J.L. Fisher in conjunction with the SOC, ICG and ASC hosted its 8th mixer and BBQ lunch at its Burbank facilities this past weekend. In typical fashion, Jimmy Fisher and company put on yet another amazing below-the-line networking event.
For the past eight years, the company has invited both professionals and students to its manufacturing and rental facility in Burbank, Calif. The event never disappoints with incredible steaks and the always-secret, to-die-for crab cakes. As much as I could go on and on about the fantastic outpouring of hospitality for the cinematographers and grip crafts people, the true nature of this event is community.
The event featured two focused panels in the boom-room – one before lunch – put on by the Society of Camera Operators (SOC) entitled, “The Moving Camera Operation Seminar,” and the other after lunch, moderated George Spiro Dibie, ASC simply entitled, “Dialogue with ASC.”
The SOC panel discussion focused on technical and safety orientated issues. My personal favorite quote came from workaholic operator Dan Kneece, (Don’t look up his credits – it will just make you feel lazy). According to Kneece, “It [the shot] always looks best just before you die.”
So much of what the viewing audience sees is taken for granted given the expertise and experience of the behind-the-scenes talent that was on this panel.
After the panel, most people were in line for steak and all the fixin’s. Burbank weather hasn’t always been kind to the open house over the past few years, but this weekend was the exception – with scrims covering most of the family-style eating areas, the sun didn’t overexpose anyone.
This year’s vendors included the ever-present Matthews Studio Equipment, as well as the ASC Magazine next to Local 600 and 80. ZGC’s Les Zellen, who recently won a Sci-Tech award for his contributions to lens development, was there, along with Mole Richardson and new-comer Canon, amongst others that filled the main parking lot. Think “dolly track” and “more dolly track.” Altogether, about 20 camera, dolly, and grip vendors were showing off their wares.
After lunch, former ASC president George Spiro Dibie hosted a spirited discussion that seemed to be called “Digital Dilemma.” Current ASC president Stephen Lighthill said that we might be living in “a generation without a history” if we consider that everything we record digitally these days, could disappear in short order due to the complete lack of long-term storage capabilities.
Film, for all its fragility, could sit in a can for 100 years and still be usable. The best coating on a DVD or Blu-Ray has a projected life of much less than that.
Dibie was quick to add that “printing on toilet paper would be longer lasting then what’s available today.” He might have been exaggerating for effect but when renowned still photographer Isidor Mankofsky, ASC, spoke up and in no small way reinforced the reality of the problem, all seemed to agree that much work needs to be done.
Lighthill was specifically asked about LTO or Linear Tape-Open. He commented that the latest generation, LTO-5, might be making the fear of a generational loss of digital data less of a fear, maybe.
The end of the discussion was dominated by questions from the audience centering on what seems to be an ongoing shift from shooters making the decision about which camera they want to shoot with, to the new reality of the digital era where studios, or even more likely, post workflows dictate the image acquisitions equipment. Many of the panelists held out for the idea that the script should still dictate the camera.
I was lucky enough to sit down three separate times under scrim shade, each time with different sets of people. It dawned on me that this is what this event is all about. Sure, Jimmy Fisher and Frank Kay want you to marvel at their dollies and booms, and take the tour of the company’s immaculate manufacturing facility that produces almost everything it rents, but the most important part of the day was the networking – in an industry of virtually 100 percent freelancers, these intimate and informal gatherings are how we fill in the space between actual work time. This is how valuable information is distributed between professionals and students – industry trends and predictions are the shared topics that make this and other similar events like BandPro‘s Open house and the upcoming CineGear Expo, indispensable opportunities.
What Fisher and company provided us with was the perfect opportunity to do all of that – plus some amazing crab-cakes.