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retiring from steadicam - continuing to operate a traditional camera


brooksrobinson
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Thank you for all of the kind words here, as well as the ones sent directly by text, PM, and email...they are completely unexpected and wonderful. This is an amazing online community and I thank you all for showing me such kindness and respect. All the best, and keep up the great work for future generations of operators.

 

Brooks

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Brooks,

 

I first came across this post at 4:30AM as I drank my coffee at my desk before an early call. My heart sank and I stopped reading a paragraph in as I knew I wanted to take more time to read your powerful words and to be present to your state of mind. Sorry it took so long to get back to it, but what an amazing read. While I don't believe we have ever met in person, I feel I know you. Between our emails we have exchanged over the years and your sage advice on the Forum, you have always impressed me. Indeed, as Doc says, you're a "class act." Thank you for leading by example, thank you for all you have done for others and myself. Thank you for your fine shots and being so humble. I wish you great luck going forth and I hope to spend some time in person with you one day.

 

Take good care,

 

Alec

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Brooks,

Thanks for sharing with us heartfelt decisions and some epic stories. It was always fun to see you when you came into the shop at PRO, when we were in Santa Clarita, that is. I wish you the same success from here that you've always enjoyed.

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Thanks Keith - lots of years in the saddle lends itself to lots of stories. Unfortunately, telling some of them publicly while still working in the industry would lead me to no longer be able to get a job. For now, I'll stick to telling most of them in private. All the best!

 

Brooks

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Aloha Brooks,

 

Although I don't know you, but have heard your name in the film business, I wanted to just drop you a line to say you have done beautiful work in your career. I especially liked "Tropic Thunder" & "Suicide Kings." I too recently came to the realization that this business although is the best creative business to be in, working with different crews, different locations, different craft service......(humor), that this business takes a toll physically. I worked as a crane/head tech in Hawaii for years and the jungles & beaches as I got older became like a quagmire of sorts.. My legs didn't move the way they use to and the weights & remote head got heavier every day I had the "1st up shot." Enjoy your new adventures and remember what Kenny Rogers once said,

"You got to know when to fold 'em."

 

Aloha,

Joe

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Thank you Joe for the nice words. Unfortunately, I can’t take much credit for Suicide Kings. I was listed in the credits, and somehow IMDB listed me, but I only worked three days on it. I was called by DP Chris Baffa ASC early on in pre-production as we used to work together all the time for Roger Corman. Originally, I was supposed to be on the entire project – something like 35 days. Then I got a call from Chris to say that my days had been cut down to around 12, which was fine. Then about a week before we started shooting, I got another call to say that the days had bumped back up to 25. Perfect!

 

The job was out of Panavision Hollywood, and they wanted the B camera to be the steadicam camera as well. There was no Panavision XL back then, so the only options were a Gold or Platinum (no thank you), or an Aaton. I pleaded for an Aaton and was granted it. I did not attend the prep (mistake) and the AC’s didn’t bother to call to tell me that the camera was changed at the last minute to a Gold (for those of you who haven’t flown this camera before, think heavy).

 

I showed up on the first day of shooting to discover that I had a camera that weighed twice as much as I thought it was going to, and was quickly pulled aside by Chris our DP to tell me that now production only needed me for the first three days. This job was going downhill fast. I did plenty of traditional camera operating shots, but only one small steadicam shot in the first three days. Those days were really, really long, averaging about 15 or 16 hours per day if memory serves me. At some point, I got a call for a five day Target commercial that started on what would have been the fourth day of Suicide Kings, and I quickly took it since I wouldn’t be employed on the movie after that.

 

On day three, the shit hit the fan. We were setting up to do a big 4 page scene as a steadicam oner in hour 14, when the producer told everyone that the production was shutting down for the day. Word had come from up above that we couldn’t work huge hours any longer, and we would need to do the scene in the morning…well…all except me, since I was moving on to a Target commercial. I went over to Chris to tell him what was going on and he (and the producers) lost their mind. “What do you mean you aren’t going to be here tomorrow?” was the response I got. I explained that they had only booked me for the three days with no guarantee of future employment, and I had simply said yes to another gig. I packed my gear and loaded it into my vehicle.

 

Suicide Kings was a valuable learning experience for me. I learned that I should always go to the prep for long term projects, and at the very least, communicate with the AC’s during the prep. I learned that regardless of the circumstances, keep communicating with everyone. I could have asked the DP if there were more days on the schedule despite production only booking three, and I certainly could have told him that I was planning on taking a commercial and confirming he wouldn’t need me past the third day. As it was, I got out of carrying a really heavy camera for a 4 minute scene, but lost my contact with an up and coming DP that I liked and respected. Dan Ayers who replaced me worked with the DP for years after that job, just as the DP's projects got better and better.

 

We learn by experience, and I never made those mistakes again. Hopefully some of the younger operators can learn by the experiences (both good and bad) of us older guys and not repeat our mistakes.

 

Brooks

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