In just about any filmmakers career, they’ll spend a good deal of time as the support. Call it a second shooter, production assistant, or 1st AC – there are a bunch of roles that don’t have the prestige of Director or DP.
The fatal mistake of the second shooter is to think that there is any less opportunity in one role over another. It’s all relative. There is always a chance to make a difference, both for yourself and for the larger picture.
Here’s a short story of a shoot we did for CBS last year that really drives that point home.
Last year, Joyce and I spent a great deal of time in New Orleans working on a one hour Superbowl special. As it came close to Superbowl Sunday, things started to get really busy for CBS. As the broadcast network of the game, they had a bunch of specials to put together and many of them would come together in the days leading up to Superbowl Sunday.
One of the biggest pieces they were putting together was the Superbowl Open – a short piece that would air right before kick-off. Together – CBS, Superbowl, the Open – it all meant that there would be some pretty awesome resources put into bringing this piece to life.
We got a call the day before the shoot seeing if we’d be interested in tagging along. Pete Radovich, director of A Game of Honor, was directing the piece. Think Lombardi Trophy, an awesome NOLA stage, a 50 piece kids orchestra, some unreal lighting design, a grand piano, and Helmut Vonlichten (formerly of E.S. Posthumus).
They already had a DP plus a 20′ jib as a second camera. That means we’d be last in line – a third camera. Remember, we were in New Orleans for an entirely different shoot, one that had very long days, so it would be an easy excuse if we wanted to pass.
Do I wish I was asked to DP a spot as special as this? Absolutely. But they had an excellent DP in place and that wasn’t how we could help on this one.
Never one to turn down an opportunity, we rigged the Epic up on the Steadicam and Joyce and I joined the shoot, me as the Steadicam Op and her as my 1st AC.
We showed up with every intention of being the best third camera CBS had ever seen. Ever chance we got, we pushed ourselves just a little further than we thought we could go. And in between our chances, we schemed on how we could do even more the next time our name was called.
Our first feature film, 64 minutes in length – how do you possibly make 96,120 frames all say the same thing?
Every story you tell will come with a million decisions.
We can turn our backs, hide under the covers, or close our eyes. None of that will make them go away.
Think about something fairly straightforward like an interview. You’ve got your aperture, iso, shutter speed, camera height, focal length, white balance, picture profiles, lighting ratio, location, eyeline…okay, you get the point.
When I started filmmaking, I’d make every single one of those decisions with the same thing in mind ‘just make it look good’. But what is ‘looking good’? And it’s probably safe to say that not every story should look that way.
It’s tough business. A million decisions, all hitting you at once, while you’ve got to stay on schedule, get the shots, and find time in all of that to eat and breathe.
So we get overwhelmed and It’s easy to miss or dismiss so many of the decisions. For so long I didn’t know how camera height affected story, that shooting down on somebody could diminish them, or shooting up could give them power and authority.
But guess what? Every time I setup my camera, I was still saying something with my camera height, whether I knew it or not.
Our challenge then, as filmmakers, is to take those million decisions and make them with intention – harness their power to drive your story.
We need a rhythm, a resonance, a way to have them all point in the same direction.
We’re glad you’re here. Really – we appreciate the time you’ve chosen to share with us in the pursuit of stronger stories.
Here’s the truth; we LOVE great stories. And, quite frankly, we think that there should be more of them out there.
We hope you’ll take a few moments to help us get to know you. We’d also love to take a moment and share our story, as it’s so central to the content and ideas we’ll be bringing you.
It’s been 10 years thus far in our pursuit of great stories. We started in weddings, way back when, while in University. One day we got a call, totally out of blue, from the NFL. They’d seen one of our wedding films, appreciated our approach to story, and wanted to see how it might fit for their game. In a week we went from hotel ballrooms to all access for the NFL playoffs, San Diego vs. Green Bay.
The sun is beginning to peek it’s sleepy head out from behind the Portland clouds after another long winter and that means it’s time to get outside and start exploring some new opportunities.
Fortunately, we have the scoop on some super rad workshops that may be stopping in a city or country near you! And a special offer too :)
Whether you are just breaking into filmmaking, know your way around and want some new insight, or are a pro looking to be re-inspired, there is a learning opportunity with your name on it.
In every workshop we talked about finding the heart of your story – that people ultimately carry a story, any story – but the biggest thing we learned on this trip was just how much this would apply to the story and journey we were living on this tour.
And like any good story, it all came together for us on the last night of the tour. It all became clear we ended where we started–in Portland, and with a nine year old girl that had the audacity to take on child slavery with her lemonade stand.
Unseasonably lovely for April in Portland, the sunset on the night of our last stop glowed pinkish orange on #standwithme on the marquee of the Hollywood Theater. When the credits rolled and Grant and Patrick took the stage to answer a few questions.
Vivienne, the heart of #standwithme, asked something that had not been asked by a single person in 30 cities: ‘What is your favorite part of the movie?’
Taking a moment, Grant replied what we all were thinking: ‘The people.’
Collectively the most important thing we took away from this tour were the amazing stories of the people we met. Our favorite part was the stories we heard, big and small. It seemed like everywhere we went, people opened up.