It was the day I turned up to our location at a huge mansion that was in the midst of being torn down. In the back was a grimy green pool full of algae, a tiger cage turned sex room dubbed the “Pimp Plaza” and a series of tropical looking huts strewn about it’s yard.
It might pique your interest if I was to tell you it was formerly owned by Vegas legends Siegfried and Roy, who installed the tiger cages. Those cages would later become the “Pimp Plaza” sex dungeon after a big-time porn producer moved into the mansion.
And, in it’s last ditch effort at a bit more fame before being demolished, the house was going to be featured in the independent film we were working on.
There were going to be three scenes within the single location that we would be shooting, meaning a lot of planning. Unfortunately for the director of photography (DP), he had been eyeing all the shots up until now during the shoot and, honestly, we had wasted a lot of time moving the camera around until things were settled.
After walking with the DP watching him try to explain the shots to the director, I was reminded of an event from earlier in the week.
Over drinks, I had recounted the story of how I built the 40mm lens. After a good laugh, the DP suggested that I should create him a director’s finder so that I didn’t have to keep shifting the camera when he wanted to see a shot. The suggestion was met by laughter and immediately the gears started turning in my head.
When I saw the two men place their fingers out in front of them while blocking out the camera moves in the mansion (you know that stance?), the time was now.
I casually walked towards craft services and grabbed a bottle of water. Chugging it on the way to the staging area, I managed to finish it and rip off the label. I then opened up my toolbag and grabbed the gaffer’s tape, a few C-47’s and went to work.
My 2nd Assistant stood over my shoulder laughing about it and even the key grip stopped by to find out what I was up to.
It was a fairly simple thing to create: I used gaffer’s tape along the whole side of the water bottle, but leaving both the ends open with the cap off. I bunched four C47’s together and taped them onto the bottom of the water bottle to make a handle. As the final touch, I used the eyepiece chamois from the day before and added some red camera tape for color accents. It was good to go.
I checked around the set to make sure the DP and the director were still figuring out the blocking — they were.
I jumped up and down until I was out of breath and headed in their direction.
“Hey! You left this. I found this, it might help you a little bit,” I panted as I rushed up to the DP.
I wanted it to appear as if he had left some essential piece of equipment back in his bag. The director, left out of the loop, gave me a funny look.
“Oh my God,” said the DP as he turned around laughing. “You actually made a finder!”
I gave up my act and started laughing too and he took the time to look through it. It provided no usefulness as a director’s finder whatsoever, but it was a neat little gag to have on set. And we ended up bringing it to set everyday with the camera package for the rest of the shoot.