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Down Time is Creative Time

October 5, 2005 | By

“I’ve always had a passion for telling stories with the camera,” says Dave Frederick, SOC. After attending NYU’s undergrad film school, he chose to work his way up: assisting in 1978, operating in 1982, and full-time camera operating in 1988. In 1994 he started to operate with a Steadicam. Early this year, he became the president of the Society Of Camera Operators.In between his main jobs, Frederick shoots independent productions. Most recently he worked on an indy feature called ARC, directed by Rob Gunnerson. He tries to maintain a healthy balance between the independent work and the work that pays the bills. “I’ve got to keep the money coming in,” he explained, referring to his wife, two children and Los Angeles mortgage. “So I still do my job as an A-camera Steadicam operator eight to 10 months a year, if not more.”Frederick is currently operating A-camera and Steadicam on UPN’s Sex, Love and Secrets. The director of photography is Crescenzo Notarile. “We have a wonderful rapport and communication,” he said. “Crescenzo trusts me completely to help block the shots with the directors.”Frederick’s earliest impressions of cinematography were as a focus puller in New York, where he worked “with a variety of artistic directors of photography,” including Harvey Harrison, BSC, John Lindley, ASC and Peter James, ACS. “I’ve always been able to draw on what I learned from them in the years since,” he said.“As a camera assistant I was able to learn and develop an intuitive sense,” he continued. “You’re able to see the interaction between the camera and the actors.”All along, Frederick has had his eye on being a DP. “Now I find myself eager to read scripts, choose the right projects and, no matter what the budget is, if it’s a great story to tell with the camera, I’m thrilled to do it.”Gunnerson approached Frederick two years ago to shoot ARC. The director “was going to act in it,” Frederick explained, and needed to make sure that his DP had “a sensitivity for performance.”They prepared as “co-conspirators,” making sure the visual look serves the story, which is about a man’s journey to redemption. Color variations used in the storytelling involve some scenes where the characters and foreground environment are in black and white, but background elements like neon signs are in color.Using Panasonic’s digital DVX-100A in 24P mode, Frederick shot “a full 136-page feature in 15 days. The longest day was 12 hours,” he recalls, adding that watching “the first 15 minutes cut together, I was so proud of my efforts, and so proud of the crew… because I used such a small amount of lighting and grip equipment. That was the nature of the budget.” Gunnerson is editing the film at home. They plan on doing a film-out to 35mm. “We’ve already tested it all. It’s really phenomenal,” Dave said. They consider ARC a festival piece.“I love doing low-budget, independent features and shorts because there’s a wonderful sense of freedom,” Frederick explained. “You’re able to get a little dirtier and dig down in the trenches a little deeper to tell the story a little more viscerally.“I’m looking for this film to be a voice for what I feel is my background. I’m able to use all my classic training, my ability to get along with others, and my knowledge of storytelling,” he added. “It’s a hybrid look. It’s not stuff that hasn’t been done before, but you don’t see it all the time. It fits the story really well.”

Written by Denise Brassard

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