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Footnotes-Gaylin Schultz

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Gaylin Schultz was a grip who couldn’t say no to a challenge. From race cars to airplanes and boat rigs to rodeos, this grip was largely responsible for some of the best car-chase, racing and action footage ever done. Whether engineering camera mounts on suspension-busting cuts of Steve McQueen tearing-up San Francisco in Bullitt or making the camera magic of high-speed racing possible for Le Mans, Schultz became known for his ability to put cameras anywhere. If you love the glider shots in The Thomas Crown Affair, the driving sequences in The Getaway, or the bird’s POV in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, you’re a Schultz fan. His thing was to bridge the known practices of camera mounting (and subsequent lens placement) with intelligent, workable, often cutting-edge concepts that were safe as well as photographically superior to what came before.Focusing on perhaps his finest work, I asked about Le Mans. “It was the first time the French Racing Commission allowed a camera in a car actually competing,” Schultz said. “While prepping the Porsche 908 race car, every bolt had to be drilled and safety-wired in place. With the vehicles at speeds in excess of 160 mph, we couldn’t take a chance. We made that film without a single mishap,” Schultz added with an easy McQueen-like grin.One thing’s for sure about Schultz—he liked doing films that challenged him to innovate. His knowledge of mechanics, hydraulics, electrical and pneumatics was far ahead of its time for the business, especially so during the age of steel, wood and bolts then prevailing in Hollywood.In Sam Peckinpah’s rodeo classic, Junior Bonner, for example, the director wanted the bull’s point of view. To get it, Schultz used hose clamps and a bar attached between the horns of a large steer to mount an EIMO. “I was never one to say no,” Schultz replied when asked what possessed him to do such a thing. “We never used it,” he quipped, “It was just Peckinpah’s way of putting me on, to ask for it.”Like many of the grips from the late 1940s, Schultz served his country during World War II and Korea. Upon returning home, his good timing and connections (his father, Walter E. Schultz, was a grip) helped him to obtain ‘gang-work’ at Samuel Goldwyn Studios, into 1953. Actually sworn to the IA, Oct. 5, 1947, by 1955 Schultz began to work steadily during a ‘break-out’ time in the business. Along the way, gripping became a calling for him. Over his long career, he worked on nearly 100 features. Titles like The Searchers, Sweet Smell of Success, Some Like it Hot, West Side Story, The Manchurian Candidate, Jeremiah Johnson, The Yakuza and Bullitt (to name a few), illustrate the fact that he gripped his way through the Golden Age of feature films in Hollywood.Schultz, who is a recent widower, was married to his wife, Marlene for 57 years. (She often traveled the world on location with him.) Now preferring to be close to the water, he spends much of his time at his home on Catalina Island.When queried for a word of advice about gripping, this recipient of a Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award offered, “Our job as grips is to figure out safe, practical solutions for getting the shots asked of us. Never say no.”

Written by Jim Udel

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