Remaking a well-remembered feature film into a cable television series can be a daunting challenge. Writer/Executive Producer Davey Holmes is doing just that and meeting the challenge head on with a talented team of collaborators on the Epix Channel presentation of Get Shorty. Hired on as the A/Steadicam operator for the pilot and the ensuing 9-episode first season, I was also up for many challenges. Pilot director Allen Coulter and DP David Franco planned out many scene “oners” either on Steadicam, dolly or handheld. The show opener is an over three minute Steadicam crane walk off that may remind of Goodfellas or Boogie Nights.
Taking advantage of the New Mexico tax benefits, the production will be centered in the Albuquerque studio stage area and make trips to Los Angeles to shoot scenes “on location”. Paul Elliott, a resident of Santa Fe, is the B camera operator who brings decades of experience to the job. We are using three Arri Mini cameras and a mix of the latest Leica Sumicon and vintage Zeiss Super speed primes, new Angenieux HR and vintage Cooke zooms.
As we kick into episodic production, the DP position will be shared by ASC members Attila Szalay and David Mullen. One of the advantages for production is to have the same A and B camera operators on for both the pilot and all of the episodes for visual continuity.
The cast is headed up by Chris O’Dowd and Ray Romano, both a treat to work with and be around. Sometimes the choreography can be tricky in the Steadicam oner dance and after a few blocking run-throughs we seem to get it right away. Both actors are superb performers and make it a joy to operate the camera, especially during tricky maneuvers.
The crane shot was a bit hairy because it started to get quite windy when iI was up there starting the shot. I knew that if I was even a slight bit off balance that the weight of the Steadicam camera rig could make me topple off the crane. That was a greatly unsettling thought. We ended up finishing a very successful take where all of the choreographed elements in the casino, the visual effects, the stunt and the extras timing fit perfectly before the wind kicked up to a level that would have prohibited the shot at all. That was a relief for all involved.
One of my biggest treats is working again with masterful Dolly Grip Michael Schwake. He is my Jiminy Cricket on Steadicam shots and really one of the best Dolly grips ever. Expertly experienced, nuanced, accurate and intuitive, a lucky camera operator can do no better than with a dolly grip like Michael.
One never knows, but I hope this show turns out as well as it has been to create and has a long run for all of us.
– Dave Frederick, SOC