Celebrating its 35-year anniversary, the Society of Camera Operators (SOC) gathered at the Paramount Theater, Paramount Studios Hollywood to celebrate the best operators in motion picture, television and the industry at large.
Chris Haarhoff, SOC won SOC camera operator of the year for a feature for his work on Birdman. In accepting his award, Haarhoof understated the rigors of shooting the “continuous” take film saying, “Birdman, quite a handful.”
Christopher T.J. McGuire, SOC won SOC camera operator of the year for television for True Detective. Originally coming from Britain, McGuire thanked his American contemporaries for welcoming him into their company.
Lifetime achievement and honorary awards were also handed out in nine categories with the SOC camera operator lifetime achievement award going to Daniel Gold, SOC. Objecting to the connotation that a lifetime achievement award goes to someone at the end of their career, Gold quipped that he plans to keep working for a while, especially since he still has a daughter to get through graduate school. He suggested the name of the award be changed to, “Lifetime in Progress, So Far, So Good, Achievement Award.”
The gala evening began with cocktails and light faire before the ceremony and a dessert reception post-awards. Benefiting The Vision Center at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, both the red-carpet arrivals and awards presentation were streamed live courtesy of sponsors AJA, Panavision and Teradek.
President and awards committee chairman, Mark August – himself a combat photographer – introduced the year’s theme honoring our military, which was reflected by the commemorative ribbons worn by attendees. Members of the military in the theater stood to receive the acknowledgement of their fellow audience members. August also donated a check from the SOC to Dr. Thomas Lee of Los Angeles Children’s Hospital to help in the fight against childhood blindness.
Host Bruce Carse began the show by noting, “The director depends on the eye of the camera operator to execute his vision.” That theme was repeated in different forms throughout the evening.
Recipient of the governor’s award – presented by former SOC president, Michael Fredani,SOC – actress Alfre Woodard (State of Affairs), talked about “engaging with the camera” and her connectedness with the operator “as much my scene partner as any actor that I would stand with.” On her first film, when she worried about where the camera was, Woodard remembered director Alan Rudolf’s advice, “Start acting and the camera will find you.” Over the years she had come to rely on her camera operators, and their reassuring, “I’ve got you covered.”
Director Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Game Change) presented the first lifetime achievement award to camera assistant Dave Eubank, commenting that Eubank “is always a kind of MVP on our crew.”
Much to the amusement of the crowd, Roach joked that the best job on set is that of the camera operator. “You show up. The assistants have all your stuff ready. You put your eye to the eyepiece and poof! An entire dream of great performances, amazing sets, beautiful lighting, just comes into your eyeball. You get to kind of performance art it and dance with the actors. You feel like it’s the top of the world. At night you turn off the machine and go home. No homework. That’s the best part. You don’t have to do anything all night. The rest of us are freaking out overnight.”
Roach continued, “Contrast that with the camera assistant job. That’s a stressful gig. There is nobody on set as scared as me, except the assistant, because there are so many things that can go wrong.” The director enumerated everything that could go wrong and how the assistant can either turn out a hero, or “heads will roll.”
In presenting the mobile camera platform operator award to dolly grip Alan “Moose” Shultz, key grip Les Tomita explained the special relationship between dolly grip, camera operator and focus puller as “a very graceful art that requires extreme skill and a true understanding of camera movement. Collaborating, designing and choreographing a ballet between the actors and the camera can only happen when everyone becomes one.”
In accepting his award, Shultz remarked that he has been pushing a dolly for years but never saw “mobile platform operator” on a call sheet – an in-joke fully appreciated by the crowd.
Actor Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead) presented the SOC distinguished service award to producer Gale Anne Hurd (Terminator, Aliens, Walking Dead) who he described as the embodiment of distinguished service. In her early years, Hurd made it her duty to learn every job on the set. She opinioned, “When you think of it, producers and camera operators have a great deal in common. We do a lot of the heavy lifting on a show, but for some strange reason, most of the credit seems to go to somebody else. If producers and operators do their jobs well, out contributions are almost invisible.”
SOC still photographer lifetime achievement award-winner, Suzanne Hanover, SMPSP perhaps summed up the evening best when she said, “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it. To receive an award is the icing on the cake. Thank you for the cupcake, SOC.”
The SOC award winners are:
SOC Camera Operator of the Year – Feature Film
Chris Haarhoff, SOC – Birdman
SOC Camera Operator of the Year – Television
Christopher T.J. McGuire, SOC – True Detective
SOC Camera Operator Lifetime Achievement Award
Daniel Gold, SOC
SOC Mobile Camera Platform Operator Lifetime Achievement Award
Alan “Moose” Shultz
SOC Still Photographer Lifetime Achievement Award
SOC Camera Technician Lifetime Achievement Award
SOC President’s Award
Dan Perry, Director NAO Production Manager/Director DMPC of Sony Electronics
SOC Technical Achievement Award
Nicol Verheem, Teradek LLC, for the advancement of HD transmission and the Bolt line of products
SOC Historical Shot
Andy Shutteworth, SOC – Boogie Nights
SOC Governor’s Award
SOC Distinguished Service Award
Gale Anne Hurd