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  • The dumbest thing you ever saw happen on a set…

     Mark Suszko updated 9 months, 4 weeks ago 2 Members · 6 Posts
  • Mark Suszko

    September 24, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    An anecdote I was told long ago, an anti-nepotism story; The Producer is encouraged to hire a nephew onto his movie, puts him on as a Production Assistant on location, shooting on a beach in Florida. The DP is lighting a beach scene one morning, with reflector panels, and, noting the winds are starting to pick up a little, asks for more sandbags from the grip truck. But they don’t have enough. He tells the Nephew PA he is going to need a bunch more sand bags to keep the reflector stands steady for shooting in the afternoon and… you’re way ahead of me now, aren’t you? 🙂 The Nephew proudly says he’s got it handled, he’s got his Uncle’s name to use to get things done with, so he gets on the phone… and orders a pallet of filled sandbags. Air-express-shipped. From the Studio in California. To the beach in Florida. Apocryphal? Maybe. Hilarious? Yes.

    Don’t name names, but, if you have a story like this, about something that happened on location or the studio that was just, incredibly, face-palmingly dumb… care to share?

  • Blaise Douros

    September 25, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    I don’t know if I was the dumb one in this story or not, but here goes:

    When working my first full-time gig as a production/post-production assistant, we had a producer headed to Africa to shoot the last few days, and afterwards straight to DC to do the final edits with the network, without coming home. So he left me a box of his stuff to ship out to meet him there. I dutifully got it in the mail just in time to get there. Good job, young Blaise, you’ll make Associate Producer in no time.

    Well, a couple days later I get a phone call–he’s absolutely howling into the phone that I’ve effed up everything, how could I be so stupid, I better fix this. Turns out he had packed his laptop in the outside pocket of his duffel bag, facing the outside of the box, and I had, uh, NOT GONE THROUGH HIS PERSONAL STUFF to determine this, and also not repacked his personal stuff that I didn’t go through in the first place.

    Next, I had to break into his house to retrieve his backup drive to send that out, all the while thinking “of all the fired that anybody has been, I am going to be the most fired.”

    I wasn’t. But, coincidentally, this was a fairly old laptop getting on in years, the production bought him a brand new laptop, and he got all the relevant data he needed off the backup drive, and I never heard about it again. I wonder to this day whether I was the scapegoat or not.

  • Mark Suszko

    September 28, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    You mean the laptop got damaged in transit because it wasn’t packed deeper in the guy’s duffel? If that’s what you mean, I’d call that a 60-10 case of negligence; 60 % his, for the bad placement, 10 percent yours, for not catching and correcting his mistake. The rest, is on the shipping company, for being too rough.

  • Mark Suszko

    September 28, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    One from (very) early in my own career: the 30-second spot is a “one-er”, one continuous shot. The scene is a straight road heading dead away from the lens up into some hills. In 20 seconds, a car has to crest the hill, barrels down to the camera at 45-55 MPH, and comes to a stop in such a way that the license plate fills the frame, dead-center. Camera on a hi-hat on the road surface.

    Camera operator on hands and knees, same road surface.

    The driver would not be able to see me or the rig in the last few critical yards of approach. We made a sort of gate out of light stands and plastic pipe, for the driver to aim for in the last 3-4 feet: if he hit the center of that gate, with the pipe just above his hood, he’d hit this mark. If he passed that spot, …he’d be OVER Mark. I mean, me.


    The deceleration was practiced and timed, and we decided he couldn’t hit his brakes until the last 50-70 feet. Took about 20 takes, my guardian angel must have been working overtime, but I got the shot, had to fudge the framing with a delicate zoom and slight pan to get it the last 5 percent right, …but I got it. The safety equipment? My chief engineer had a grip on the back of my belt; his job was to yank me out of the way if the car over-shot it’s mark. Now, the driver was a semi-pro race car driver outside of work, but thinking back, I just shake my head at the casual attitude we took with risks in our youth.

    Spot looked damn good, though:-)

    Today, you’d perhaps use a remote PTZ motion control rig for this, or, shoot into a mirror placed in the spot my body and camera was occupying, from a couple of yards off to the side of the road, like they used to do for railroad engine track POV shots. Gear is replaceable.

  • Blaise Douros

    September 28, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    Hah, yeah, the sketchy things we’ve all done to get the shot…

    Once, while filming a tactical team practicing helicopter tactics, I ended up dangling a few hundred feet off the ground on a rope under the helicopter, with my camera just on a shoulder strap, to get POV b-roll of short-hauling. GoPro footage just wasn’t gonna cut it, you know? I was harnessed up, but…doing dangerous things in the safest way possible doesn’t really make them safe, right? Later in the day, while riding in the bird filming the guys firing at ground targets, my contact on the tactical team told the hotshot ex-military pilot to see just how much fun I could take, so he goes “hold fire, please,” and then put us through the most extreme series of maneuvers he could wring out of the Jet Ranger. I’ve got a good stomach for motion so I earned some points from those guys that day. I did not tell my wife about the shenanigans until long afterwards.

    Also, the company I work for makes hunting gear. I have video from two separate bear hunts of angry just-shot bears running towards either the hunter or the camera guy (not me, fortunately), and only dumb luck, good camo, and nerves of steel keeping the bear from seeing them and/or running right into them and ripping them up. I don’t go on bear hunts.

    Last one: early in my career, I was on-location as a sound recordist to get tape of salmon conservation measures in the Columbia river. One day, we were at a dam where the local sea lions had learned that salmon congregate under the fish ladders, and so they all hung out there at the sea lion buffet, eating every salmon they could find. The Army Corps and local Native American tribes had teamed up to harass them, so the DP and I went out with them in a small aluminum boat, where they roared around the river firing explosive shells out of a shotgun to scare the sea lions away. The DP was shooting one of the big early shoulder-rigged Panasonic Varicams, so he was really top heavy, so with one hand, I had to help him stay stable with one hand, hold the boom with my other one, while we tried to stay on our feet as the boat pilot blasted around the river chasing sea lions and the other guy firing explosive shells into the water. That was a wild day.

  • Mark Suszko

    September 28, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    Not me, but one of the previous guys here… video shoot in an underground coal mine. His Anton-Baur battery pack started getting low, so he swapped batteries, laid the dead one down, and forgot to bring it back out with him… he was sent back down the tunnel to ask the miners if they’d seen a fist-size black object around…

    “All day”, they said:-)

    This guy I think was also the one that dropped another battery pack from a chopper somewhere over some corn fields. That happens if you fly with the doors off and you haven’t thought about locking down every piece of gear.

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