A Family Outing

Son-in-law George ( posing in front of his ginormous mega-van with camera. Spot the battery?

101 South from Corte Madera, Calif. March, 2002. George, my son-in-law, is driving his ginormous Ford E-350 Super Duty Extended wagon. It’s crammed full of cameras, tripods, lights, lights stands, sand bags, you name it.

I’m chattering on, “I don’t have a list, I just do a complete set up in my living room the night before. Check the lights, run the cameras. Then I pack it all up in one suitcase and a camera bag.”

“Well that’s fine for you, but I’d rather work from a fully equipped truck. If I need a couple of HMIs, they are packed and ready. I leave everything in the truck. I never have to worry about leaving anything behind.”

“I guess you have to take out the batteries to re-charge?”

“That’s the only thing I take out—I take out—the—the batteries—sheeeeet!!!”

We are passing Daly City—about halfway. George stops, gets out and checks the van. Nope—no batteries nowhere.

He’s on the cell to the office. “Steven, quick, grab the Betacam batteries, they’re on charge. Get the address from the call sheet. Meet you in San Jose.”

“Stay calm,” says George to me. I’m calm; it’s not my screw up. “We drive there. Arrive on time. Then I’ll do the best, slowest, setting up job you’ve ever seen.”

Downtown San Jose. George meets Heidi, his client. The space is a big conference room with windows on every side.

We unload the van. I secretly phone Steven from time to time.

Now he’s crossing the GG Bridge. George: “Can we move the conference table a little? Take the chairs out?”

Batteries at Daly City. “Maybe we should blackout the windows.” I get the ND 0.6 gel and a roll of gaffer tape.

Batteries now passing SFO airport. “We really need a better background. Can I use that company board in your reception?”

Batteries at Redwood City. “I just think we need to take down the background a little. Stefan, can you get some gobos from the truck and another C stand?”

Batteries at Mountain View. “You know, I’d like to add a bit of powder to your forehead. There’s a little shine there.”

Heidi: “George, you are the best cameraman I’ve ever met. So much attention to detail.” George: “I’m really a producer—and you are my product.”

Batteries now entering San Jose. “I think we are ready to rock.” Steven enters the room. Slips George a battery like a palming a $100 bill to a Las Vegas maître d’. The camera bursts into life.

“Heidi, You look terrific. I’m running.”

George collects $200 and passes GO.

A Right Royal Screw Up

Those ears. Those ears. Oh my!

Windsor Castle, U.K. November, 1975. We’ve been here for three hours to shoot a three-camera interview with Prince Charles and Alistair Cooke. Titled “A Much Maligned Monarch,” it’s been presold across the States in time for the 1776 bicentennial.

Tricia sits in for both Charles and Alistair while I adjust the lights. Wow, that looks great! Colin Clarke, the producer, looks through the viewfinder at Tricia. “Perfect!”

So where’s the prince? We turn off the lights and wander around aimlessly down the nearby art-filled corridor. Rembrandt, Rubens, Holbein…We don’t go far as the palace staff are there all the time…watching.

Three more hours pass. Finally, the royal party arrives.

Tricia wires up the 27-year-old prince with a lavaliere mike. She’s wearing a form-fitting jump suit with a zipper top to bottom. The prince is intrigued in the mechanics of the zipper. I switch on the lights.

SURPRISE. Charles’ ears light up like pink stained glass—the backlight is shining right through them. Those ears. Oh my! What was terrific lighting for Tricia is a total disaster for Prince Charles.

“OK, Let’s go”, says a tense Colin.

“No, I need to make some lighting adjustments.”

“Come on, Stefan. It looked great when I looked through the viewfinder.” How can I say, “The Prince’s glowing ears don’t meet broadcast spec”?

I fiddle with the backlight. “I need some spun glass and a chopper.”

“Stefan, you’ve had all day to set up! It’s fine—leave it.”

I need 15 minutes to fix. I can feel tension mounting. “STEFAN, WE ARE WAITING.” OK, I give in. “Roll cameras—slate it!”

“Much Maligned Monarch, take one.”

Stefan does not collect $200. The prince has bright red ears—he hasn’t spoken to me since!

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