Saturday, January 31, 2015

“At what height would you like the camera today?"

- A quote from Winnipeg, Manitoba dolly grips.

Here in Toronto, we were lucky enough to miss the Blizzard of ’15 that dumped a few feet of snow on the North American east coast, but I’m not lucky enough to be able to hibernate, so I find myself having to work through the winter, and most likely outside in not the nicest of weather.

Dressing appropriately is important to combat the cold, but what I’m having to deal with is the dolly freezing. We’re using Chapman Pee Wees - a 4 and a 3+ (A & B cameras respectively) and the oil pan heating pad in the 4 really doesn’t cut the mustard, never mind none in the 3+.

One of our local rental houses is smart enough to try by adding a pipe heating coil through the back end of the dolly, but generally it does very little. In my current situation, the dollies are stored in uninsulated, unheated, unpowered trucks so in the morning the dollies come out as solid bricks of ice. A couple of 2K open face lamps pointing at the dolly’s underbelly is the morning ritual, but there’s got to be a better way.

(and don’t get me started on salt / ice melter and it’s effects on dolly tires!)

Suggestions? Comments?

Would you believe there was no snow when we arrived an hour earlier...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

SOC Awards

Congratulations to Moose Schultz for winning the SOC Lifetime Achievement Award for Moving Camera Platform Operator this year. This is truly the only body in the industry that recognizes the contributions of the dolly grip. I've been to the SOC's and they really put on a good show. Only camera operators really know what we contribute day after day and I appreciate them in their recognition of the dolly grip's role in what they do. In recognition of Moose's award, I've decided to list a few of my colleagues who I believe deserve some recognition. I consider most of these guys friends as well as top notch Dolly Grips.

Danny Pershing- This is the dude whose career we all want. Cool, calm and collected. Even Bob Richardson can't shake this guy. With credits like: Django Unchained, Iron Man, Shutter Island, and Eat, Pray, Love, Danny continuously amazes me with his professionalism and calm under fire. He was also the first Key Grip I ever worked for way back in 1990.

Bill Wynn- A dolly grip's dolly grip. This guy knows more about the craft of moving a camera than anyone I've ever met. He gets it done and if I was a Key Grip, I would call him first. The West Wing, Three Kings.

Moose Howery- The ultimate professional. This guy has a list of credits that makes us all hang our heads. He's a rock star. Apocalypto, Forrest Gump, Contact, The Book of Eli.

Greg Brooks- My buddy. Came in like a freight train to become Clint Eastwood's dolly grip. This guy inspired me to walk the rail on a recent shot. Makes it look easy. Gran Torino, Trouble With The Curve, J Edgar, Changeling.

Sean Devine- Somehow decided to become a Key Grip, but a craftsman as a dolly grip. A world class pusher. Serenity, 42, Friday Night Lights.

Ashley Sudge- I wanted to be this guy for years. The coolest customer you will ever meet. He literally just walks up to the dolly and just does it. Planet Of The Apes, Interview With The Vampire, NCIS: LA.

Andy Crawford- A veteran pusher. And a gentleman. I've admired this guy since I walked into Chapman in Los Angeles and saw his personal dolly off to the side with his tag on it. Independence Day, The Help, Friggin Stargate. Really Dude?

Troy Wade- I've known Troy forever. He was Michael Mann's go to guy for years. Collateral, Ali, Miami Vice.

Brad Rea- What can I say about this guy. He is the ultimate professional. Winner of the SOC Lifetime Achievement Award. I am so proud to know him. When I think of the most professional dolly grip I know, his name pops up. Gone Girl, Memoirs of a Geisha, Iron Man.

Mike Epley- I've known Mike for years and am still amazed he returns my calls. There is literally nothing he can't do with a dolly or a crane. The General's Daughter, Shooter, Marley and Me.

Sanjay Sami- Everybody who is anybody knows who this guy is. My friend. The only Key Grip/Dolly Grip/Steadicam Operator I have ever heard of. He completely amazes me with his talent and ability. Wes Anderson's go-to guy. Those dolly shots in Moonrise Kingdom?  Yeah that was this guy. The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited.

Wayne Stroud- I met Wayne years ago when he was Robert Altman's regular guy. He has a talent for improvising and making the shot happen. That long opening shot on The Player? That's Wayne. The Player, Gingerbread Man, Kansas City.

John Mang- I don't know John personally, although we run in the same circles. He's Spielberg's regular guy. Lincoln, War of the Worlds, Iron Man 2

Bruce Hamme- This guy is at the top of his game He's Roger Deakins's regular Dolly Grip. Roger trusts him to deliver and he does. I've heard Roger ask him many times after a shot, "Was that OK?" True Grit, Skyfall, No Country For Old Men.

Trip Pair- I've known Trip for years and his dedication to his craft and single-minded focus on the job at hand inspires me to go the extra mile every day. Founder of Stop and Care, he truly cares about his profession and those around him. Terminator:Salvation, We Are Marshall.

That's it.  These are the Dolly Grips that inspire me through their innate talent or professionalism, or just....coolness. I am honored to call most of them friends.
Again, congratulations to Alan "Moose" Schultz. Good on you Brother. You make us all proud.
I raise one to you.

This post has been edited since it's original publication. I write most of them after a few drinks and I always add something I forgot or reword some things. Just thought you should know.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chapman Grand Opening-Atlanta

  Had a great time at the Chapman-Leonard Grand Opening at Pinewood Studios Atlanta today. I got to see a lot of friends and coworkers that I haven't seen in a while and spend some time with a lot of the fine folks from the Chapman family. I did a demo of the Hustler 4 and Bill Winn did a demo of the Hybrid 4.  I still haven't switched over to the Hybrid 4 because I wanted to wait a while and let all the kinks get worked out, but from what I saw today, I would be completely comfortable using it on my next show. It would be hard to give up my Hustler 4, though. Thanks to all who came out and to Nichole for putting together a great event. I spent a lot of time talking to Leonard and his beautiful wife Cindy and learned a thing or two myself. Of course it's always good to see James Marks and all the wonderful techs who keep us going. Thanks everyone for a great afternoon!
  I plan to soon get back in to some more technical posts, including something on keeping your camera operator happy and maybe revisiting dance floor and techniques to make complex moves a little less stressful. Please comment or email any suggestions on things you would like to see. After a while away from the blog, I'm starting to get reinvigorated again but I need some inspiration. Help me out!

  I've got a few weeks off before my next job so I've got a little time to devote to these long neglected pages. Stay safe out there and don't be afraid to say, "No" if something isn't right.

Monday, January 19, 2015

That's A Wrap!

  We finally wrapped on the twelve week Sci Fi extravaganza/catastrophe I've been working on for what seems most of my life. It just went on forever. Although our lead actress was a minor and we worked mostly ten or eleven hour days, I often joked that this was the only company that could make a ten hour day seem like a sixteen hour day. All in all, we had a great time. I did a fair amount of rickshaw work with my operator, Larry McConkey, and we turned in some really beautiful shots. (No, I did not get part of his rate) although I should have for trying to outrun a seventeen year old girl. There was a little bit of everything and we pulled out most of the tools in the arsenal. Mostly our crane of choice was the Moviebird. It's always a pleasure to use this crane. The bearings are so smooth and the option of lengthening it to 45' comes in handy. We also did some work with the 72' Hydrascope, the Phoenix, and the Aerocrane jib. I must give credit to my B Camera Dolly Grip, Kenny Bolton. This guy stepped up and delivered. He is turning out to be a fine dolly grip. I had my dolly of choice, the Hustler 4, and a Peewee 4 for the small dolly. Both went through the wringer and came out the other side as good as the day of the loadout. I must thank the Chapman team at Chapman-Atlanta for their service. Thanks to a great cast and crew, we pulled it off and had some laughs along the way. Thanks also to Cinemoves and Mike and Parker. They're our go-to guys for technocranes.

  I will be at the Grand Opening of Chapman/Leonard at the Pinewood-Atlanta studios this Saturday. I will be doing a demo of the Hustler 4 in what is sure to be an edge-of-your-seat event. My buddy, veteran dolly grip Bill Winn, will be doing the Hybrid 4. Hope to see you there.

  Speaking of the Hybrid 4, I did use it briefly on a series last year. While I liked it (I've always loved the Hybrids), I'm not quite ready to switch over to it. I think I'll let it be out for a while and let some of the kinks get worked out.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Happy New Year!

  I know, I know, a dormant blog is really depressing (first world problems). I'm sorry for my absence. But, as you all know, real life intrudes and as the list of things you have to do gets longer, things tend to drop off the bottom. That's what happened in this case. Work, family, babies needing attention, business, daughters in college, soccer games and everything else piled up until I had no room for this. Even when I had the time, I didn't have the energy, or initiative, or inspiration to give you guys a half-assed post just for the sake of doing something. For the last eight or so years I've done an end-of-the-year post of things I've learned. These include things I've learned about the job, and life in general. I don't know how much I have to draw upon, but here goes:

1. Don't be afraid to fail. You would think this one would have come about years ago, but I'm just starting to get it. Strangely, this was brought about by a crane shot. I was doing a very large studio picture (literally money was no object) and needed to get the camera as close to a car on a gimble as I could as we raced toward it on an insert car. After several unsuccessful passes, the camera operator said, "Why don't you cue the stop?" "Sure," I said. I was confident and full of piss and vinegar about scraping the paint on this car. We raced in, the car rolled on the gimble, ....and I chickened out. I called it earlier than the operator had previously. We all had a good laugh, but I resigned myself to be a little more bold in the future. Granted, this was a special case with a lot of variables; a speeding insert car, a technocrane, a rolling car, but I still chickened out in the end. I won't next time.

2. Someone was once where you are. I work in a boom town right now. It's full of guys who don't have near the experience they should for the jobs many of them are getting. Have a little patience. Don't yell, teach. Lord help me.

3. Take time off. Do it. Things will work out. In twenty-five years at this job I have never missed a payment or wanted for a job. Have faith in your friends. Have faith in the Lord. Take a week (or a month) off.

4.On the first day everyone is as nervous as you. Call on your experience. Embrace it.

5. Beer is a gift from the Lord.

6.Play with your children. Someday they will stop asking.

7. You don't always have to have the answer. That's why you have a Key Grip. Sometimes others will see the answer before you do. It's ok.

8. Let the younger guys do the heavy lifting. I paid my dues. I don't have to rush in and pick up the dolly any more. (This isn't an excuse to be lazy, just to use your resources). We have a crew of guys in their twenties and thirties. Now, I let them carry the heavy stuff if I'm doing something else.

Wow, I made it to 8. Meanwhile, I'm on a short holiday break until we resume the latest epic I'm on. We have two and a half weeks left and I'm unemployed until the phone rings.

I will be at the Chapman grand opening at Pinewood Studios-Atlanta on January 24, where I will be demonstrating the Hustler 4 dolly in what is sure to be an edge of your seat affair. If you want to attend, you must RSVP to Hope to see you there.

Let's all have a great 2015. Stay safe out there.