Saturday, February 28, 2015

Camera Operators (Because That's What We Are)

  I've been thinking lately about camera operators. These people we share so much of our time and talent with. I have been blessed to work with some of the best in the business. I've been priviledged to call them friends as well as colleagues. Here's the thing though, guys. They can't do our job. And we often are treated like second class citizens. Not by them, but by production. I'll never forget a job I was up for a few years ago. A camera operator friend of mine was going out of the country to do a movie. He was trying to get me on but was in a battle with production. The DP wouldn't go to bat for him and production said, "We have a local guy who is very good." I called him a couple of weeks after he started the show to ask how it was going. "Well," he said, "we started off with a Technocrane shot. He couldn't get it. Then we went to a dolly shot and he couldn't get that. The rest of the show has been steadicam." I've never understood why production will bring in operators and focus pullers but will trust the person whose job is at least one third of the shot to fate. Part of it is our fault, guys. We've allowed people who weren't ready or weren't qualified to assume a position for which they aren't competent. I've seen it over and over again and heard horror story after horror story. "Dolly grips" who can't hold an over or put the low mode on or do a compound move who are time and again entrusted to make a shot they can't make. It's not an entry level position. Until we conduct ourselves as professionals and call out those who aren't qualified, we will always be considered second class citizens. Anyway, that's my rant for the week. Oh, I just forgot, I started this post talking about camera operators. The good ones appreciate and fight for us. The shitty ones don't. That's where I was headed. Remember that.
The captain has spoken.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sarah- One Year Later

One year ago today, Sarah Jones lost her life. Help remember her by taking a moment of silence before the first shot today. This is a repost from last year. Never forget-never again.


 As most of you have heard by now, a young member of the Atlanta film community, 27 year-old Sarah Jones was killed yesterday when a train struck her while she was working on a film called Midnight Rider.
  Unfortunately, I didn't know Sarah as well as I could have. I seem to be saying this a lot lately  about those taken too young. She came in often as an additional second AC on several jobs I was working on. I would say "Hi," she would say "Hi" back and we would each head toward our respective labors. I can distinctly remember two things, which aren't much, but are all I have: I remember meeting her, and I remember the bacon. We were on a darkened stage when we met, and I noticed the new girl with a large toolbelt. I walked up (apparently I was in a rare social mood), stuck out my hand and introduced myself. She said, "Hi I'm Sarah." She was friendly, and full of the promise we all had at that age, starting an adventure that she expected never to end. Then there was the bacon thing which I noticed but never asked about. She had a shirt that said Bacon is nature's candy or something along those lines. I thought it was funny as I have often called barbecued ribs nature's candy, which they are. Then on the last job we were on together I noticed that she had a sticker on her toolbelt that also mentioned bacon with a picture of two pigs. That's it. That's all I have. One thing that is apparent over the last two days, though, is the love that the Atlanta film community has for her. Our hearts are broken.

  I don't know all the details of what happened, and try to reserve judgement until the facts are in. I do know that, according to the lead detective on the investigation, the company did not have permission to be on the tracks. I have done countless train shoots. I've rigged cameras on trains, done dolly shots next to the tracks, crane shots of approaching trains and pushed Peewees down the aisles of passenger cars. I do know one thing, you never shoot on a live track without a representative of the train company there. You don't approach the tracks or a train unless they know you are there and you have permission to do it. These situations are tightly controlled. And I suspect one other thing. No one said "No." In this business, we are put in a lot of dangerous situations. A certain amount of risk comes with the job. We regularly shoot in caves, mines, boats, high speed cars, helicopters, and any other dangerous situation a writer can dream up. In these situations we trust that the groundwork has been laid, discussions have been had and meetings held by the higher ups who we often call "the adults" or the "grownups." We call them that for a reason. We count on them to worry about the details of making us safe while we focus on making the movie. All we ask is that if we are put in a situation, that we know the risks. ALL of them. And sometimes, someone has to say "No." As a Dolly Grip, the safety of the immediate camera crew on any given shot is my responsibility. I've earned that through experience, as has my Key Grip. No one said "No" for this girl and those injured in this senseless tragedy. Instead, corners were cut and permissions were broken and a 27 year-old girl who just wanted to do a good job was put in a position from which there was no escapeTo get a freaking shot. And that's why we are here, guys:  To say "No" for those who don't know they can. As a forty something Dolly Grip who's been around the block a few times, I would have said, Hell no to being on that trestle on a live track without a rep or permission. As a twenty-something young grip with something to prove and trying to make an impression on "The Adults," however, you can bet your ass I would have moved the camera up there myself and stood by it to yank it out of the way if a train came. It's up to us not to let the creative minds override common sense just to get a cool shot. It's up to us to look out for each other and for those who haven't been around as long. To say "No" for them. Because often they don't know they can. When the time came, no one said "No," for her.  Now, all that's left is an endless sadness and anger, and lawsuits, and finger-pointing and we are still without a friend and co-worker who was doing what she was told, trusting the adults that it was OK.

 To a young lady with a bright future cut short, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't make it a point to get to know you. I thought I had more time. I'm sorry that no one was there to look out for you. I'm sorry for your parents. I can't imagine losing a child, especially to something as ultimately meaningless and stupid as a movie. I'm sorry for my colleagues who were lucky enough to know you better than I did. I wish you could see how much they loved you. I'm sorry for all that was taken from you because no one said, "No." You deserved better. From all of us.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The SOC Awards Part 2

  Congratulations to my friend Chris Mcguire for winning Camera Operator of the Year. I livestreamed the show and though it had some hiccups, it was still a night of excitement for those who won. I would also like to congratulate (once again) Alan "Moose" Schultz. You make dolly grips everywhere proud. Most nominees were quick to thank the dolly grip (although not always by name) and thank them for their contribution. Dan Gold SOC was particularly quick to point out the dolly grip in his speech.I've beeen drinking since about 2PM and my wife says I have to stop now. Congrats to Bud Kremp also. Good work, dude! Good night all.