14 August 2020
Offering a wide range of services from dry-hire to full consultation services worldwide, Gripvan are for you if you are looking for someone to take on the role of problem-solving and to provide excellent technical support - as they say, " It's what excites them the most! " We speak to Andrew Howe, who set up the business in 2013 after 20 years of working on set, after recognising a new way of working was needed. Read on to find out more.
© Tim Gee
Can you tell us about your role and what Gripvan do?
I’ve been working in TV and photography since the early 90’s and started Gripvan in order to facilitate a more efficient workflow on shoots that I was involved with.
My role is certainly varied - I provide technical support and advice to a wide range of clients, as well as supporting our in-house team of skilled technicians. I also spend a lot of time on-set, which I love, as Gaffer and Lighting Director.
Gripvan offers a range of services from simple dry hire to a full consultation service which often begins at the very early stages of quoting a job. We regularly support jobs for, still life, automotive, portrait, lifestyle, set build, fashion, sports, and action which sets us up perfectly to service both stills and moving image shoots. This could be on shoots with a handful of crew on location, to managing the technical side of multiset productions, shooting 5 or 6 executions simultaneously.
© Gripvan Crew
We have also been involved in the design and commission or build of bespoke lighting and rigging solutions, some involving international travel and logistics as well as shooting all over the country. We travel to France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, to the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. We’ve even supplied a full flash set up to a shoot in Toronto!
When we’re asked to work beyond the range of our vehicles we have relationships with lighting companies across the world and can offer our consultancy service anywhere. We’ve worked on shoots in the USA, Mongolia, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, The Philippines, South Africa and Ethiopia!
Can you tell us more about your consultancy and crew with kit services?
Gripvan differs from many of the equipment rental houses out there in that we concentrate on providing consultancy and technical production for clients. Whilst we are probably more equipment obsessed than most people, it is actually working on set and problem solving that excites us most!
© Gripvan Crew
The Gripvan team are also experienced crew - as professionals working alongside busy creatives day in day out, they speak the same language, and understand what's required. We recognise that combining kit and crew creates a homogenous approach to servicing a shoot - everyone involved understands the equipment and how it will be used and that helps us to work as efficiently as possible.
Our aim is for one of the internal team to handle an enquiry from the start, right through until final invoicing. Often this involves a lighting director or gaffer who takes responsibility for all of
the technical requirements of the shoot, allowing the photographer or director to concentrate on the creative elements and manage the relationship with the client and agency.
Having this level of involvement from an early stage in a production gives us the opportunity to suggest the best possible approach to technical challenges, along with identifying any potential issues and putting in place a plan to overcome them before a problem arises.
We also benefit from the knowledge and experience of a large group of freelancers who we’ve got to know really well over the years. Knowing these people personally is invaluable in assessing who is right for each job, and having worked on set with most of them, we are in a great position to be able to fit their individual skills to a specific job.
Tell us about the Gripvan team and their depth of experience and expertise
Back in the early days of the business, I pretty much handled everything but as we became busier, Drew Morgan joined the team soon after graduating from Ravensbourne Uni with a degree in photography. This was back in 2013 and since then Drew has become incredibly skilled in technical pre-production, problem solving, finding kit from all over the country, and even as a lighting technician on set.
Joe and Sean have now been with us for two years, both with great experience with kit rental and as lighting technicians. Sean also has moving image camera and editing experience so knows his way around this kit too.
In May last year, we were joined by Joe Jowers who has worked with JJ Media and Pixi Pixel on the rental desk; he brings loads of experience of pretty much every aspect of technical production.
My own experience covers many disciplines, from landscape to still life and beginning with 10x8 film through all the formats until adopting digital. I’ve also been a client of a lot of equipment rental companies across the world for longer than I’ve been Director of Gripvan and this gives me an invaluable perspective on what we do.
Many photographers work across stills and moving image do you offer a service expanding both?
Like a lot of people in the industry we are finding that an increasing number of commercial shoots demand both moving image and stills deliverables. Some photographers are eager to take on the mantle of Director and others less so, but most recognise that the ability to handle both roles puts them in a strong position when it comes to winning commissions.
Our experience in supplying crew and equipment for TV commercials, music videos, and social media shoots means we are well placed to help on productions where both mediums are required.
Photographic clients especially find our crossover knowledge and experience of continuous lighting helpful. To have an eye for either medium whilst speaking the language of both is useful on all productions combining stills and motion.
As our experience of moving image production has grown, so our network of expert crew has expanded and we have been able to help our clients with advice on cameras, grip, dit and sound as well as lighting.
© Paul Canning
Clients are looking to work with companies with sustainability policies and green initiatives. We’d love to hear more about what Gripvan are doing in this aspect
Ever aware of our responsibility towards the planet, both as individuals and as a company, we at Gripvan are always looking for new ways to reduce our environmental impact.
As part of our commitment to seeking greener on set power solutions we have explored using battery alternatives to generators by engaging with the likes of Voltstack , Bebob, Goal Zero and others. We are really excited to announce that we have plans to invest in the Big Planet Power 3kwH sSuitcase battery which we will stock for rental . We are also able to supply Hybrid generators for shoots to limit emissions. Big shout out here to Panalux and their investment in the H40 project – that’s the kind of commitment to R&D we need.
Our electric-assisted cargo bike is getting busier and busier delivering kit all over London, the greenest way we could think of to deliver kit and we’re finding that clients and crew love the fact that we are able to provide this service. As far as we know, it’s the only one in the industry – thanks to the support from the Zero Emissions Network.
We also make a point of using cycle couriers wherever possible too, we regularly team up with Pedal-Me to help transport our kit on their electric cargo bikes which also come with 3m trailers, and we use them to get around town instead of taxis too.
Always looking for ways to make all shoots carbon neutral, we support Trees for Life, a charity committed to rewilding the Highlands of Scotland. We ask clients to make a small contribution to this for each job they book with us. We also contribute each time too; we’re hoping to visit one day, it looks stunning.
We are also working really hard to reduce the amount of single use plastics on set by encouraging the use of multiple use bottles and water refill stations, and for this, we use the charcoal Berkey water filter system.
© Gripvan Crew
What’s next for Gripvan?
We want to keep planning, improving and pointing lights at things! As long as we have a fresh set of challenges, a new creative brief and a keen and eager crew to work with, we’re happy. We will always keep an eye out for an alternative to the internal combustion engine and we are committed to finding more efficient, greener technology in power and lighting.
And we also want to expand the Gripvan family, whether as part of the immediate team or as part of our growing list of the best crew!
View Gripvan's profile here