a few months ago we started working on a series of films with several US athletes about their journey to the Olympics. the pieces revolved around the idea of showing the training, trials, triumphs and emotions that they go through before they step on stage in London. part of that story was told through archival footage and the rest of it we filmed on a rather tight schedule.
much like the Callaway series we DP’d a couple years back, this one features a series of athletes with spots that all tied into one campaign, but unlike that series where all the athletes played the same sport we had the challenge of filming all different sports. while this certainly kept things fresh it also made pre-production and production all the more intense as we had to prepare for swimming, soccer, gymnastics, track& field, beach volleyball and even tae kwon do, all within a couple months time.
one of my favorites is our shoot with Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte. for Lochte’s film we had all hands on deck. after all, this is Ryan Lochte,
“Going to be traveling for my first out of state production. I’m gonna hire a local lighting/gaffer tech, but still still have a good amount of gear besides the camera (tripod, slider, small light kit, electric cords, etc). Any suggestions and tips for flying with gear?”
we travel a lot. collectively, individually, however you slice it we spend a lot of time on the road and in the air. that means we are constantly moving from location to location, often with loads of gear and with very little time to pack, unpack and repack for shoots. over the years we’ve learned a few things and developed a useful traveling plan to 1) get our gear to the location needed and 2) to make sure it arrives in full working condition.
here are what i like to call the five P’s to making sure your next trip with gear goes off smoothly.
// plan – this seems like a no brainer but it goes a long way and there may be things that aren’t obvious if you don’t travel frequently. take a look at what your shoot entails, what type of gear fits the needs of your project and make a gear list. start with the most important items first and work your way back from there. for instance, you may be maxed out with your camera, support and lighting with no room left for grip so consider renting at a local grip house. this often works well as things like c-stands, sandbags and modifiers are big and heavy, but generally don’t cost much to rent. if you are traveling outside of the continent, consider bringing battery powered lights that you can charge in your hotel room with an adapter or rent larger lights from a local grip house so you don’t have to deal with power issues when you’re lighting overseas. it might also be a good idea to bring invoices for any expensive pieces of gear to show proof of purchase in your country so as to avoid paying taxes upon your return. these are just a few things to keep in mind when you’re starting to plan.
// prioritize – they say less is more and that is absolutely true here. bring only what you need and nothing more. when you’re flying with gear, every little bit counts so while it’s tempting to bring extra gizmos and gadgets, don’t bring things ‘just because’.
jets scream overhead as I try to get focused. clutching a Red Epic in my hands and a tripod under my arm I take off in a run while the deafening sound of military personal screaming commands is all I can hear. as I pick up speed I try to eye ball people specifically to get a read on them, I’m seeing Privates, Sergeants, Seamen, Lieutenants, Captains, Colonels, even Generals. I put my eyes back on the prize as I near my destination and begin to slow down when suddenly a hole rips through the crowd and even more troops pour in! there must have been 200-300 of them and this time they were in a very calculated and tight formation, there’s no way I’m getting through that, I’m going to have to recalculate and find another way and it’s got to be fast because I’m getting new instructions over my headset.
am I in a war zone? no, I’m at my very first shoot for stillmotion and what would become the most memorable – the final game for A Game Of Honor.
but let’s take a step back, my journey actually began the day before. I touched down in Washington D.C. fresh from Toronto not knowing what to expect, after all everyone else had worked on this doc for 127 days. me? zero. in fact, I had only worked at stillmotion for 4 weeks and 4 days at this point! I checked in, met up with everyone and took possession of the Epic and after a quick dinner I set out on my way. I was brought in as tech manager because with all that was going on as well as the size and scope of the film at this point handling gear was a job in itself! a job no one else had time for, they had a lot of planning to do and an entirely different headspace to get into.
as educators, and to be very honest, in everything we do at stillmotion, ethics is huge. Patrick, Amina and I have structured stillmotion in a way that builds real relationships while cultivating creativity. our education outlets follow suit.
every time we speak publicly, design the latest SMAPP tutorial, or decide on having a behind the scenes crew follow us at a specific shoot, we’re looking to build real relationships with our audience. at the same time, we’re hoping to spark a creativity match in each and every mind that our educational content reaches. simply put, we’re looking to build the filmmaking community and provide the same opportunities we’ve been given to those who have their minds and hearts in the right place.
“Ok so I have a friend….he just graduated with a BA and is doing some video production work full time with a local production company and really has a passion for cinematography. Film school right? O wait….he’s already 40K+ in the hole. Any and all advice for my friend, who I know very well, would be very much appreciated. Cheers!”
1. research what’s out there, find something you love, and make a plead to help.
there are many different styles of filmmaking and many different studios out there. take a look at whats around and see if you can find somebody in your area that is doing things you really connect with. from there you can try calling, emailing, showing up in person – doing what you need to do to get a chance. there is an incredible amount that can be learned if you are in the right environment but the key is being ready for it and taking everything in. now this is incredibly important, the majority of learning is on your shoulders. look at everything around you, ask questions of yourself and others, be relentlessly curious. we’ve had people come in and intern and learn only in a way that directly related to what they did and how they helped while we’ve had others that have come in and soaked up everything around, putting their learning years ahead. remember that everybody will experience the same event in their own way, try and find as many ways as possible to make your experience as powerful as possible.