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Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

Los Angeles, California




With this look at the career of key grip Dick Babin, Below the Line begins a series profiling retired craftspeople and their contributions to the industry.Back in the days when Mitchell cameras roamed the earth, before CGI or double lattes, there were men of grit, rising from the ranks of World War II and Korean War veterans, a mixture of athletes and actors, aircraft and construction workers. These were men who could close a bar at 2 a.m. and still make a call at 6. These grips transformed and refined the methods and speed with which a film could be lit and photographed.One such man is Dick Babin. Personally, he’s a charming mixture of WC Fields and Frank Sinatra. But more importantly, he is one of 100 or so grips that have held a Local 80 card for nearly 50 years.Starting after service in Korea, Babin was sworn in to IATSE Local 80 in 1961. His resume includes every grip skill imaginable, from keying 10 Academy Awards shows, to lot steward and gang boss, to sewing grip. He pulled hangers at Fox, worked his way down from the perms, through the card ranks, and became one of Hollywood’s finest dolly grips. Ultimately he rose to department head at Lorimar. He retired in 1995. His numerous credits range from classic TV (Dick Van Dyke, Mission Impossible and Hawaii Five-O) to westerns (The Comancheros) to blockbuster movies (Psycho, The Poseidon Adventure, Back to the Future, and Close Encounters). One story about his skill as a dolly grip is also a testament to his sense of humor. Babin was pushing dolly on a film that required a 10-minute move on one shot. Rather than put marks on the floor, he used his eye to pull it off. Following a perfect take, the director barked, “Cut”.Looking at the Chapman and the stage around it, the director’s face turned pale. He burst out. “Where are the marks?” Lifting his right foot, Babin pointed to an ‘X’ on the bottom of his shoe. “Here sir,” he said, “Right where I need them.”Since his retirement Babin has continued to give back to the business as a Local 80 call steward and as the father of two current members of the grip union, Bob and John Babin. With the hauling of walls and setting of lavenders now behind him, he has become an accomplished and collected painter. His subject matter, similar to Russell’s and Remington’s old west, is perfectly rendered, incorporating his years of lighting experience and a fine brush stroke. Solicited for his advice to grips today, Babin offered, “Never be afraid to ask a question.”

Written by Jim Udel

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