff on her clipboard.