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FALL 2021









8 ESTABLISHING SHOT by Daniel Turrett, SOC




46 WHAT'S YOUR STORY...? by Rachael Levine, SOC

47 INSIGHT Meet the Members


Special Multimedia Feature A conversation with Miguel Sapochnik; Dave Thompson, SOC; and Jo Willems, SBC and ASC

12 THE POWER OF THE DOG Ominous Love An interview with Grant Adams, SOC by Kate McCallum

16 THE LAST DUEL Radio Ridley An interview with James Goldman, SOC by David Daut

26 DEAR EVAN HANSEN Wisdom from the Set by Christopher T.J. McGuire, SOC



by David Frederick, SOC


ON THE COVER: Tom Hanks with camera operator Dave Thompson, SOC, on the set of FINCH. Cover photo and photo at top left courtesy of Apple

32 1

Society of Camera Operators Membership Dan Gold, Dan Turrett, Gretchen Warthen

Board of Governors OFFICERS

Corporate Members Craig Bauer, George Billinger, Mitch Dubin, Dave Frederick, Simon Jayes, Sarah Levy, Bill McClelland, Jim McConkey, Matt Moriarty, Dale Myrand, Dan Turrett, David Sammons

President George Billinger 1st Vice President Mitch Dubin 2nd Vice President Matthew Moriarty Secretary Daniel Turrett Treasurer Bill McClelland Sergeant-at-Arms Dan Gold

Education Colin Anderson, Will Arnot, Craig Bauer, Bonnie Blake, Dave Chameides, Mitch Dubin, Dave Emmerichs, Mick Froelich, Craig Haagensen, Geoff Haley, Sarah Levy, Simon Jayes, Jim McConkey, Larry McConkey, Matt Moriarty, Jeff Muhlstock, John “Buzz” Moyer, Jamie Silverstein, Dave Thompson, Chris Wittenborn

BOARD MEMBERS George Billinger Mitch Dubin David Emmerichs Michael Frediani Daniel Gold Geoffrey Haley Nikk Hearn-Sutton Bill McClelland Matthew Moriarty John “Buzz” Moyer Sharra Romany David Sammons David Thompson Daniel Turrett Gretchen Warthen

Technical Standards & Technology Eric Fletcher (Chair), Andrew Ansnick, William Arnot, Luke Cormack, David Emmerichs, Steve Fracol, Dan Gold, Jamie Hitchcock, Simon Jayes, Doc Karmen, Mark LaBonge, Rocker Meadows, Matthew Moriarty, John Perry, Manolo Rojas, David Sammons, Lisa Stacilauskas, Gretchen Warthen

COMMITTEES Awards Craig Bauer, George Billinger, Dan Gold, Geoff Haley, April Kelley, Bill McClelland, John “Buzz” Moyer, Dale Myrand, Hector Ramirez, Jan Ruona, Benjamin Spek, Dave Thompson, Rob Vuona

Inclusion Sharra Romany (Cochair), Nikk Hearn-Sutton (Cochair), Olivia Abousaid, Shanele Alvarez, Alfeo Dixon, Pauline Edwards, Alexandra Menapace, Jeremiah Smith, Lisa Stacilauskas, Gretchen Warthen, Mande Whitaker

Charities Brian Taylor, Ryan Campbell Historical Mike Frediani

Social Media & Content Ian S. Takahashi (Chair), Sharra Romany, Gergely Harsanyi, Ryan Lewis, Brandon Hickman, Emily Lien, Agnelia Scuilli, Gloria Bali, Julio Tardaguila

STAFF AND CONSULTANTS Bookkeeper Angela Delgado Calligrapher Carrie Imai Business Consultant Kristin Petrovich and Createasphere

CAMERA OPERATOR MAGAZINE Publishing & Executive Editor Kristin Petrovich Managing Editor Kate McCallum Art Director Cyndi Wood Advertising Jeff Victor

CONTRIBUTORS Grant Adams, SOC George Billinger, SOC David Daut David D. Dryden David Frederick, SOC James Goldman, SOC Mark Karavite, SOC Bud Kremp, SOC Rachael Levine, SOC Kate McCallum Christopher T.J. McGuire, SOC Kristin Petrovich Miguel Sapochnik Dave Thompson, SOC Daniel Turrett, SOC Jo Willems, SBC & ASC

PHOTOGRAPHY John Brawley Erika Doss Jessica Forde David Frederick, SOC Kristy Griffin Benjamin Hardman Louise Hyatt Trip Pair Patrick Redmond David M. Russell Jiri Vagner Robert Voets

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Letter from the President Dear SOC Members and Camera Operator Readers: The immeasurable and profound loss of Halyna Hutchins recently has touched us all. In loving memory of her passion, dreams, and beautiful indelible spirit, the Board of Governors for the Society of Camera Operators has made a donation to the Halyna Hutchins Memorial Scholarship Fund with the AFI Conservatory. May her memory touch our lives and stay in our hearts always. In this time of overwhelming grief, we stand together as filmmakers, colleagues, and artists. Regards always,

George Billinger, SOC Society of Camera Operators, President






Finch Special SOC Video Conversation On a post-apocalyptic earth, a robot built to protect the life of his creator’s beloved dog learns about life, love, friendship, and what it means to be human. Tom Hanks is Finch and the robot is played by Caleb Landry Jones. Watch the multi-part interview with director Miguel Sapochnik, cinematographer Jo Willems, SBC and ASC, and camera operator Dave Thompson, SOC. They discuss life on set, the unique creative collaboration on Finch, and how their working relationship was built. The video will be available starting November 5, 2021, in conjunction with the premiere of Finch on Apple TV+. ...

Watch the conversation here on, beginning November 5, 2021

Tom Hanks and Caleb Landry Jones as the robot in FINCH. Photo courtesy of Apple



Multimedia Feature The Society of Camera Operators is excited to give Camera Operator magazine readers new ways to enjoy content and share in the knowledge and behind-thescenes viewpoints of our member authors. Finch is the first story in a new multimedia format that features an entertaining and insightful video interview, created especially for this issue, with director Miguel Sapochnik, cinematographer Jo Willems, SBC and ASC, and camera operator Dave Thompson, SOC.


Starting with the Winter 2022 edition, Camera Operator will be presented in the full multimedia format, with enriched content in written, video, and audio formats. The digital magazine will have links to the full articles, photos, trailers, bonus content, and related content on


; Ale Alexa LF s n T-serie Panavisio hic rp d anamo expande lenses

Enjoy the video introduction by Dave Thompson, SOC. The full interview will go live on November 5, 2021.


THE  WATCH TRAILER NOW DAVE THOMPSON, SOC Learn about Dave's career and projects at Photos on this page courtesy of Apple



Establishing Shot by Daniel Turrett, SOC

Operating from a horse on the Sam Shepard–directed movie SILENT TONGUE. Photo courtesy of Daniel Turrett

They say, “Find a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in

Thank you, Orson Wells and Gregg Toland, ASC!

your life.” We’ve heard this a million times, but it bears repeating and

I majored in fine arts at Long Island University and learned the basic craft of filmmaking. Summers were spent working summer stock. I was involved in lighting and building sets and learned the craft of production design…and at one point considering it as a career. Working at the Brunswick Music Theater in Maine gave me an opportunity to work alongside actors and craftsmen from the Yale University Repertory Company and Drama School. I came to a better understanding of how to use lighting to create moods and help tell a story—a skill I would need later. Studying Bertolucci, Jean-Luc Goddard, and other French and Italian directors was a motivating factor in my decision to become a filmmaker.

it certainly applies to me. There are challenging jobs and challenging people (you know who you are), but I’ve had a decades-long love affair with the camera. Growing up near New York City afforded me an opportunity to be exposed to artistic achievements. From an early age my parents took me to the ballet, museums, the symphony, theater, and movies. I remember the first time I saw Citizen Kane. I was maybe 11 or 12 and home sick with the measles. I was so taken by it… by the cinematography. That was the first time I realized how powerful movies could be. A few years later in high school humanities class, I was again exposed to Citizen Kane and, from that point on, I began to view cinema as an art and considering it as a career.


After graduation, I went to NYC and pounded the pavement like many of us did, looking for work. Finally, I landed a job at the Cam-


In the woods of Seattle shooting THE FUGITIVE. Photo courtesy of Daniel Turrett

era Mart, a huge camera and equipment rental company. Working as a technician, I got invaluable learning about equipment as I prepared it for production companies to rent. Then I got a job as a camera assistant at Focus Films. Fred Peterman, Henry Sandbank, and Alan Dennis were the commercial directors. My first real job in the film business! Thrilling that, as an assistant, I got to travel to Chile, Columbia, Italy, France, Germany, and then Ireland, where we spent two weeks on river boats shooting gorgeous models for Monsanto. I could hardly believe my luck. Next, I was shooting hamburgers flying through the air for Elbert Budin, the top “tabletop” director. I had arrived.

Wyoming, I learned what it was like to drive hundreds of miles to set

My career got a jump-start when I began being hired by the famous British cinematographer Brian West, BSC. He promoted me to camera operator on Jack Knife and 84 Charring Cross Road. He became a mentor and a true friend, and we’ve been close all these years. He greatly influenced my career by teaching me about camera operating, cinematography, the business of filmmaking, and about life.

ASC. When CSI became a runaway hit with all the spinoffs, I can say

I moved to Los Angeles in 1990 in search of sunshine. Another break—Vic Armstrong, known for his second unit work on action movies, hired me to work on Universal Soldier. We went to Arizona for a month of filming amazing action footage. Vic and I became friends on that film. (My mentors seemed to be Brits at this point.) Vic and I went on to do Joshua Tree and Starship Troopers. There, in


and back. Hell’s Half Acre, an ancient canyon with jagged formations, was used to depict the bugs’ home planet. Those kind of months-long location shoots allowed me to develop many close friendships; we were all stuck in the middle of nowhere with no sushi. In 2000 I worked with my friend Clark Mathis, ASC on the TV series The Fugitive. Seven months in Seattle, a city I grew to know and love, although the worst earthquake I’ve ever been in actually threw me out of bed while on that job. After The Fugitive I started operating on more dramatic television series like CSI: Miami with Michael Barrett, I was there when it all began. Suddenly, film went to digital. Instead of looking through an eyepiece, I was looking at a little monitor attached to the camera. I preferred an eyepiece. I could see focus better. Instead of one power cable, we had dozens. Thank God for my assistants who had to deal with them. I remember it was funny, you’d look down at the floor and it was a nest of cables. My transition from features to television coincided with television’s larger budgets, acting talent and higher production values starting to mimic those of features. Dexter, True Blood. Suddenly TV was just as challenging and rewarding artistically.


On the set of JERKY BOYS with Ueli Stiger, ASC. Photo courtesy of Daniel Turrett

I worked on many shows with my friend David Miller, ASC: Shark, Desperate Housewives, Veep, and The Good Place. David and I met in NYC when we were both assistants with no knowledge of where life or film would take us. To Los Angeles, as it turns out, where we are still best friends after 40 years. Today, I’m able to keep up with my fellow operators and mentor young talent through my positions on the Board of the SOC. To sum up why I’m so grateful to have this career…being a camera operator gave me a chance to be creative (an artist) in the world, something I had longed for—without even knowing it—since I was a kid. And it gave me long-lasting friendships with people who all have a passion for storytelling and filmmaking and life.

DANIEL TURRETT, SOC Daniel Turrett has worked on many features including Starship Troopers, American Pie, Star Trek, The Artist, and Rocky Balboa. His TV credits include Emmy-nominated shows: CSI: Miami, True Blood, Veep, and The Good Place. Having held multiple executive committee positions on the Board of the SOC, he is currently serving as the national secretary. Photo by courtesy of Daniel Turrett



Being a member of the Society of Camera Operators gives you access to the Camera Operating Series in partnership with AFI; priority and discounts to training; invitations to events and screenings; over seventy hours of videos, members only mentorship program. JOIN NOW

The Society offers multiple levels of membership; Active, Associate, Student, Educator, and Corporate. For a full description of benefits, costs, and qualifications visit SOC.Org/Membership.



The Power of the Dog Ominous Love

An interview with Grant Adams, SOC by Kate McCallum

Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank in THE POWER OF THE DOG. Photo by Kirsty Griffin/Netflix © 2021



The Power of the Dog is an upcoming internationally co-produced drama film written and directed by Jane Campion, and adapted from a 1967 Thomas Savage novel by the same name. In early 20th-century Montana, a embittered ranch owner (Benedict Cumberbatch) launches a campaign against a young widow (Kirsten Dunst) when she unexpectedly marries his brother (Jesse Plemons) and comes to live on the ranch. It also stars Thomasin McKenzie, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Frances Conroy. The film is released on Netflix.  WATCH TRAILER NOW Camera Operator: Jane Campion is truly one of my favorite directors. The Piano was a classic. Can you please share a bit about your background as a camera operator and how you got hired to work with her on this film? Grant Adams, SOC: From a young age I’ve always loved meeting new people, hearing what they have to say and giving them space to feel comfortable to share their narrative. I was passionate for various creative disciplines, however not drawn to studying them through the orthodox avenues. The academic side of high school took second place to photography, film, music, sports, and culture. After a friend suggested I try the film industry, I decided college wasn’t for me. After writing to various film production companies, I got a lucky break as a camera trainee on a TV show. It was a huge production for its time, we were filming 35mm (some days over 10,000 feet) on two cameras and a full-time Steadicam as a part of our kit. I spent three years on this show and got really inspired by watching our Steadicam operator, Peter McCaffrey, SOC. To me this seemed like an art form, a conviction, a reason to keep fit, a specialist craft, but also it was super badass and amazing to watch! It was then I was hooked! I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I hadn’t even operated a camera at that point, but I was still young, and I had time. In 2000, I par-


TRIVIA: This is the first Netflix original film from New Zealand.

ticipated in a one-week Steadicam workshop which was run by Garrett Brown in Umbria, Italy. This was a mind-blowing experience as there were a handful of the world’s top operators instructing, and we got to spend time with each of them as we rotated around in groups of four. What occurred to me was that there’s no right or wrong way of doing things, it was up to the individual to find a method which worked for them personally and one which would allow repeatability and give the best chance of quality work. Once I returned home from that workshop, word got around about what I’d done and, even though still an AC, I started getting offered Steadicam work on charity gigs, music videos, and low-budget TV dramas. A few years later I had a chance encounter with Jane Campion, told her my story and how I’d purchased my own rig. She said I should put a showreel together because she was about to shoot a period feature film Bright Star with a young DP who she thought I’d get on with. This turned out to be Greig Fraser ACS, ASC. He watched my reel, we spoke on the phone, and I got the gig! Since then, I’ve been fortunate to make a career out of being a full-time operator and it’s taken me from New Zealand to Australia and Asia, and in 2017 my family and I moved to Los Angeles where we now call home. It’s Steadicam that’s bridged the

gap for me time and time again, and for that I’m forever thankful. In the film industry it’s all about relationships, and striking the right chord with Jane meant I got asked back to work on Top of the Lake and, more recently, The Power of the Dog. CO: Who else was on the crew and how did you find working together? Adams: DP Ari Wegner is a crazily-talented cinematographer from Australia whom I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with on three occasions now, all of which have been immensely satisfying. It’s not just her sense of story—Ari’s always very well researched when it comes to script. It’s her brave and bold decision-making in a constant effort to create an aesthetic with an enduring poetic quality which I admire the most. Having established a solid game plan together through spending time in preproduction, she and I were able to navigate our way forward without the need for much fuss on set because we were already both completely on the same page about what we were trying to achieve. In our camera department we had the following excellent folk who totally killed it: Daniel Foeldes, A Cam 1st AC; Ben Rowsell, B Cam 1st AC and A Cam 1st AC; Henry West, B Cam 1st AC; Nick Willoughby, A Cam 2nd


From left, DP Ari Wegner, director/producer Jane Campion and Grant Adams, SOC. Photo by Kirsty Griffin/Netflix © 2021 AC; Jimmy Bollinger, B Cam 2nd AC; and Bailey Mitchinson, camera intern. Our glorious grip department comprised of these legends: Sam Strain, key grip; Simon Jones, dolly grip; Nick Flyvbjerg, grip; Chris Thomson, best boy grip; and Benaiah Dunn, grip assistant. Other people on the crew I’d like to mention are Tanya Seghatchian, our brilliant producer; Chloe Smith, our out-of-this-world co-producer; Thad Lawrence, our fabulous gaffer; Kathleen Thomas, our superb script supervisor; Kirsty Griffin, our sensational stills photographer; and Jay Hawkins, our wizard VFX supervisor. These first-rate people helped and inspired me daily while working on this project. CO: What equipment did you use on set? Adams: For standard coverage we used two Alexa LF production bodies. Alongside these we had an Alexa Mini LF which was dedicated


for Steadicam and Ronin 2 gimbal builds. Using a Panavision cage system allowed us to change between modes quickly. We shot 4.5K Open gate at 24fps with 2.39 aspect. Our “workhorse” lenses were a set of Ultra Panatar 1.25 x full frame anamorphic primes (System 65) consisting of 35mm, 40mm, 50mm, 65mm, 75mm, 100mm, 135mm, 180mm. These were mostly T2.8. Minimum focus wasn’t great but worked out okay for cinematic framing, with diopters used for close work. Other lenses included a 200–400mm 70 series full frame zoom, a Leitz 90mm Macro (with 2x extender), and a set of 70 Series Primos for drone work and the occasional plate shot. We couldn’t get a full-frame directors viewfinder with a 1.25 x de squeeze, so we used a normal super 35mm finder marked for 2.39 letterbox, then used two lightweight zooms (wide-angle and mid-range) that were marked up to match the hero lenses FOV on camera.

We had my PRO 2 Steadicam with M1 volt kit on for the job, which was utilized a great deal. For the odd handheld scene, I had my Ergorig with me, which was a welcome addition for my back considering the weight of the production camera lens package. Grip tools we used were a Chapman Hybrid III dolly, two Original Slider systems (3' and 6'), a MovieTech movie jib crane and a custom-made rickshaw with a Flowcine Black Arm. We also used a Scorpio 23' telescopic crane for a shot inside the entrance of the Burbank ranch house. CO: Where did you shoot the film and was COVID an issue during production? Adams: The bulk of the exterior work was done in the Central Otago region of New Zealand. A major location where the Burbank Ranch scenes were shot was in Maniototo, Ranfurly. As the story was set in the state of Montana, United States, we utilized the distinctive landscape of the golden grassy plains


TRIVIA: Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst are a couple off-screen and have two sons. From left, Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank and Jesse Plemons as George Burbank. Photo by Kirsty Griffin/Netflix © 2021 for the ranch house and smooth, painterly Hawkdun range as a background to sell it as being somewhere up near the Rocky Mountains. This location also served us for the Haystack, Indian camp, and the Township of Beech scenes. Other locations we shot at included Poolburn, Bannockburn, Queenstown Hill, Lindis River near Tarras, Manuherikia river near Alexandra, Oamaru, and Dunedin. These are all situated around the lower South Island of New Zealand. Temperatures were at times hugely variable and weather conditions often extreme but thanks to production, locations, and the spritely attitude of the crew, we were able to depict and investigate these awesome places despite what mother nature brought along. Upon wrapping the South Island portion of the shoot, we took a one week shooting hiatus and moved production to Auckland where the remainder the film was to be shot in the studio. Throughout this time the threat of


COVID had been becoming a reality around the rest of the world. None of us had any idea of how this would impact us or the production, we just wanted to get this story told. On day two of our studio shoot, news came through that the virus had spread into the community in New Zealand and the entire nation was placed into a “level 4” lockdown. A snap crew meeting was held, and we were informed that filming was to cease immediately, we were to make safe on our kits, and return to our home till further notice. This was a very surreal moment for us all—the word “unprecedented” got used a great deal and we walked away wondering if we’d ever get the chance to complete the film. The good people at Netflix came through with financial support for the crew from the Hardship Fund, which was a welcome surprise considering such an uncertain time. Thanks, Netflix! After two months of strict lockdown measures, it transpired that the virus had been eradicated and New Zealand was completely

COVID-free. Some swift action from Jane and her production team came next, and The Power of the Dog returned to the studio in mid-June 2020. A month later we finally wrapped, and to celebrate, a dinner was put on for the cast and crew in the ground floor Burbank ranch house set with table service, speeches, and dancing! CO: How was it working with Jane and what did you notice about her particular approach to telling this story? Adams: Working with Jane is always an experience to behold. Kind of like embarking on a journey where you know the destination will be so fantastic but, in terms of coverage, you’re never certain of how you’re going to get there. Along the way the path differs, sometimes it’s the tried-and-true one you embrace, often it leans to an unconventional route—it’s always open to finding emotion in the details and textural ways of moving the narrative forward.


From left, Phil Jones, associate producer/1st assistant director, and Jane Campion. Photo by Kirsty Griffin/Netflix © 2021 Jane grew up in the world of New Zealand theater, her parents Richard and Edith Campion founded the first New Zealand theatre company, and this clearly shines through in her process. Central to this is a desire to capture the “spirit” of a scene. What this means in a practical sense is that even though the technical grammar may not be completely perfect, she executes the right to move on from a setup if she perceives the performance or action has moved the viewer to have felt that spirit. Of course this is where the magic is, and it’s the challenge of achieving technical perfection and flawless visual language—when there’s perhaps limited attempts allowed for it—that I find the most challenging and rewarding. I’ve often heard her say that it’s about finding the joy or love in the composition of the frame. It’s with this mantra in mind that I try to filter what is going to be a useful frame or one that she’ll love and use. She’s a lover of the best things in life: nature,


fine art and photography, poetry, music, storytelling, and psychology, and she loves to laugh and be playful. One of my favorite things is to sit with her and listen to what she has in mind for a scene and study her beautifully hand-drawn storyboards. Although you can tell every idea has been thought through and almost meditated upon, she’ll still have the courage on the day to scrap the plan if it’s clear to her a better solution has been realized. On The Power of the Dog, Jane activated a very down-to-earth and respectful tone on set. Although the crew footprint was small, there were scenes which involved tens, sometimes hundreds of characters (including humans, horses, dogs, and cattle). These were ambitious setups—tricky to wrangle—but brought a culmination of rugged authenticity and drama to the screen, which I think was her plan all along. She’d create opportunities for spontaneity by allowing improvisation or nature to take

its course within a scene. This allowed an element of humorous realism and, when this was combined with the majesty of the mountains in the background, or the exquisitely designed sets, really created a believable feeling of being there with the characters as you devoured the story. It could be said that Jane has one of the richest and most lyrical bodies of work behind her of any director, and it’s my feeling that with this film she’s added a major jewel to that crown. CO: I personally have a soft spot for period films. The costumes, props, set, and look and feel. Who was the production designer and how do you think this story translates to today’s audience? Adams: This story, set in 1925 in rural Montana, is no ordinary cowboy’s tale. It has complex psychological elements to it which needed to be portrayed and balanced perfectly along with accurate set design, props, and costume and makeup to be sincerely digested.


TRIVIA: Jane Campion had long been a fan of Kirsten Dunst and had attempted to work with her on a prior project. Dunst revealed that Campion wrote her a letter around 2001 that she has kept in her possession. Kirsten Dunst as Rose Gordon. Photo by Kirsty Griffin/Netflix © 2021 Grant Major (our production designer) and his team did a breathtaking job, in my opinion. As did Kirsty Cameron (costume designer) and Noriko Watanabe (makeup designer). All three of these key people approached their craft with such a delicate sensitivity that when their work was combined with the performances and locations, all delivered an elegant, timeless appeal. CO: Did you have any particular challenges you had to problem solve on this film? If so, how did you do so? Adams: Nothing out of the ordinary comes to mind apart from a worldwide pandemic, which was quite the curveball. In the end I think that the two-month spell of downtime worked to our advantage. It allowed an opportunity for everyone to regroup, rest, and reflect on what had been shot already. Upon our return to work from lockdown, there was such a collective feeling of excitement on set, we


all just felt so happy to be there. There's no doubt in my mind the picture benefited from that. CO: How was it working with such an amazing cast? And do you have any particular insights or wisdom you’d like to share about how you work with talent? Adams: As a camera operator, it’s essential to create rapport with the cast members you work with. This helps them because they know there’s a point of contact and someone that has their back behind the camera. It helps you because invariably there’ll be occasions where you must give them notes about positioning or eyelines and you want them to listen to you and trust what you say. An ensemble of cast members like the one we had on The Power of the Dog is a dream to work with. Each of them brought bucketloads of talent, experience and seemingly not a shred of ego. Benedict’s approach was a method one, it

was explained to us beforehand that this had been agreed upon between him and Jane. As his character in the film was dark, manipulative, and cocky, this meant his demeanor remained that way the whole time he was at work on set. This could come across intimidating, but it wasn’t long before you could see the twinkle in his eye as he dished out the odd snarky comment and you could tell it came from a good place. He would always find space to work with us technically whilst devoting the rest of his efforts to his character portrayal. We never heard him speak in his native English accent once—until the night he wrapped and gave a speech to the crew! Kirsten and Jesse were delightful from the get-go. Such lovely, friendly people, and as they’re a couple in real life, having them play a married couple on screen made finding the chemistry between them an absolute breeze. They were both happy to be there, easy to work with and total troopers!


Kodi is a smart, sensitive, and deep guy who I’ve had the pleasure of working with before. He showed integrity, was always focused and from my perspective so generous with the amount he’d be open to trying for perfection. On set we tried to allow as much freedom as possible for the characters to disclose themselves. This worked for us because actors of that caliber seem to already know what works, and it felt like we were all in sync under the

spell of Jane’s master plan. CO: Curious what the title of the film and novel means to you? The Power of the Dog? Adams: The meaning is slightly ambiguous to me, but it could be as simple as the dog qualities in humans and the power associated with that. CO: What are you doing next? And what do you dream of doing that you’ve yet to do?

Adams: I have just finished working on the TV series The Lord of the Rings (Season 1) for Amazon, which was also shot in New Zealand. Next, I’m working on the reshoots for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent feature for Lionsgate to be shot in Los Angeles, California. It’s my desire to continue to work with visionary people who continue to push the boundaries of their craft.


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From left, Alison Bruce, Jane Campion, Grant Adams, SOC, Peter Carroll, and Jesse Plemons. Photo by Kirsty Griffin/Netflix © 2021 GRANT ADAMS, SOC Grant Adams, SOC, has been working full-time as a camera operator and Steadicam owner/ operator since 2008. Having worked extensively on feature films and TV productions in Australia, Asia, and the UK through the majority of his career, Grant is now based in Los Angeles, California. Grant’s credits include films such as The Power of the Dog, I See You, Mission Impossible 6, The Nightingale, Hotel Mumbai, and Bright Star, and TV series The Lord of the Rings (Season 1), Reprisal, DEVS, Top of the Lake, Ash V’s Evil Dead, The Kettering Incident, Gallipoli, Devil’s Playground, and The Slap. He is a husband and a father of two girls and when not working he enjoys spending time in the great outdoors with them. Photo by Louise Hyatt



Grant Adams, SOC, and Jane Campion. Photo by Kirsty Griffin/Netflix © 2021

Kodi Smit-Mcphee as Peter. Photo by Kirsty Griffin/Netflix © 2021



The Last Duel Radio Ridley

An interview with with James Goldman, SOC by David Daut

Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges in THE LAST DUEL. Photo by Patrick Redmond © 2021 20th Century Studios



The Last Duel, adapted from the Eric Jager novel, recounts the story of France’s final legally sanctioned trial by combat in the aftermath of Marguerite de Thibouville’s accusations of rape against her husband’s best friend. The film is directed by Ridley Scott from a script by Nichole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon and stars Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, and Affleck.  WATCH TRAILER NOW Camera Operator: To start, how did you come to be involved on The Last Duel? James Goldman, SOC: Dariusz [Wolski] has regularly employed me for close to 20 years. He asked me to come do this movie after News of the World. I like working for the guy, he’s a good time. Plus, it’s Ridley Scott directing a big period piece. That’s just a hard job to turn down. It’s one of those offers that you don’t get every day. I’ve worked with Dariusz for a long time in a lot of capacities, and those two guys are so smart they work so well together. I mean, there’s not much of a thought process. I take the job. CO: Along with Dariusz Wolski, I understand that you’ve done quite a bit of work in the past with Ridley Scott. Could you talk a bit about what it’s been like working with them? Goldman: I worked as a second for Ridley on Body of Lies, then for Dariusz and Ridley on Prometheus and Exodus. Back then I was doing 3D, so my job was completely different; it didn't allow me as much input as an operator. Now there are more times where those guys have something they want to accomplish, but it’s up to me to execute how it gets done. Ridley is so smart and knows all the gear so well that there are still times when he’s kind of telling everybody what to do, but there are definitely times where he just says, “this is what I want.” Dariusz says, “this is what I want and you get to figure out how to make it happen.” Those are the days that are challenging and fun.


I felt a responsibility to perform above and beyond as an operator since I had seen such great ones work for these two before me. It’s great to work with them. They are the rare couple that actually get along; they agree on about 90% of things—hall of fame numbers. Ridley is always a few steps ahead. He can problem solve anything, and do it quick. They are both the kind of directors—and directors of photography—that you learn from while still getting to contribute. It can also be a little crazy. Ridley likes to keep the crew on their feet. CO: If I’m not mistaken, the bulk of principle photography on The Last Duel took place at various locations in France and Ireland. What was that shoot like? Goldman: It was mostly locations. Castles and all the stuff that comes with the 14th-century setting. It was wet and rainy in France for only a few days. We got very lucky with the weather on this film in both places. Then in addition you had all the horses, chickens, goats. Ridley does things for real. He’s not afraid of shooting four cameras to get coverage. Large crowds of people all dressed in period clothes with Arthur Max’s set design. It’s dressed and lit so we’re able to shoot at a 270-plus angle a lot of the time. The crew has to move fast to keep up. France was the much easier part of the show, Ireland was the much more brutal part of the show. We did a lot more battle sequences in Ireland, with bigger setups. All of the duel was shot in Ireland. It was hard work, but we

had stellar crews in both France and Ireland. Always a pleasure to work with Alberto Torrecilla—aka Neeno—the A camera 1st AC and John Foster, my dolly grip in Ireland. Makes thing easy when the crews are top notch like we had. CO: Between shooting in France and Ireland, the production was forced to shut down for about six months due to travel and safety restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. What was it like coming back to finish the movie after a hiatus in which the entire world effectively changed? Goldman: I would say not much changed except for protection protocols. Masks and shields were implemented. Distancing is encouraged, but a little hard sometimes trying to jam a crew into a real castle. Ridley used the radio more than usual. He’s over 80 years old and we were working pre-vaccine, so he had to stay away from set as much as he could until the actors arrived. To be honest with you, Ridley has worked this way for a long time, where he does a lot of directing from the monitors so he’s able to see all four cameras and be able to line up each setup or shot or scene, however he’s playing it out that day. So coming back to that was not that much different. There was a little more of it than a lot of us were used to, but that being said, we still ran ahead of schedule the entire second half. We finished ahead of schedule by a couple of days. If you want a dude who can make a movie


James Goldman, SOC, on the set of THE LAST DUEL. Photo by Jessica Forde © 2021 20th Century Studios

in 55, 65 days, Ridley Scott is still the top of the game. He’s so smart. And, it helps that Dariusz Wolski can light. Like I said, we can’t quite shoot at a full 360 degrees, but we can shoot, like, 270 degrees with the way Dariusz lights and what he’s trained himself to do. You have two cameras that look incredible, you have one camera that looks great, and you have one camera that is set up for a specific thing, and because of that he can make it look great. It’s a unique partnership that the two of them have. You kind of squeeze in there as an operator. On the life side, traveling was interesting. I was flying on empty planes into empty airports. Dublin felt super empty. Not a bad way to see a new city on foot, though. It felt kind of strange sometimes working knowing the rest of the world was taking a time out. CO: Were there any aspects of the shoot that were particularly challenging or particularly


satisfying? Any interesting anecdotes from the set? Goldman: Ireland was harder than France. Just in the pure physicality of the locations and what we shot. We spent a day on muddy hillside shooting a pretty impressive battle that required everyone to get down and in it. It’s just one of those things where if you shoot on the side of a hill in the mud, then you are shooting on the side of a hill in the mud, and everybody has to pitch in to make it work. Four cameras shooting all the time, constantly, with Ridley seeing how you’re positioning cameras in trees, trying to get the Steadicam in there to come up the hill with them, trying to get a crane shot at the same time—there’s just a lot of things that go into everybody having to pitch in. The grips pushing stuff in horrible conditions, everything getting filthy dirty, people slipping and sliding all over the place.

We’re supposed to shoot this fight scene in two days and Ridley showed up in the morning with a plan for how he wanted to do it and we literally shot this scene in one day. I saw the dailies for it, it’s going to be a fantastic scene, but everybody worked twice as hard to get that done in one day and that put us a day ahead of schedule. It’s one of those things that’s rewarding even as it’s kind of brutal. It’s always nice to see those days end but there is a satisfaction in knowing that you got it done. I think everyone in the film business enjoys those days at one time or another. To be honest every day on set Ridley is tossing out some anecdote. He’s been doing this a long time and has a line for everything. The operators wear walkies all day and at the end of that walkie is Sir Ridley. We call it Radio Ridley. He runs things on that radio. Advising camera positions, coming up with


TRIVIA: Matt Damon said that he and Ben Affleck brought on Nicole Holofcener to help them write the female perspectives of the screenplay. Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges. Photo by Patrick Redmond © 2021 20th Century Studios

blocking ideas, moving set deck. He uses the radio like a cattle prod, keeps it moving. While we were shooting in France, we were at this castle sitting there while Ridley was kind of plotting everything in his head. So we're standing around waiting to get the marching orders, and he just turned to me and said, “I shot part of The Duelist here.” I said, “This very castle?” He was like, “right here. I shot part of The Duelist.” I went home that night, and jumped on my Apple TV and I watched The Duelist because I hadn’t seen in a very long time. You can literally see the scene where he had said that. That part of France still looks exactly the same. The castle hasn’t changed. The landscape hasn't changed. CO: Other than The Last Duel, what other projects are you working on that you’re able to talk about? Goldman: I’m just about to start a period piece with Tobias Schlisenger. Great script.


CO: Before we wrap up, is there anything else you wanted to mention that we didn’t already touch on? Goldman: You asked about anecdotes, the day we shot on that muddy hill, it was all these stunt guys and Wolski and all the camera operators and grips and everything waiting for Ridley to show up. He shows up and just starts coming down this hill. The hill’s completely slick with mud, so everyone’s really worried about him, you know. “Be careful! Be careful!” He just walks out in his boots and stomps down the hill. Everyone’s chasing after him, and he’s not even phased, he just goes right down the hill. It’s really fun to work with him. Over the years, I’ve had a really great time working with Ridley Scott, from being a second to stereographer to an operator, he’s just always a good time to work with.

TRIVIA: On March 13, 2020, production of this film was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Before that, filming in France was finished and the production had moved to Ireland. Ridley Scott had already filmed for four weeks and had one hour of the movie completed during this time. Ridley Scott's directorial debut The Duellists (1977), was also based around a duel between two people.



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Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges and Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges. © 2021 20th Century Studios

JAMES GOLDMAN, SOC Originally from Washington State, James Goldman moved to Los Angeles in search of work in the camera department. James worked his way up as a loader, second, and is now a Steadicam operator. His credits include work on TV shows such as Law & Order: True Crime and Westworld, and on features such as News of the World, Godzilla vs. Kong, and The Last Duel. Photo courtesy of James Goldman


Photo courtesy of David Daut DAVID DAUT A writer and film critic for close to ten years, David Daut specializes in analysis of genre cinema and immersive media with bylines at Lewton Bus, No Proscenium, and Heroic Hollywood. David studied at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and currently works as a freelance writer based out of Orange County, California.


Adam Driver as Jacques LeGris and Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges. Photo by Patrick Redmond © 2021 20th Century Studios

TRIVIA: This is the first movie that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have written together since Good Will Hunting (1997). Additionally, this is also the first movie that Matt Damon has written that was not directed by Gus Van Sant. Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges. © 2021 20th Century Studios



Dear Evan Hansen Wisdom from the Set by Christopher T.J. McGuire

Ben Platt as Evan Hansen. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures



Dear Evan Hansen is a 2021 American coming-of-age musical teen drama film directed by Stephen Chbosky from a screenplay by Steven Levenson. It is based on the 2015 stage musical of the same name by Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul. A Marc Platt production, the film stars his son, Ben Platt, reprising his performance in the title role that he originated on stage.  WATCH TRAILER NOW Dear Evan Hansen had its world premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival as the Opening Night Gala Presentation on September 9, 2021, followed by a theatrical release on September 24, 2021, by Universal Pictures. In addition to Ben Platt, the film’s ensemble cast includes Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Danny Pino, Colton Ryan, and DeMarius Copes. As a parent of a teenager, I became aware of the musical Dear Evan Hansen through my daughter and the fact that the songs for the Tony Award-winning musical were written and composed by the incredible Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. I love musicals, and knowing

TRIVIA: Dear Evan Hansen is the first Pasek & Paul musical to be adapted to film from the stage. that Paesk and Paul had written for The Greatest Showman, I was very keen to be a part of Dear Evan Hansen the movie. Not only for my daughter, but for the millions of kids who find it difficult to fit in.

meaning to many kids in the awkward years

Getting to finally have the opportunity to work with cinematographer Brandon Trost was truly brilliant—I’d just watched his directorial debut on An American Pickle and thought he’d done an amazing job and would bring passion to this project.

Brandon really had a wonderful overview for

And with Stephen Chbosky, the director of Wonder and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the movie was going to be heartfelt in every sense. Although many of the songs have real

of being a teenager, certain tracks stood out for certain applications for shooting and achieving the correct camera movement to connect the music, acting, and subject matter.

the technicality, but was always open to suggestion and collaboration from me, which is always fantastic. The first few days of the shoot entailed me chasing and leading Evan Hansen, played by Ben Platt (who, incidentally, I had shot one of his very first roles in Pitch Perfect), as he runs through the forest whilst singing and eventually ends up at his favourite tree. We used Steadicam

Camera operator and author Christopher T.J. McGuire, SOC. Photo by Erika Doss/Universal Pictures



At left, camera operator Christopher T.J. McGuire, SOC, on set. Photo by Erika Doss/Universal Pictures mounted on an e-car tracking vehicle and a rickshaw. It’s always good to employ these tools for leading a character, especially for a distance. “So Big/So Small” was a very low-key song to be performed by Julianne Moore, a very difficult song to perform for anyone—but she championed it. We used the Mo-Sys L40 Remote head on a dolly with tracking boards to gently do moves pushing in and around Julianne to enable her to connect with Ben/Evan Hansen. Not only the Mo-Sys Remote, we also used the Ronin 2 for stabilised work in various situations. This being my first production back after the sixmonth COVID shutdown, I felt the use of a remote head would certainly help keep distance between crew and actors, who obviously couldn’t wear PPE whilst we rolled cameras. As a crew, including my 1st AC Donal Steinberg and 2nd AC Matthew Haskins, we were sure to be attentive to trying to keep our distance from the actors via utilizing remote


equipment as much as we could. I was able to get a Tiffen Volt stabilising Gimbal for my Steadicam—thankfully advocated by the master himself, Garrett Brown.

Whilst I had worked in a previous life on live music performances on Steadicam, it’s always something that I have a real respect for, and Ben Platt really is an incredible artist that puts 120% into every track he sings, and that made

We kept the package tight on the rig so I was able to move quickly and nimbly around Ben and Kaitlyn whilst they sang “If I Could Tell Her” to each other in the parents of Connor Murphy’s house.

the project a treat for me every day! Add to

We originally thought we’d cover the sequence with the stabilised head on a dolly, but I felt that it would be advantageous for me to be able to move with the actors in the ebb and flow of the track.

immersive experience, which will be visible in

In the school I employed both the ShotSaver Dolly for rickshaw use but also the Hustler Dolly for hard mount work. Straight forward tracking shots with specific compositions was going to be important for the Evan Hansen’s character's seclusion throughout the school hallways.

around with a whole load of energy and

Ben, Amy Adams, Julianne, and the rest of the cast! With Pasek and Paul playing live piano on set for the actors, it truly was an emotive and the end cut. The song in the school’s library with Connor Murphy—excellently performed by Colton Ryan—has Connor singing and dancing timed out to work as one with Steadicam. I always enjoy the choreography of these shots. It’s the reason I started doing Steadicam! A great shoot with a great crew and a movie with a message for all: “You Will be Found!”


TRIVIA: The stage musical, upon which the film is based, has its origins in an incident that took place during Benj Pasek's high school years at Friends' Central School.

Ben Platt and Amandla Stenberg as Alana Beck. Photo by Erika Doss/Universal Pictures

Director Stephen Chbosky and Amy Adams on set. Photo by Erika Doss/Universal Pictures



Ben Platt and Julianne Moore as Heidi Hansen. Photo by Erika Doss/Universal Pictures

From left, Ben Platt, Nik Dodani, and director Stephen Chbosky. Photo by Erika Doss/Universal Pictures



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stro RED Mon modes; teadicam S / ld e h 00, 125, Hand 65, 80, 1 , 0 5 , 0 4 5, navision 24, 27, 3 50mm Pa 2 & 0 0 2 150, lenses; 0 Series PRIMO 7 RIMO T4.8 PV P m m 0 0 4 35 m Plus Zoo Camera operator Christopher T.J. McGuire on set. Photo by Erika Doss/Universal Pictures CHRIS MCGUIRE, SOC Chris McGuire began his career in the U.K. on various TV shows, including World in Action, This Morning, Dispatches, and Planet Pop. A varied resume led him into Steadicam and the motivation to operate on motion pictures. Chris helped with the development of the rig now called the Omega from MK-V in its early stages and used it on many productions, including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Ironman II. With owning and operating this equipment, he was able to open up new possibilities for use in both the commercial world and for motion pictures, as well as continuing to photograph narrative using all the different platforms available. Holding an eclectic resume as a camera/Steadicam operator that includes The Suicide Squad, Venom, True Detective S1, Terminator: Dark Fate, Detroit, American Made, Bad Boys for Life, and Pitch Perfect 1, 2, and 3, Chris endeavors to be true to his passion of moviemaking, commits himself to the craft, and encourages all of his colleagues the best he can. With the release of his Steadicam Warriors–Animal Warriors range of graphic designs, he hopes to bring together all of his Steadicam/camera colleagues as a collection of hardworking personalities. Photo courtesy of Christopher T.J. McGuire




Seasons 41 and 42: Beyond Surviving by David Frederick, SOC

 WATCH TRAILER NOW SURVIVOR S42 Challenge camera operators on scaffolding in 40 feet of water. At right is author David Frederick, SOC. Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment



Survivor is the American version of the international Survivor reality competition television franchise, derived from the Swedish television series Expedition Robinson created by Charlie Parsons, which premiered in 1997. The Emmy Award–winning American series premiered on May 31, 2000, on CBS. It is hosted by television personality Jeff Probst, also an executive producer along with Mark Burnett and the original creator, Parsons. The show places a group of strangers in an isolated location, where they must provide food, fire, and shelter for themselves. The contestants compete in Challenges, including testing the contestants’ physical abilities like running and swimming, or their mental abilities like puzzles and endurance challenges, for rewards and immunity from elimination. The contestants are progressively eliminated from the game as they are voted out by their fellow contestants until only one remains and is given the title of “Sole Survivor” and is awarded the grand prize of US$1,000,000. (Source: Wikipedia)

PART I: A COVID RECKONING IN THE TROPICS It was mid-March of 2021, the pandemic was seeming to wind down somewhat but the work wasn’t as forthcoming as it was in the time before COVID-19 became the global threat to humanity. I was thrilled to get a notification from Matt Valentine, SOC, asking of my interest to work on Survivor in Fiji. It wasn’t a trick question! He couldn’t go and was passing my name to production if I was interested and available. I answered yes once he told me it was with the same director I had worked with on another adventure show, Love in the Wild (see article in SOC Camera Operator Spring/Summer 2012). Director David D. Dryden is a great guy, a great pro and great fun to work with. David started on Season 3 of Survivor in 2001. I was in touch with him via texts and a few


hours later I had my start paperwork completed electronically and I was headed to Fiji two weeks later. After a Fijian government imposed two-week quarantine in Port Denarau’s Hilton Hotel in Fiji mainland, 150 travelers from the LAX flight boarded a bus to a ferry to end up on Mana Island, Fiji, for the next two-and-a-half months for Survivor Seasons 41 and 42. The reason that I wanted to share my experiences with you in this article is the incredibly large global pool of talented and dedicated professional camera people working on Survivor that defied any expectation I had. Survivor is a show with a magic bond existing amongst the hundreds of hardworking crew members, brought together to create an experience for the chosen contestants, creating an enduring television production for millions of devoted fans. The camera, audio, G&E, art, production, unit, medical, and staff people are from many countries— all harmonious in their collaborative efforts to tell a captivating story. Knowing that this will be read by interested parties at every level of experience and expertise, is the attraction to contribute to the SOC publications and educational efforts for many of us. I feel it’s important to share these illuminating conversations with you and my hope is that you come away with a better understanding of the community that we are all a part of. I was hired to fill in for a camera operator friend, Derek Hoffmann, that I knew from ten years ago on NBC’s Love in the Wild.

Due to a pressing family emergency he had to decline returning to Survivor as one of the “Challenge” long lens camera operators. Derek has worked on Survivor for many years, and I was honored to fill in for him. During the last few days of the Fiji-mandated quarantine, passing the swab tests, we were permitted to exercise outdoors as a group of the 160 LAX flight Survivor employees for an hour twice a day. During that escape from our hotel rooms, a gigantic group meet-andgreet, I was glad to make the acquaintance of the other long lens challenge camera operator, and soon to become my new friend, Kevin Garrison. Kevin makes his living as a sports camera operator for NFL, NBA, NHL, and the PGA. Kevin is one of those seasoned veterans of the long lens who is able to follow a golf ball as it sails through the space on its way to the green and the cup. He shared a great deal of insider pro tips and I am extremely grateful. We were tasked with the close-ups of the contestants as they made their way through the Survivor challenges, competing for Immunity Challenge at Tribal Council or a Reward Challenge. These Challenges have become legendary for the viewers and were a welcome arena for the returning squad of Challenge operators, of which I was to become after my initiation to this cadre of tightly knit professionals. Equally exciting for me was to meet the other camera operators who were filming the crucial reality portion of the Survivor program. These “camera on shoulder nearly


From left, Dream Team ACs Jonnie, Kevin, David Frederick, SOC, and Scobie during SURVIVOR S42. Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment all day” storytellers are very experienced pros who have been, for the most part, returning veterans of Survivor who look forward to each day’s adventure at the Tribe Camps, closely linked with their audio person and their AC. It’s a symbiotic team that presses to the edge every day in their quest to artfully capture the unpredictable behaviors of their subjects, the contestants, a completely varied and diverse group of people with one purpose, to be the sole winner of the million-dollar prize. I could not help but to think that I must share the perspectives of this wonderful collection of some of the best professional camera operators from around the world with the SOC membership. This is such a large, diverse, and accomplished group of operating talent gathered with such dedication and passion to do the work eagerly and share the experience together year after year. I sat and spoke with quite a few of them, both


in the Challenges and the Reality groups, balancing the seasoned returning camera operators and the ACs who had now made their way to operator by putting the time in, and gaining the know-how firsthand. It’s a remarkable group, so very dedicated to the global ensemble collective of telling the story of Survivor in exotic locations around the world for 21 years.

THE SURVIVOR FAMILY Host Jeff Probst, an extremely affable man who has been with the show since its inception, fondly portrays the battalion of souls who make the Survivor show happen as a family. I completely concur. Arriving at LAX as we assembled for check in and departure, it became obvious when I witnessed the affection and familiarity of smiles and embraces by everyone as they saw each other once again, in all the departments. It was reminiscent of a large family picnic, or

wedding gathering with unfettered love and affection for each other. Once again, Jeff Probst is one of the prime reasons for this. He sets the tone, and, as an executive producer, he has total sway and say about every detail of the production. Jeff is gracious, kind, knows everyone’s name, constantly expresses his gratitude, and acknowledges the good and hard work being done. He is a true leader and all follow gladly. I began my conversations about Survivor with Challenge camera operator John Tattersall, born in Tortola, BVI, educated in England, and has been involved with Survivor since Season 2. John is the one handheld “CamOp” on the challenges. His historical reckoning was so informative for me in our lengthy conversations as I tried to understand and become one of the Survivor family. John explained, “On Survivor, there are families within the bigger family, the crew is big enough that there are lots of little groups,


SURVIVOR S42 cable cam crew Chris Barker, Granger Scholtz and Kenny Hoffman. Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment some that I haven’t had conversations with in years, but the show has been a very big part of my life, and when you’re back with your close friends on the show, who you may not have kept in touch with, you reconnect, you’re straight back at it, like nothing ever happened meantime. When I come here, it’s like we are a band of brothers, even though the percentage of gender is evolving so there is a growing mix of sisters, as well.” Kevin Garrison, my colleague on the 40x long lens Challenge camera operator, has been on Survivor since Season 3. He says that there is very much a Survivor family, like on his other jobs for the 30 years that he has worked on the various sporting world shoots. “The Survivor family is a very big family and in fact, there have been families started as a result of working on Survivor.” Kevin mused that, “There may be as many as 63 children brought into this world as a result of the parents meeting on Survivor.”


Rodney Chauvin, a painter and Reality camera operator from New Orleans, Louisiana, started on the seventh year of Survivor and had this observation: “Survivor is like a well-run military operation. It’s incredible how big the show is, how many people work in camera, art, production, unit, and even the marine department. We have 20 to 30 boats—it’s unbelievable how amazing this big machine of a show is. For me it’s like a family reunion each year, I just wish my wife and kids could be here as well. There are lots of cool relationships and friendships here, we all look forward to seeing each other.” Because of the protected nature of the show’s content, and having signed an NDA in earnest, in this article I am more interested in exploring the culture of the camera crew behind the scenes as it is something viewers of the show will never get a glimpse of. So, one of the questions I’m asking both the Reality and Challenge camera crew members

is how did they get a foothold in this highly desired family of camera and crew people?

STARTING OUT: GETTING A JOB ON SURVIVOR Peter Wery, the DP and A crew camera operator of the Reality camera operator crews, explained his journey to get hired on the show, “I tried to get on the show for two years. Every three months I would send them an e-mail and the response was always the same ‘Sorry, no new spots open.’ Then, for Season 6 in the Amazon, they needed a wildlife and EPK shooter, I got the job. They loved my work and I scored the dream job next season as a reality shooter on Survivor: Pearl Islands, Season 7. Now, as we just finished Season 42, I haven’t missed a single season. The job is awesome and the production team treats us all super well.” Because there is such a symbiotic relation-


Behind the scenes of SURVIVOR. Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ship between camera and sound, and since I made a great new friend, I spoke with one of the longest serving audio operators of Survivor, Heron Alencar, who lives in Brazil, and spoke of his start on the show, “I started on Survivor in 2004. I think it was either Season 9 or 10, the fourth year. I started with this world of reality filming with the first seven seasons of The Amazing Race. After the seventh season on Race, I went to Survivor in the same year. I started first in Panama in 2004, 17 years now.” I asked him his perspective of how the camera sound duo operates, “In a documentary or a reality show, which is quite like a documentary, you are beside your camera and you become kind of a shadow of the operator.” “With the camera aspect of the work, the sound is always trying to follow the camera, so I always have the operator in my sight,


they move, I move with them. The sound man has a very good idea what the lens is shooting. Before, when it was film, it was easy because there was the stick on the zoom, when it was up it was wide, when it was down it was a tight lens. That’s exactly where to put your microphone to get the best sound. Nowadays, with digital and zoom motors, the difference is more of the angle of the camera. When you see the lens pointing down you know that is going to be wide and when it points up, it’s a tight shot. Just by seeing which way it’s pointing. That’s the way we know the shot, and then we are always looking at the operator, and not just one, but several when using multi cameras. Which makes it a challenge because you have to be very aware with the multiple cameras doing cross coverage. It’s quite tricky, it is a simple job, but it’s tricky because, for example, here we have sometimes seven cameras covering the same event. Several cameras and audio so it’s each one is covering something and you

make sure that you’re not in anybody’s shot.” “When dealing with a large group of contestants, just after a tribal merge there are about 12 people to cover, and it is a bit complicated at the beginning. We try to establish the arrival so everyone has an assigned point, but afterwards we are on our own. When they come and speak their thoughts back at the camp, it’s a free for all, each camera follows the conversation, we try to be organic. If one camera team is closer to someone, it goes there, it is a little bit tricky, especially when there are 12 contestants, it can sometimes become a mess.” Kevin Garrison on the Challenge crew shared his origin on Survivor, “I was shooting on Eco Challenge many years ago, in the early 2000s, in Borneo. I was sent off to cover a leg of the bike race deep in the jungle. We had been filming all day and there was a short break so my audio guy pulled out a hot plate


Behind the scenes of SURVIVOR. Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment and heated up some noodles with hot water. It was getting dark and it smelled so good. It was very still out and all of a sudden the trees started to move, but not by wind. It became very frightening. The guy making the pot of noodles ran to the car and locked himself inside. He was so scared. I kept filming the trees and kept rolling, and rolling. The tree rustling got more and more intense and all of a sudden, a very big orangutang pops out and does a big MGM-style ROAR right into my lens. I was scared. He came over to us and I felt sure he was going to drop down and kill us. We didn’t know what was next but he ended up disappearing back into the jungle.”

walks in and I show him the video and he starts telling me how epic it was, amazing to not only see an orangutang in the wild, but to film it. It made it into the show, it was one of the first wild shots that he got that year.”

“The next day, it was said over the radio to Burnett, the creator of Eco Challenge and Survivor, that I had filmed an orangutang in the wild. Mark Burnett then sent a chopper to our camp to pick me up with the footage, taking me to a little cabin to show him. He

In addition to his work on the long lens, Kevin oversees the setup of the contestant’s positions on the frequent Tribal Council shoots. It is a beautifully designed theatrical style set with preset exact lighting, fire effects, torches, two jibs, a dolly camera, and


Kevin continues, “Mark called me after that to ask me to work on the first Survivor, but I had a commitment to the PGA tour schedule that year. I couldn’t turn down guaranteed work at the time, not knowing anything about this new show. It was a year after that when I was asked by the early Survivor director, Cord Keller, after another shoot, to join Survivor for Season 3. That was my start on Survivor.”

up to 12 more cameras cross shooting and hidden from each other covering the biggest contestant event nights. Kevin pointed out, “Tribal Council is a part of the show where the contestants vote someone out and where we snuff out their torch and they go home. There’s many cameras with a lot of responsibilities. Mine is one of the two to provide all the close-ups and talking singles during tribal, as you know because you did the other camera for two seasons. I also have a little responsibility as far as helping the contestants get set in the right spots using the Survivor Dream Team as stand ins so we can see them all for the many camera angles lighting. We all work together to make it all happen, to get all the contestants stools lined up perfectly for all the cameras and set the important background elements, mostly torches and fire pots.” Tribal Council filming is different as well, Kevin explained, “There’s a difference in the


Day 19 from SURVIVOR S41. Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment way it is directed. At Tribal there is a monitor bank, and David is watching what everybody’s doing. However, at the Challenge shoots, he walks the set and looks at the camera placements, which he has outlined at the whiteboard meetings, and he’s getting a sense of what the cameras are seeing.

know about shooting and making Survivor. What do they feed them? How many times did they do that? No, it’s all real. There is nobody feeding contestants, and we only get one shot at doing these Challenges. You got to make the most of it, because we’re not going to ask them to do it again.

David uses trust. Unlike other reality shows where they put a transmitter and monitor on your camera, or they watch at video village— David trusts us. He gives us an assignment. He knows that we’re going to at least attempt to do what he’s asking us to do it during the challenge rehearsal shoot with the Dream Team. We always review our disks together as a team and see what we shot and what needs to be changed, whether it be a lens, dig a hole, put a scaffold up, add a camera position, whatever is needed to improve that particular challenge coverage because we can only do it once. There are a lot of things that outside people don’t know or think they



One important element of Survivor production is a group of youthful athletic men and women known as the “Dream Team.” In addition to their main purpose of being the testing stand-ins for the contestants on the Challenge courses, and lighting standins at Tribal Council, they serve as production assistants in nearly every department involved in making Survivor a successful production. Many are part of the sizeable art department, employed with their creative skills in painting the many elements of the sets and Challenges, others work with

the assistant directors, the audio team, and of course, the camera, grip, and lighting departments. There are many alumni of the two-year maximum employment as Dream Team, working as ACs and operators. There are typically 18 contestants at the beginning of each season, so the Dream Team is a sizeable squad of hard workers. That hard work has paid off for many of the very talented camera operators who got their start as a member of the Dream Team. Reality camera operator Jeff Phillips, from Fresno, California, started on the Dream Team in 2008 and has logged 24 seasons on Survivor. Two seasons on Dream Team, six as POV Challenge camera, four as reality AC, one season as junior camera operator, and 11 as a Reality camera operator. Jeff recounts, “Survivor will always be incredibly special to me. It was one of my favorite shows to watch growing up, so I still can’t believe that I managed to get a job on the show, and ended


SURVIVOR S42 Challenge camera operators filming from water scaffolding. Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment up getting a job that allowed me to stay with the show for so many years. I love everything about the job. I love helping to document the stories of the contestants. I love working with the crew. I love traveling the world and experiencing different cultures.”

assisting with his challenge AC crew, both during my time on Dream Team and while working the POV position. Director David Dryden was very helpful as I took on the role of POV/specialty camera and later as I started operating camera at challenges.”

When I asked him who may have helped him achieve his goal as camera operator, Jeff replied, “I’ve had various mentors throughout different stages of my career on Survivor. Early on, longtime lead camera technician, Brett Wilmot, was a fantastic educator and taught me a lot about the camera gear and working in the camera department in general.”

I spoke also with challenge camera operator, Efrain Laguna, aka “Mofi.” When asked about his start on Survivor, he shared his tale of when the production came to his country of Panama, “I started in 2003, Season 7. The first job I did, even before starting working as crew on the show, was as a PA driver for the scouting producers that came to Panama.”

As a Dream Teamer: “Of course, my boss, John Kirhoffer, the Challenge producer, was immensely encouraging and was a big proponent helping me get my start in the industry. Lead AC Mofi Laguna also gave me a lot of opportunities to learn about camera


Mofi explained, “As the driver, I was offered a job working in the art department but I explained that my thing is camera. So producer Jesse Jensen got me an interview for camera and I did well with the interview. I then got the job as an AC. There were Sony Betacam SP cameras, I was an AC for a few

years and became a junior shooter…soon after, I worked in that category also on Love in the Wild with director David Dryden.” Another Dream Team Survivor career start is Reality camera operator Marc Bennett, aka Benny. When we sat down to talk during another beautiful afternoon in Fiji, Benny had just finished painting a portrait of his boss, DP Peter Wery. It was a very artful rendering of Peter, quite colorful and enjoyable. Benny recounted, “I started Survivor back in 2004, Season 10, as a Dream Teamer, but I went to film school for three years before coming here. I’ve been back every year since, I only left one year to do Amazing Race. That was very frowned upon. But I came back. This is my family.” Benny continues, “Dream Team rehearses the Challenges before the contestants. I was always an athlete, back in back in those earlier days of Survivor, the Challenges were


Behind the scenes of SURVIVOR. Photo by David M. Russell/CBS Entertainment more physical. I became a Dream Team “All Star” as a result of my performances during the Challenges. I did two seasons as a Dream Teamer, then I got offered a segment producer position, Dream Team coordinator, and then Reality camera AC, all in the same day. I wanted to be a camera operator, so I chose AC. My mother was a still photographer. We had a darkroom in our house. I was constantly developing black and white pictures. I lived most of my high school in a darkroom. There’s nothing more satisfying to me in my life than photography.” Benny adds, “Survivor is more than a family. It’s my best friends. My real family is in South Africa. They live there, I don’t see them very often. This family is like a true family, we really look out for each other, really want the best for each other, and we constantly push each other to be better. It’s always like that every day shooting on the beach. As you know, you don’t come to work


unless you come to work. And if you’re not coming there to work, then you’ll get called out for it. We respect each other. If you had a big night the night before, and you come to work, we don’t care as long as you do your job well. But if you’re not doing it right, then we’ll let you know. We’d have a tough love family but the love is stronger than the toughness. I love my mother. I love my dad. But I would say I love my colleagues more.” Challenge camera operator Ben Gamble of Los Angeles has a very specific responsibility. He lenses in solely on the Survivor host, Jeff Probst. He has been doing that same job for quite a few years. Ben sums up his experience like this, “My main job on the camera crew is to film Jeff at the Challenges. I love it. The Challenges are always intense. I usually do a lot of live repos to get the best angles. I use the intensity of everything around me to sprint full blast with my camera and tripod. It is very fun.” Ben adds, “My most memorable expe-

riences on Survivor are my days off. I spend almost every day off surfing. Fiji has the best waves I’ve ever seen, and I feel extremely lucky that I’ve been able to work and surf there.” Ben joins the chorus about the camaraderie on the show, “The Survivor family is why I keep coming back to the show. I’ve never been treated as well on any other production, everyone on the crew becomes a part of the same tribe, and we tackle all of the production challenges together. The tropical storms, the heat, the mosquito swarms, dealing with the unpredictable ocean, conquering all of this really makes our crew grow closer.” Reality camera operator Rodney Chauvin had this memory of his getting the job: “I started on Survivor Season 14, which was 2007 and the first season in Fiji. I had been working on The Apprentice. One of the producers from Survivor was an executive producer on Apprentice. I always wanted


SURVIVOR S42 Reality AC Addison Radford. Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment to do Survivor but it was hard to get on as an operator. Every reality camera operator wanted to work on this quintessential show, Survivor. He threw my name in the mix and I got an interview online with the executive producer who wanted me to do an interview in Los Angeles, but I was living in New Orleans and I couldn’t make that happen. So we just did it on the phone, and he said tell me something about why you should work on Survivor. I said, ‘I’m from New Orleans. I work in the swamps and what else to say but I’m pretty tough. You know the state bird in Louisiana is the mosquito.’ He was impressed with that, so I got on the show.” Rodney continued, “I started off as a film AC and I progressed into operating. There wasn’t a lot of narrative work in New Orleans. There was a reality show called Temptation Island. That was my first big break. I started on Temptation Island, which was shot in Costa Rica. I was hooked. I love the storytelling


and reality television was blowing up. It was 2001, I never looked back. I thought I was going to be a narrative guy, but I was really excited about the storytelling, the adventure, and reality television.” John Tattersall, Challenge camera operator, chimed in about his start, very early in the Survivor history, “I had lived in Australia where I had started in the industry as an AC. I had an agent as an AC, many years before, and later on, when I’d been camera operating in Europe and London. After I returned from working in China, I called her for a catch-up and she said, ‘There’s this weird American show going on, it sounds like a terrible job. Apparently, they’re living in tents in the outback of Australia and trying to make this weird TV show. They call it ‘reality TV’ or something ridiculous. I know from all everything I can hear, it just sounds awful, but that’s the only thing that is going on. I’ll send them your contacts and CV.’”

John continued, “The guy who was directing Season 2 at the time, Cord Keller, was very interested by my CV because I had a picture of myself in the corner. He thought I was a singer from one of his favorite bands. He actually mistook my picture. However, it got me a phone interview. He wanted to have me on as DP for the show. At the end of this two-hour strange conversation, he said, ‘So you’re about my age at about 49.’ And I said, ‘No, 29.’ Then there was this awkward silence. Then he said, ‘Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah. Okay, great. Great. You know, we’ll—I’ll call you, I’ll call you.’ He hung up and I just knew that he wasn’t going to call.” John adds, “Weeks go by, and all of a sudden, I get an e-mail, in the early days of e-mail, with my plane ticket to Cairns in Northern Australia, Queensland, for this job. There is no work explanation just the plane ticket and instructions for travel. So I got on the plane and flew to Cairns, got on a secret


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bus filled with a bunch of camera operators that were all flying in from different parts. No one knew each other. We had a six-hour drive into the outback of Australia—into this beautiful, remote wilderness area of gorgeous mountains. I turn up in the evening, and there was a sea of tents, as far as the eye could see, hundreds and hundreds of little dome tents. And it looked just like a music festival. You can imagine, I was really confused at this point. I didn’t know what was going on.” John adds, “I walked to my tent, went to bed. That was my first night on Survivor. The funny little ending of that story is in the morning, I woke up, unzipped my tent


SURVIVOR S42 Challenge camera prep tent. Mofi Laguna (far right) as AC Pedro Zinago observes. Photo by David Frederick, SOC and there was a guy unzipping his tent in front of me. He did this double take, he looked at me, and I said, ‘Donald?’ and he said, ‘John?’ as we were both schoolmates in England. He said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I don’t know, what are you doing?” He had been traveling, backpacking, he was picking fruit. He had seen an ad posted on a billboard somewhere that said they were looking for ACs. He’d been an AC in London, but he’d taken a year off to just go traveling. We were friends at school, we kind of lost touch and it was so great to see him, and we reconnected. He became my AC, and instantly we were friends again. This is before social media, nobody knew what each other was doing. We really had

this genuine surprise. Then I went to my first whiteboard meeting and started my first season on Survivor.” Matthias Hoffman is a Reality camera operator who is an Austrian living in the United States. I asked him his Survivor history. “I started Survivor in 2001, working 40 Seasons, 20 years now. I started on Episode 3 in Kenya, Africa. I keep coming back because it’s something that’s no other show has, it’s kind of a family. It brings you to interesting places, you have time to meet the local people and learn a little bit about their culture. You have time to spend in a place that you would normally probably never go to, or maybe pay a lot of money to


get there. It’s work and you earn money, have good friends with me. You work hard. What I do is hard. I’m now 54. I’m an old man.” He continues, “The Survivor family is a lot of personal connections that I made along the way, it became an important family to me, away from my real family. I met my wife on the show, we both worked on the show, she is the mother of my youngest son, Lucas. I have two additional sons from a previous marriage. One son, Kenny, is also working on Survivor. This is his seventh season. He started in Fiji on Dream Team, then showed some interest in segment producing, but that wasn’t his thing. He then slipped more into the technical department. He started liking camera, like me. Kenny was hired as a AC in Challenge, he also works on the drone and cablecam team. He sometimes gets to shoot additional camera on the challenges.” Matthias added, “Having the opportunity to work with my son on this show is like a dream come true. I never really told him to do what I do. It just fell into place and it’s awesome. There was a time, in the past, when I started Survivor, 20 years ago, I was going through a divorce and Kenny and his brother went to America from our home in Austria. That was a really tough time for me. Now, it has come full circle, which is really cool. So he’s back here with me, and it’s an awesome feeling.” “Today, I had a B-roll day. I was sent out to one of the big surf breaks to film waves in slow motion. So I did some above water. I grabbed a GoPro in an underwater housing and then went into the waves and filmed them breaking and all that turmoil on the waterway. It was pretty awesome. It was a great day. I like surfing. So for me it’s an amazing reward. So yeah, I didn’t get to surf today, but I got to film it so other people could enjoy it.” Being curious for his perspective as one of the earliest camera operators of the show, I asked Matthias about his work on the reality crew. “In reality, the hard work is when you’re out on the beach and filming the contestants. Whatever they do, you backtrack


all day on your feet, you carry a camera that feels like it weighs a ton. It is like having a little child on your shoulders, about 10 kilos. That’s the hard part. You get through that, and then still want to maintain a quality in your footage, show really interesting stuff, and make beautiful pictures. I think when you watch the show, you see what is actually happening. So this is the challenge. You do 10 hours a day out there, and it’s more like 15 hours on a normal day, sometimes more. It’s pretty rough out there. There’s not a lot of stick time, which we call time on the tripod, which we do have, but a lot of time the contestants walk away and we lead them walking backwards. We keep the shot steady on a 20-by zoom, which is not that easy, but it’s beautiful because you can pan from one to another. It’s not just a wide shot of people walking through the forest. So yeah, that is the challenge. And that’s also sometimes taxing and hard.” Matthias joins up on Challenge shoots. “Getting to work some days on Challenge is kind of a break. You see how other people work, you see how Challenges are being operated. I think it’s fun, it breaks up the day, and gives us all a little bit of a different view of the whole game. If you don’t see that part otherwise, you see people strategizing out on the beach, but you don’t see them compete. So they come back, somebody won, you hear a story, but you never really see it. So that’s kind of cool to be part of that. It’s a different challenge.” On screen direction, Matthias offered up this scenario: “You have to shoot for the editor. If you think like an editor—which is another piece of advice—if you want to get into this game you should edit before you come to shoot. I think it helps you understand what the person that sits in the dark room later will experience as it is very different to what you experience on set. So you have to shoot for them. You have to give them footage that they can put together easily.” "In filming reality, you think, how do I make it transition in a conversation not to break the screen direction line or the side that we’re

shooting on? How do I make a transition so we can use that? Make it so that the editor can use that transition in the edit when you have to go from one side to another. You think about reestablishing the 180 line. Sometimes you must break it because the contestants break it and turn around. If they change their sides and directions, and we’ll open up let them walk. And you watch how it ends up. They’re fine, perfect, okay, nice, we will shoot from there. It’s just a matter of thinking ahead of what can happen. That’s something you have to learn, and to work with the other cameras. You may have two other cameras that you have to shoot a whole scene with and you have to coordinate with them. We don’t talk much, we just dance around, it goes from this side to that side. You just look with an eye open and we dance around the fire.”

A host of camera operators contribute to making SURVIVOR such a success. David Frederick's conversations with the SURVIVOR crew will continue in online installments. Part II explores the international composition and diversity of the SURVIVOR crew, while in Part III, crew members recount why they return year after year, discuss the ways in which they support up-and-coming camera operators, and share advice for those wanting to break into the business. Watch for Parts II and III, coming soon.


Interview with Survivor  Director David D. Dryden

SURVIVOR S42 Challenge long lens operator Kevin Garrison and director David Dryden. Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment David Frederick, SOC: How long have you been directing Survivor? David D. Dryden: The first season that I directed was Season 7, The Pearl Islands, in Panama. The rest is history…a lot of mine…in so far that I have remained the director of the show since then and now have finished Season 42, making my grand total of 36 seasons of directing Survivor. I started on Season 2 of Survivor, The Outback in Australia. And I was 2nd unit director for the following four seasons. I took over directing after Season 6, which was the Amazon. Frederick: How did you begin on the show? Dryden: I was living and working in Australia at the time. I was an assistant director on a popular television show in Sydney called Water Rats that was similar to CSI in the United States. Our production shut down during the 2000 Olympics. I ended up working on Bud Greenspan’s film, Sydney 2000: Stories of Olympic Glory, as a venue producer. There was a long lull between the Olympics and when productions started up again in Sydney and a friend of mine from Water Rats got a job as a production coordinator on Survivor, which was shooting their second season in Queensland, Australia. She brought me on as the


“night tape librarian,” logging footage as it was turned into postproduction. So, I was actually hired as an Australian. I got to know many key figures on the show and when I returned to the United States, I started working for the then-current director, Cord Keller. After working with him on Mark Burnett’s show Combat Missions, he brought me back on Season 3 of Survivor: Africa, as the 2nd unit director. Frederick: What is your notion of the “Survivor family?” Dryden: You hear the term “Survivor family” a lot in relation to the Survivor experience. The reason is multifaceted. But there is definitely a trickle down effect. Jeff Probst has been at the helm of the show for a very long time. His leadership, commitment to excellence, and supportive nature have nurtured the notion that we are all a family working together to make the best show possible. Couple that with the fact that many of us have worked together for over 10 years, and that is on the low end of the spectrum. Many of us have been on the show for 20 years. Additionally, we spend many months in a row a year, away from home, and often away from our families. I am very lucky in so far as my family has always been able to travel with me on the show (again that is thanks to Jeff). However, the point


remains that, year after year, we get to work and live together in a foreign county and have been doing it for many, many years. There is a bond that develops over time, where like-minded people are giving everything they have to create the best show and work environment that they can. And, we have been doing this together for a really long time. I really don’t know any other environment which is more like a family, where you care so much about each other and the purpose that you all serve together.

in set design and lighting that goes into Tribal Council. Because of that difference, we can usually rehearse a Challenge and then be in a very good position to shoot the live event with a few adjustments. For Tribal Council, we are dependent on checking and rechecking lighting and technical aspects of the shoot every time that we shoot a Tribal Council in order to maintain consistency of the look. If there is one thing that you can count on when you are shooting on an island or in a jungle, is that everything has changed a bit when the elements are heavily involved.

Frederick: What is different about directing Survivor?

Frederick: Has any new technology made your job as a director better?

Dryden: Once aspect of Survivor that is different from many of the other shows that I direct is that when we are in the field shooting Challenges, I do all of my directing by “line of sight.” There are no monitors, no control room, no way of me seeing exactly what the operators are shooting. Tribal Council is different, I have a standard control room and can see all of the operators. However, on Challenges, I do all of my directing based on how I have deployed my operators, what assignments I have given them, and what I observe based on what is happening. I cannot see any images of what they are actually shooting. This kind of directing is based on a tremendous amount of trust and in field communication, and I feel the results are even better than when I am trying to micromanage 15 shots at a time based on watching what they are shooting on a monitor. I am much more connected to the overall action and the story that is unfolding, and I am able to direct them into the best position to capture the “story” that is unfolding at the macro level. This system only works because of the extraordinary talent and abilities of the camera operators that I get to work with on Survivor. I feel that my job is to lay out the best plan possible, and then try not to get in their way of executing it, while communicating information to them from their blind spots that they cannot see directly through their eyepieces. The system has worked flawlessly for 20 years, though I have found it very hard to replicate on other shows.

Dryden: I have to say that the developments in technology are constantly making my job as a director better. There are more tools at my disposal now than ever before, such as drones, GoPros, low-light cameras, 360 imaging, etc. As technology advances, so do our opportunities to get new looks, new shots, new angles, and better coverage. I used to spend hours in the helicopter shooting Cineflex, and now we can get similar shots in a couple of minutes, or even during a Challenge, with the use of a drone. Technology creates new opportunities to be creative and to ask ourselves, what more can we add to our show and how can I tell this story in a fresh and compelling way?

Frederick: Are there any additional contrasts for you between the Challenges and Tribal Council as a director? Dryden: Insofar as I direct Challenges without a control room, Tribal is very much the opposite. Additionally, Challenges are shot in daylight and Tribal is shot at night on a fully lit set. There is a lot more involved

Frederick: Any advice for someone who might be interested in working their way up to direct a show like Survivor? Dryden: Well, if you can take anything away from my own experience, it is that anything is possible. I started as the night tape librarian on Survivor and now I have been the director of Survivor for almost two decades. The advice that I could give would be to be curious and to learn as much as you can about every aspect of whatever it is that you are surrounded by. I did not set out to be the director of Survivor, but I was intent on learning everything that I could about how amazing the show was and how it was put together. The quality of the product, the sense of family, the work ethic, the love, and pride that motivated everyone to do the best that they could to make the show better, was always an inspiration to me and made me want to be a part of it. Survivor the show, and the people who dedicate so much of their lives to making it the amazing show that it is, has been an inspiration to me and my love of being a part of this amazing journey.


Photo courtesy of David Frederick


David Frederick’s credits on film and TV series as a cinematographer include The Society, Get Shorty, Muppets From Space, The Soloist, Northern Exposure, Aquarius, The Bridge, and Sons of Anarchy. Currently, Dave is on location in Budapest, Hungary, working as the alternating director of photography on the new Dick Wolf series for CBS, FBI: International.
Frederick shoots with every camera and format of film and

digital, “There is always a story to be told with a camera. Perhaps it’s a lavish epic captured with remote heads, cranes, helicopters, Steadicam, U/W, gyro rigs or large format anamorphic cameras, or I can film handheld, with the latest small professional digital camera. The ability to share my passion and joy of filmmaking with the director, actors, and crew on any film set is what gets me out of bed in the morning. When I encounter a story rich in integrity and humanity, I thrive on bringing it to life through the lens.”


by Rachael Levine, SOC

What’s Your Story…?

How did I get started in the business… We all have our story of when we knew being behind the camera was the right path for us camera operators and cinematographers. For me, I didn’t really know that I wanted to make movies, but my visual sensibilities started when I was given my first 35mm still camera in high school. I went on to minor in photography in college. My uncle was a partner in a company in Rhode Island called Sprint which made photo chemicals to process B&W (black and white) negatives and prints. I was surrounded by his photos—some of them nudes—and I was intrigued. I used to go up and spend all day in his darkroom shaking those tin canisters to process my negatives or focusing the enlarger to make a B&W print. I spent hours in that quiet, dark, red room but I loved it. I loved hanging the fiber paper on the line and having a tangible print to critique. I built a darkroom in my Manhattan apartment bathroom so I could keep printing B&W photos whenever I wanted. I wasn’t an “in your face/on the street-type” photographer but one who liked to control the environment and set up elaborate scenes to shoot. It appears I was drawn to moviemaking before I even knew it. So I was always interested in making frames. Seeing light and shadow and discussing that with my father. My father is an artist who had a loft in New York City around the time of Andy Warhol, so he was immersed in deep thoughts and philosophies of the world, which he translated to oil paintings, then stone sculpture, to mosaics and now wood carvings. So I come from a family that respected the arts, and I didn’t even realize I had any talent until much later on. Framing and “seeing” comes so naturally I am happy to have found something I am good at. Now I want to be great. A great A camera operator that is powerful, strong, and sensitive. To feel the moments and react appropriately, and to find the best spot to place the camera, is a task I ponder a lot. Where do we tell the story from? Whose perspective are we telling the story from? What is the correct movement for the camera to enhance the story? I first landed on set when I was a PA driving DP Bob Elswit around on a movie called The Pallbearer. I mentioned my desire to work in the camera department and he introduced me to the legendary New York 1st AC Angelo DiGiacomo, who eventually invited me to a “Check Out” with him, which got my foot in the door at Panavision. Jack at Panavision gave me a list of DPs to call, and I did. Someone on the list was a DP by the name of Joaquin Baca-Asay, and luckily he had a short film he was about to shoot with his NYU alumni, Dylan Kid, and needed an AC. I signed on as the AC, the only AC, and the focus puller, the clapper, and the loader—and boy did I learn! I ended up forming a very fruitful relationship with Joaquin, and I went on to be his 1st AC for many years. We


got into the union together in 1998 and we traveled the world together working on commercials and music videos. It was a great time. We did a few features in that time, but it was mostly commercial work. I was an intuitive focus puller but not a super techie tech one. I couldn’t pull a camera apart or fix an electronic problem, but I sure did love threading a Panavision magazine, and I loved oiling the internal gears. I moved up to operating the B camera for Joaquin on occasion, and then realized I loved operating immensely. I really found my niche. It was a great feeling to be able to find something you loved to do and are good at, but now I needed to branch out and meet other DPs to operate for. Not an easy task in the early 2000s, when there were very few woman operators. It took me many, many years to find consistent work as an operator in New York—almost 10 years. It was a lean economic time and it was hard to stay true to what I knew I wanted to do. Sometimes I don’t know how I kept on…but I did. It was a struggle and a hard road up the ladder, but thanks to a few awesome DPs who gave me my first chance, I’ll always be grateful: Andrij Parekh, Michael Fimognari, Tom Richmond, and Denis Lenoir. Now my goal is to rocket to the top as an A operator and branch out to shooting more 2nd Unit on the jobs I work on until I get my next break as DP!

RACHAEL LEVINE, SOC Rachael Levine was born and raised in the New York metropolitan area and studied photography and communications while attending the University of Delaware. In 1995, she began as an intern with a producer and found her true passion, the art of filmmaking. Rachael began her career as a focus puller and has been operating the camera on many commercials and independent features. Some of her operating credits include The Zookeepers Wife, 13 Reasons Why, Succession S1, Billions S4, Little Voice, Monsterland, and The Equalizer. Photo courtesy of Rachael Levine


Insight MARK KARAVITE, SOC What is your most memorable day in the industry? February 20, 2014, the day our dear friend Sarah Jones died. I received a call from another operator that a female 2nd AC had been killed in Savannah, Georgia. While texting Sarah to see if she was okay, my long-time focus puller Andy Hoehn called me and told me the devastating news—“She didn’t make it.” That day changed my life, and changed the industry’s view on safety forever. What would be the most important improvement you would like to see in the industry? Our crews deserve to gain back their personal lives, with 10-hour days, lengthy turnarounds, and wages that crews can afford to live on with shorter hours. Credits: The Tomorrow War, Den of Thieves, Five Year Engagement, The Man in the High Castle, 8 Mile

Photo by John Brawley

BUD KREMP, SOC What was one of your most challenging shot or challenging day in the industry? In the series Quarry, the episode called “Nuoc Cha Da Mon,” I shot what ended up being a 9-minute oner through the scripted jungle during a battle in Vietnam, complete with a napalm strike! What would be the most important improvement you would like to see in our industry? A conscientious effort to get our rehearsals back. I feel the frivolousness digital media has provided to roll on the rehearsal and keep rolling has stolen some of our precious patience of getting it right in as few takes as possible. Photo by Trip Pair

Credits: Ozark (Netflix, Season 1), Quarry (Cinemax), LOST (ABC), Archive 81 (Netflix)

OLIVIER MERCKX, SOC What was one of your most challenging shot or challenging day in the industry? Shooting with Steadicam in an old Antonov plane full of extras and with no space. Had to walk for hours with the rig in front of me in an 18-inch-wide aisle, through small doors, with incredible heat. What is your most memorable day in the industry? When director Tanner Beard asked me to play a little part in a Western because an actor didn’t show up. I was a priest and got shot by the bad guy. What would be the most important improvement you would like to see in our industry? I think some productions respect the stars and the actors more than their crew. Filmmaking is a team effort, everybody on set deserves the same respect. Credits: Beirut, Versailles (Season 3), War of the Worlds (TV series), The Exception, The Spy


Photo by Jiri Vagner


Corporate Corner How Natural History DP Benjamin Hardman uses Teradek RT for Solo Filmmaking in the Arctic “The MOTR.X on my probe lens is so useful because you have no perception of distance and size in the macro world,” says Benjamin. “This is when the overlays are really helpful. That’s one of the most memorable use cases for the RT system that I’ve had.” Integrated real-time SmallHD lens data overlays simplify Benjamin’s focus pulling by letting him instantly view his marks directly on the monitor and easily pull focus while keeping his eyes on the image and subject. Visit to read how renowned Natural History Cinematographer Benjamin Hardman uses the Teradek RT and SmallHD system as his go-to kit for capturing nature’s epic and fleeting moments.

Benjamin solo filmmaking in Iceland’s rugged landscape. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Hardman Solo filmmaking is no easy feat—especially when your subject is an actively erupting volcano. Benjamin Hardman is a nature videographer and photographer based in Iceland, who has dedicated the past 10 years of his work to capturing the fragile and barren landscape of the north—achieving some of the most challenging shots with nature both as his subject and, at times, his adversary. Benjamin recently shot the Icelandic Fagradalsfjall volcanic eruption, and we sat down with him to get a glimpse into his impressive devotion.


Teradek RT CTRL.3 three-axis wireless lens controller and SmallHD Indie 7 on location in Iceland. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Hardman


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