Filmmakers Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez have chosen the highly adaptable SOOM XL tripod system from Sachtler (part of Vitec Videocom) for their feature documentary Burn. The project focuses on a year in the life of Detroit, as seen through the eyes of its firefighters. The documentary was executive produced by Denis Leary and partner Jim Serpico and produced by Putnam and Sanchez.
Much like the popular television series, Rescue Me, the film relies on the reality of the moment during intense situations. Therefore, the production staff of Burn had to be able to be up and running in seconds. “That’s where the Sachtler FSB 6 head and SOOM support for our Canon EOS 5D DSLR cameras and Zeiss prime lenses have been great for us,” said Putnam. “The SOOM is essentially three tripods in one and it allows us to move quickly and keep our gear light. It can raise the camera six feet in the air, so it’s great for getting unique angles at the fire scenes. Plus it can break out into a set of baby sticks too, which has been invaluable.”
The Burn crew has been taxing their equipment for a year, filming a wide variety of situations, each a challenge to the shooters and the equipment. “I remember once when we were filming in a burnt out building where it took us half an hour to work our way through the debris,” Sanchez recalled. “I decided to get a low angle shot and the SOOM was right there to become our baby legs. Without it I would have had to send someone back out of the building to get other support and that would have cost us an hour.“
“We also filmed during the rehab of one of our firefighters who had been paralyzed,” she added. “Because the SOOM can go so high it’s like having a jib arm, allowing us to instantly get great, very stable overhead shots during his rehab sessions. We also used it extensively for time-lapse on various building roofs. It’s heavy enough and has a wide enough spread that we never worried about it getting blown over in the wind.“
“The fluid head turned out to be an invaluable part of our production,” said Putnam. “We’re often going from heated interiors to freezing exteriors, which would cause many of our lesser fluid heads to freeze up and stutter. But the FSB 6 head was always rock solid. Much of our filming took place at night, and the illuminated bubble level was a great time-saver as well.”
Burn will be completed soon, and will begin the festival circuit before the theatrical, broadcast and DVD release. A percentage of profits from the film will go to the Leary Firefighters Foundation, earmarked to buy equipment for the Detroit Fire Department.