Generator Operator

  • Generator Operator

Most commonly referred to as the genny operator, this technician works under the direction of the gaffer (chief lighting technician) on films and television productions. His or her primary concern is the safe and proper operation of all electricity generators that supply power to on-set equipment and location trucks and trailers.


Duties

As a member of the electrics department, the generator operator works on set to install electricity generators to supply additional power where existing circuits are insufficient, or on location where electricity is otherwise unavailable. This person is tasked with ensuring the generators are adequately fueled at all times, balancing the load of distributed power among all output lines and running feeder cable to electrical service points as needed. He or she must constantly monitor the electrical output of the generator with a voltmeter to ensure that each leg of feeder is sending equal voltage and that the power consumption does not exceed the generators’ safe operating limits. When necessary, the genny operator is responsible for troubleshooting any mechanical or electrical problems associated with the power distribution systems and making the appropriate repairs.

Skills & Education

A degree in film and television production is recommended but not required. However, it is necessary to have formal training in generator operation, maintenance and repair, as well as principles of electricity, high voltage safety and power distribution. Courses in electrical engineering or experience in commercial electrical contracting are applicable to this role. There may be state and local laws concerning the operation of generators and power distribution systems above a certain voltage, thus necessitating the technician is a licensed electrician; therefore, certification is beneficial. The genny operator must be familiar with local codes concerning temporary electrical installations and work closely with fire marshals to ensure that all standards for safety are met.

What to Expect

Generator operators are typically among the first to arrive on set, as no one can start work until the genny operator has dropped power for them. The first several hours will be a mad dash to get all of the generators off the truck, in place, fueled, and running. Then there is the backbreaking task of running hundreds of feet of feeder cable (usually weighing one pound for every foot) to numerous trailers and department staging positions. The rest of the production day is spent waiting for something to go wrong. It is this person’s job to sit with the generators and monitor their function closely, which essentially amounts to watching paint dry. However, he or she is on call in the event that there is a loss in power somewhere on set or additional lines must be run and is responsible for refueling generators as necessary. Generator operators are eligible for membership in IATSE and typically begin their careers as set production assistants and set wiremen.

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