This award season, at The Society of Camera Operators 2017 gala, the group wasn’t able to single out just one technical achievement of the year, but two. Held at Hollywood’s Loew’s Hotel in the upstairs ballroom, the black tie event not only celebrated mechanical advances in the industry, but honored recipients of lifetime achievement awards, as well as presented their Governor’s Award to the beloved actor, Michael Keaton.
Technical Achievement Awards were bestowed upon what’s known as The Cat: The Patented Silent Cat Camera Slider. Former grip, Phil Saad, developed That Cat Camera Support as a new option to use while shooting. He originally prototyped three sliders for Table-Top and MOS shoots. Through trial and error, he was able to make his equipment quieter and smoother and soon DPs started requesting his expertise on projects. Today, his American product, Silent Cat, is used here and around the world.
The second and equally impressive Technical Achievement Award was presented to Shotover: K1 6-AXIS Stabilizer. Brad Hurndell, the CEO of Shotover worldwide operations, began his illustrious design and technical career while in the Royal New Zealand Air Force. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Canterbury University and has worked on such diverse projects as timber density testing technology and water jet propulsion. The renaissance man was tapped by Shotover to lead the mechanical design and planning of the K1 that would soon become a game changer in the film industry, as the lightweight structure could now create and capture previously impossible shots.
The 2017 SOC Camera Operator Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Garrett Brown, SOC. Mike Moad won The SOC Mobile Camera Platform Operator Lifetime Achievement, while Bobby Mancuso took home the SOC Camera Technician Lifetime Achievement Award. Camera Operator of the Year for the Film category went to Ari Robbins, SOC for his work on La La Land. Camera Operator of the Year for Television was presented to Andrew Mitchell, SOC, for The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story. Phil Caruso was given the Still Photographer Lifetime Achievement Award.
The highlight of the evening came when Michael Keaton took the stage in a white tuxedo to accept the Governor’s Award. He spoke of how growing up as an Irish Catholic, this praise was much too much for him, and joked about how intimate the actor and camera operator’s dynamic truly is as the two often spend many hours together in a cramped room or even the trunk of a car. Keaton emphasized how the camera operator is the one person who actually sees the film first, before all others, and that their decisions make or break emotional moments. Keaton was grateful for the honor of being there and graciously congratulated 2017’s winners and attendees.