Today is Labor Day in the United States and, as we recognize this national holiday dedicated to the achievements of the American workforce, it’s important to acknowledge that the crew in the film industry – the labor – hold more skill, talent, and power than is being recognized and rewarded.
Filmmaking Tips and Advice
Happy Labor Day: The Film Industry Should Treat Crew Better
‘The Gift of Room Tone’ featuring Martin Scorsese, Roger Deakins, Cristopher Walken, and More
20 Holiday Gifts for Camera Assistants (That Your Family Can Actually Afford)
Get Answers to These 9 Coronavirus Safety Questions Before Taking a Job
12 Pieces of Coronavirus Advice for Camera Assistants
10 Ways Production Can Improve COVID-19 Sets (and Why Testing Won’t Help)
“Capturing room tone requires [Criterion Collection] interview subjects to sit quietly for thirty to sixty seconds, and of course when you ask a bunch of people to do the exact same thing, they’ll all end up doing it differently. As you’ll see, some are very playful while others are more meditative; some close their eyes, and some look around the room or check their phones.”
A little late to this one, but this overview of the Light Ranger 2 from Chris Silano (“A” Cam 1st AC on Uncut Gems) from the Gods of Focus series in Jon Fauer’s Film and Digital Times is worth the delay:
… I don’t care how good you think you are. You can get marks, you can use laser beams, run your 200-foot tape measure, do whatever you want. The precision that the Light Ranger brings really lets you choose which eyelashes to keep sharp. It’s a really phenomenal tool. People might say, “Just press the Autofocus button.” I don’t use it a lot, but sometimes it’s really handy when everything’s moving, people wobble when they walk, and if you can get in sync with it, that’s great, but it’s just as easy to go the wrong way and get out of sync.
Silano later provides an example:
We had a good chuckle one morning. It was 2 am. We were in an enchanted, psychedelic forest. In this fantasy land, Jim McConkey was pushing an ALEXA 65 with the Betz Wave horizon stabilizer on his Steadicam. That’s a beast of a payload, but Jim’s a workhorse. He just won the SOC camera operator of the year award, well deserved.
I heard director Pablo Larraín say, “Jimmy, instead of stopping, can you just continue in?” Jim looked over at me. I was 20 feet away, pulling focus, guided by the video overlay bars of the Light Ranger.
The actors in the scene must have been startled when Jim shouted out to me, “Chris, I’m not going to stop. I’m going to continue in. I’m going to keep going in at the end.” They all looked at me and I just answered, “Always got to ruin the surprise, don’t you, Jim?” Everybody laughed, but really, it gives everyone enormous freedom on set. Now I don’t have to say, “Well, let me get marks first.”
More and more, pulling focus feels like playing a video game.
As first reported by The Sun, Tom Cruise went on a tear against two members of the Mission Impossible 7 crew who failed to social distance. We don’t know the entire context of what happened – merely that these two people were standing within a meter of each other around a computer screen – but it’s not hard to imagine that Cruise, also a producer on the film, had seen too much of this or had seen these particular crew violate other policies previously. Plus, this comes after the movie already had to suspend filming due to an outbreak of COVID-19.
Based on my experience, it’s entirely plausible that people were flouting COVID safety left and right thinking that the mask shields them from other important measures like staying socially distant. In any case, Cruise’s rant, while aggressive is fair given the circumstances of the pandemic:
I don’t ever want to see it again, ever! And if you don’t do it you’re fired, if I see you do it again you’re f***ing gone. And if anyone in this crew does it – that’s it, and you too and you too. And you, don’t you ever f***ing do it again.
That’s it! No apologies. You can tell it to the people that are losing their fing homes because our industry is shut down. It’s not going to put food on their table or pay for their college education.
I trust you guys to be here. That’s it. That’s it guys. Have a little think about it. . .[inaudible].
That’s what I think of Universal and Paramount. Warner Brothers. Movies are going because of us. If we shut down it’s going to cost people f***ing jobs, their home, their family. That’s what’s happening.
All the way down the line. And I care about you guys, but if you’re not going to help me you’re gone. OK? Do you see that stick? How many metres is that?
A few thoughts: one, I like that he doesn’t want an apology, he wants them to follow the rules; two, I wish more producers would back up their safety measures like this. It sure would make me feel better about signing those garbage coronavirus liability waivers.
It’s no secret that filmmaking gear – even the small knick knacks – are pricey, but while those of us in the industry are used to it, it’s hard to ask a family member to spend $300 on a new ditty bag. So here’s a list of twenty items that would make great gifts for camera crew without busting the budget.
When you get a call for a shoot where the rate is $$$, you’re mostly thinking, “I hope I’m available.” Especially if it’s with a solid crew or a really cool concept. But in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic, you also need to be aware of the exposure risks you’re accepting when you say: “Yes, I can do it!”
As camera assistants, we work with some of the most high-touch equipment on set and there’s plenty of departmental interactions from reloading the camera to changing lenses. The work is the same, and our skills still relevant, but it requires rethinking how to make things safer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since coronavirus lockdowns began, producers and production crew have been on the front lines hustling to get us back to work safely while having to prep for more logistical chaos than they already dealt with before. While I’ve been cautiously optimistic about these plans, their execution could be improved. So, here’s ten ways production can make film shoots safer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a solid three months of no work, I was given a few opportunities in the past few weeks to dip my toes back into production. It goes without saying: filmmaking in the age of coronavirus isn’t what you’re used to. So put on your mask, sanitize those hands, and buckle up for our brave new world.
Actress Jennifer Garner talks about the “dance” that takes place between her, the camera operator, the focus puller, and the boom operator – and how it’s one of the things she misses most right now.