Friday, August 23, 2019

Impossible Shots

  I am typing to you now from my new laptop, my first new machine in fifteen years. My previous one, an old Hewlitt Packard (the very one I typed the first post for Dollygrippery on in a hotel room in Connecticut) had become just too bogged down with malware and old age to use anymore. The twenty minute bootups, lost data, crashes, bugs, and sixty second battery life had made using it too much of a chore. Which might be one reason for my infrequent posts of the last few years. So today I went out and bought myself a refurbished laptop for $250 and it's like a breath of fresh air to use. I may even publish that Dollygrippery handbook I've been threatening for a few years now.

   I am taking a short vacation after a solid fifteen weeks of work (of which the last two were six-day weeks. The first four weeks was additional photography on a Disney job from last year, followed directly (the next Monday) by  eleven weeks of another installment of a well-known franchise. This one was directed by a very enthusiastic and creative director and shot by a young, very talented DP. Their style was very slick with a lot of dolly and crane work which kept the camera constantly moving and me constantly scratching my head to figure out how to do some challenging moves in some small spaces. It was also, for the most part, a return to the old tried and true "block, light, shoot" method of film making which has sadly fallen by the wayside in many productions today. We blocked it, lit it, and then I figured out (with the much appreciated help of my key grip, a veteran Dolly Grip) how to do a 180 degree floor scraper booming up into an over-the-shoulder in a 13'5" by 7' space. It was great having a challenge but by the last three weeks I was a burnout. It also brought to mind how most of the challenge of this job isn't the moves, it's the setup. I've touched on this many times but once you reach a certain level of proficiency, the actual operation of the move is almost an afterthought. It's figuring out what you need and how to best set up the shot that is where you make your money. And it's still the part of this job that I enjoy the most. Many times the director would be running around with his finder and ask, "Can we get the camera here?" The key grip and I would both answer, "Just show us where you want it and we'll figure out how to get it there." And then we did. Once you reach a point where you've done literally any shot they throw at you (most of them many times) it comes down to figuring out the space you're in. Always remember though: You can't change the laws of physics. Unless you can take a wall out or drastically rearrange the room, sometimes you can only offer a very close compromise. I never say no except in issues of safety, but sometimes I do have to say, " I can't get the camera inside that actual wall unless we cut a hole but I can get it close if we remove the onboard battery."
  Anyway, hopefully since my new laptop will make it easier to post, I'll be around a little more. This ol' page is a little rusty but it's still chugging along. Drop a line and say hi sometime.

Stay safe,
D

22 comments:

Donavan Gallagher said...

So... how did you do it?

D said...

It was a hypothetical example of the types of shots I was given but most likely and most often a jib arm on track through the door

The Grip Works said...

Hey D,
Giving a reply a shot.
As usual, your post is spot on.
The setup is so important. Often in today’s shoot the rehearsal world, the quality that you can add by discussing and blocking a shot, gets ignored.
Hiring and trusting a good grip crew can make you look really good.
I hope your new computer gets you to post more often.
Please write that book.
A lot of us would be happy to buy you a new computer if you would write that book !!

D said...

Good to have you back! I'm going to start on it soon!

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Wick said...

D,
Nice that you've left the steam age of computing. What Sanjay said, pretty much all the way up and down.

Anonymous said...

We did a neat shot the other day. 11ft arm aerocrane on 12 ft track on beams over flower bed pushing in craning up between posts of porch to an overhead shot of two folks playing chess
Lots of calculating. Length of track to allow for swing. Angle to allow you to get closer as you push in ,swing the arm and crane up.
It was all in the prep. The move itself was pretty easy.

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