The Right Stuff
The attributes on what it takes to make a movie are lost on most people. Its this nebulous world where you really cannot understand until your knee deep in the shit that it takes to make it work. And if you made it that far, then you’re a lifer. Nothing else compares in our modern day society. Nothing parallels, slaving away for about 14 hours a day, months on end, for a 2 hour movie you may or may not watch.
I tried multiple times for my ex-wife to come to set and try and have her understand exactly what it was I did, but often times an outsider will often leave inside of an hour if they are not understanding of the process. Its typical of rejecting or poking fun of something you have no understanding about. I’ve spent years in the trenches, and I find myself doing the work, regardless of the pay. I was recently driving to set two nights ago, on free job, even though I had my own job the next day a few hours later, and I found myself working for free.
The idea that finding what it is that you love to do, and doing it, and you never work a day has some validity to it. In this process I’ve kept an awareness, a sense of human purpose, and ability to see the fruits of it either tangible or internal.
It starts with a group of people who share the same intuition, and passion. Who, side by side, can’t think of any other place they would rather be than right there on that movie set.
I’m the Cinematographer of the group, and for those of you who don’t know, its the guy taking notes from the Director, and making it happen with his right hand man (the gaffer), and together we create the look and movement of what the camera sees. And it is a gas. The way I use to describe it is this idea that you formulate in your mind as you read a book, on how it would look like from chapter to chapter, how you envision the characters to be, and how you see the action taking place, that’s what its like. Only we take a step further and start creating the tangible from the imagined.
Personally I can root all this back to GiJoe/Star Wars action figures. The diorama of the saga between Cobra Commander and Duke and the Joes, utilizing shoe boxes, fishing line, gasoline mixed with soap, and perhaps a fort made from sand and twigs, is the precursor to Free Standing sets, Wire Harnesses, Demo Crews, and some Art Direction. Being a Cinematographer has allowed me to light and photograph according to the mood and feel and where it is in the timeline. Remember sometimes you would get at eye level with your toys, and pantomime their bodies in sync with the dialogues you created from your 7 year old self? What I do, is that “eye level” part, only instead of just resting my chin on the floor next to the bumper of one of those plastic vehicles, now I use a 15-30lb Motion Picture camera on 600lb steel cart.
But unlike photography, you can’t do this alone. It is a dance between, sound sensitivity, dolly speed, focus points, electric power, solar power, exposure, composition, line delivery, actors blocking, weather continuity, visual continuity, camera configuration, and time. And after all those hurdles, the Director has to approve it. And even though you may harness lighting in the bottle 3-4 times out of the multiple takes one might do, of those 3 takes, one would be selected, and of that one selection, what would be utilized would be 30% if that.
So you might ask, who would want to work on such a thing? Well have you seen the Goonies? Have you seen Armageddon? Raiders of the Lost Ark? Have you ever quoted an Adam Sandler movie? Have you ever said: ”There is No Spoon.” Have you found parallels of your own life, in a film that resonated with you? Did you see parallels in whatever your Faith believes? Have you transformed your own life due to inspiration from an idea you had seen depicted on screen? Did you cry in “Up?” Did you identify with Jean Val Jean? Do you quote obscure Star Wars lines while working on the house? Do you dance like Napoleon Dynamite to Jamiroquai? Do You Dream in Technicolor? Do you get submerged in Hitchcock Films?
Well, if you said yes to those things, it was guys like my guys here in this photograph, that brought all those ideas and dreams and inspirations to your Theater or DVR box. And even though we are all just trying to make it, it cannot be denied that we have the Right Stuff to do exactly what our predecessors did. We were getting a bite to eat before the public screening and I took this shot on the Leica. The poignant nature of this photograph is touching seeing as though we are responsible for so much more on a movie set, and to be just here relaxing, away from the fanfare, and the stress. Because aside from being talented at what you do, you’ve got to like each other a whole lot for 14 hours everyday.
“We’re your Huckleberry, that’s just Our Game.”
Leica M6 35mm Summicron @ 2.8, Agfa Retro 80