Saturday, June 27, 2015

Joe

  We in the camera movement community lost a good friend this week. Joe Cuzan, who was a tech for Cinemoves, was killed on Friday while working on his truck. I first met Joey in 2003 on Big Fish. He was a big, smiling man who was quick with a joke and never got frustrated or angry. I remember on that job we were pulling a 50' Technocrane through mounds of sawdust at the circus set at wrap, trying to get it to the trailer. It was about 5 am and we were tired and ready to get back to our hotel rooms..  At about a hundred feet from the trailer the steering handle sheared off, making a long night even longer. Joe didn't curse or get upset (unlike me). He calmly got down under the base and figured out how to fix it. That's how he was. He knew there were more important things than this business. I just happened to see him Thursday night on a job after not seeing him for a year or so. He shook my hand and gave me a big hug with that smile he always had. We later made a joke about a PA telling him where to stick his paperwork. At the end of the night I shook his hand, said  "Thanks Joey," and left. The next night we learned that he had left us. He was a good dude. Those of us lucky enough to have worked with him will miss him. Scott Howell and the whole Cinemoves family has stepped up to help support his children, Sebastian and Isabella. A fund has been set up in Joe's name at http://www.gofundme.com/joe_cuzan.
 Please give if you can.

   Joey, "Fancypants," I'll miss your smiling face buddy. See you down the road.

                                          The Cinemoves Family. Joe is in red on the left.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Lay The Room (in dance floor)

   I'm just finishing up the latest epic. nine weeks of dance floor and crane work and I'm worn out, and strangely elated. I love dance floor work. It really is a disappearing art in a lot of ways. In a world where most young directors just want to bring out the Steadicam (or "Crowd Pleaser"as an operator friend and I call it), I think a lot of younger dolly grips aren't familiarizing themselves with the craft as we all used to. There was a time when dance floor moves were just a regular everyday occurance that you had to contend with.Dolly grips learned how to lay it, overcome problems with thresholds and carpet, etc., and not get freaked out as the combos got bigger and more complicated. Now, dance floor seems to be only infrequently used, and then mostly in tv work. As a matter of fact, I now use dance floor work as a benchmark of mastery of the craft. I once had a very young grip tell me that he had taken set gripping as far as it could go and was considering putting himself out on the market as a dolly grip (after I had just shown him how to put on the low mode). "Oh really?" I asked. "Can you do a five or six point dance floor move with three booms in it and nail it by the second take?" He had no clue what I was talking about. In that spirit, here is a short primer:

1. Lay to the wall. In other words, don't try to lay to the angle of the move. Lay the floor parallel to the set walls. You'll see why if you don't.

2. Try to lay the floor in pads or squares when possible. Avoid tailoring the floor to the exact move in "L's" or other irregular shapes.

3. Accommodate the actors. Don't have them half on and off a floor. Lay it bigger.

4. Learn the move in chunks. If you try to envision the whole move in it's entirety, you'll get freaked out. Let the actors tell you where to go next.

5. I tend to worry more about the plywood joints than the plastic ones. They tend to show up more. Try to run the plywood with the direction of the move. (that's just my opinion).

These are just a few hints to help make your dance floor life easier. There's a lot more to it, but this is basic.

Good luck,
D

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Which Wheels?

  A long time reader sent in a request for a primer on wheels. When do you use pneumatics? When do you use hard wheels? The answers are fairly simple and I won't belabor the point here. P.neumatics or air filled tires are used pretty much for dance floor. The softer, more forgiving surface of the wheel tends to soften out the seams in dance floor. Pneumatics also tend to help out on soft grassy surfaces as the hard tires dig in more and make for harder pushing. Years ago, when I was pushing a Hybrid, we put on the pneumatics at the beginning of a show and just left them on. For the Hustler 4 we mix and match and leave them for the run of the show. I once had a DP who shall remain nameless who insisted that I install soft compound tires (the solid, very soft tires from Chapman). I told him that either he would have to wait for me to change them out for exteriors or they would get chewed up and he didn't care. The show bought a new set of soft compound tires at the end because ours were a mess. This DP was a half wit. If you ask me by email I will tell you his name. Soft compound tires are virtually never necessary. A good set of medium hard and a set of Pneumatics will get you through pretty much any show. The bottom line- On a Hybrid, put on the pneumatics and leave them on. On a Hustler, mix and match. On a Fisher, use what came with them and use skate wheels on track. The Fisher round track wheels are a pain in the ass to keep changing out. I've used these wheel combinations on literally over fifty movies, including some very high profile ones and they've worked fine.
The Captain has spoken.
D

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Shooting Film

   Yes, we're actually going back to a 19th century technology to shoot our latest epic. I had looked forward to it. After a couple of years or digital movies and series, I had longed for the simple, mechanical whirr of the film camera. It's kind of like missing an old girlfriend after a few years. All you remember are the good times. Remember chart lights? Yeah, we do 'em. Remember gelling windows? It's back. 85 filters in the camera? Every day. But then you start to see the bad side. Camera jams. Hairs in the gate. Horrible video taps. All in all, I think it's about an even tradeoff. Now that I've gone back to it I can see that there are advantages to both.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

What's Going On

  Not much to report this week. I've been working some long hours so I haven't had a chance to think up a topic and nothing has really pissed me off lately so, no rant this time. I'm in the second week of a medium to high budget studio picture. It's a comedy about suburban life, spies, and marriage. I'm with a DP I love working with, one of my favorite camera operators, my regular grip crew, a good director and some funny and nice actors. So life is good right now except for the Fraturdays. If you have a particular subject you would like to see covered/debated in this forum, just email it in. If you are in the LA area, don't forget the JL Fisher Barbecue on May 16th. It's a really good event to attend to see old friends and catch up on what's new in the dolly world. Also there's beer (or at least there used to be.) I assume no one has made a jackass of themselves and ruined it for everyone yet (remember the coolers of beer on the tailgate that production used to provide every day?) Anyway, the kid's asleep upstairs, the wife is still at work, and I'm on the deck having a cocktail, having a drink, and listening to some blasts from the past. Be safe out there and don't be a stranger.

PS
I'm thinking of having a Dolly Grip dinner here in Atlanta for all the Dolly Grips in town, either on location or local. Those of you who may be interested leave it in the comments or email me. Otherwise I'll just go by myself and drink myself into a tizzy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Clear The Frame!

  I opened up a can of worms with my comments about crossing the lens or standing in front of it. A commenter named Sarah asked, " When should I use crossing?" This is a confusing issue, since a lot of people do it every time they walk past the lens. I was taught to do it too when I was starting out. After I started pushing dolly I realized that it drives a lot of camera operators and DPs crazy. If you must cross, do it when no one is looking through the eyepiece, or when we aren't trying to line up a shot. There used to be a short block of time (before digital) when the operators, stand-ins, dolly grips, and AC's had a chance to actually line up the shot and see what we were seeing before the set was swarmed with ladders, grips, juicers, art department and everyone else. Now as we try to see the shot we have to look through an army and often don't see the complete shot before we roll. I know everyone has to work and has a job to do. Crossing the lens is unavoidable. Just duck under it or do it quickly if you must while we are trying to see the shot. Yelling out, "Crossing" just draws attention to it and a lot of operators will growl, "Don't say it, just do it!"  The big grievance is literally just standing in front of the lens oblivious to what is going on. I've seen department meetings, people on their phones, or people just standing around in front of camera while we are trying to put 2nd team through their paces to see the shot. This has always been a little bit of an issue and always will be as long as we have several departments trying to all do their job quickly. I get it. But it seems to have gotten much more prevalent over the last few years and I think it's because no one is teaching the importance of not hanging out in front of camera. There was a time when I would get my head bitten off for it and everyone was aware. Now it seems no one is. When I was younger I was taken to the side and many of the rules were explained to me. I don't think that's happening anymore. Anyway, I'm not trying to bite anyone's head off myself, I'm just trying to draw attention to a problem that maybe we can all be more aware of.
Now move it!
D