Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Busy Weekend...

Living in the middle of nowhere (as far as production environments go) you take anything and everything that comes your way. That means as long as job dates don't overlap, I'm going to keep adding them to the calendar. So when two jobs that were originally weeks apart got shoved together into one weekend because of a schedule change, that meant covering 322 miles of highway and working over 16 hours. Luckily both jobs are with regular clients that I always look forward to working for, so I knew roughly what to expect outside of some random surprises.
Hey! That's me, over there!

My first stop was shooting MMA fights in Kansas City for 1zero8 Promotions. It was my third time working for them, so I was finally starting to get the hang of what I needed to be ready for and where I needed to be at certain times. I usually shoot close-ups from ringside (and by 'ringside' I mean hanging onto the ropes while two guys pound each other's faces six inches away), cover the fighters as the enter the venue, and anything else that happens in the ring. However, that was not the case this weekend.  Don't worry, I wasn't demoted or anything, but I did learn a valuable lesson by the end of the night. It's one I already knew, but needed to experience firsthand to appreciate again.

The night started off normal. I got some b-roll of the fighters in their waiting areas and some crowd shots since it was still a while before fights would start. Then my boss from 1zero8 approached me and said that the other camera op was running late, but he was going to wait a bit longer before he worried about it. I brushed it of and went back to what I was doing. I figured the other kid was just running late, after all, KC had bad weather the day before, and there was Saturday night traffic to deal with as well. However, about 20 minutes before fights were supposed to start, it was obvious that he probably wasn't going to show since he hadn't tried to call or anything. So that meant I would have to shoot solo from the balcony all night. It's not as glamorous as shooting close-ups, but on the upside I'm not dodging punches or getting heckled by drunk fans for being in the way. After a great show, I was talking to my boss again and told him it was a shame we didn't have two camera guys since the action turned out so well. The next thing he said was, "Don't worry about it, we'll have somebody new in here next time." And there it was, my lesson I spoke of earlier.

I guess since I've never bailed on a client or not shown up without a very good reason, I don't come across this reality very often, but clients can't be treated like a 9:00-5:00 job. You can't show up late or miss work without calling in and expect to still have a job the next day. It just doesn't work like that. Even though it doesn't always feel like it, being dependable pays off. Every time someone doesn't show up, your clients looks at you and say to themselves, "Well, at least I can count on that guy."

My second job gave me a chance to catch up with the Heartland Poker Tour crew. They were back for another stop at Downstream Casino. I've always enjoyed working with the HPT crew because they are all great guys and we always seem to have a good time. On the flip side of that, Downstream always seems to be the home of firsts for the HPT. In the past the venue has seen ice storms keep players away, heavy rain on the metal roof of their pavilion caused the first rain delay, and the newest addition was this weekend's tornado delay. Yes, I braved the terrors of tornadoes to bring America the televised poker action they want... no, deserve! Well, actually, I braved ten minutes of "evacuation" only to get to the basement and be told that the warning was lifted and we could go back upstairs.

Aside from a couple other short delays, the night seemed to go over pretty well. Since not every hand gets used in the end product (usually over 100 hands dealt), it means we get a lot of chances to get creative with camera work, but even though we get to be creative, there is still a margin of consistency to keep. I've found that it's almost more important to know when you are being too repetitious with your shot selection than it is to be super-creative on every hand. When you shoot for hour after hour, it gets easy to fall into a pattern of shots. That's when I slap myself across the face, wake up, and mix things up by doing the opposite of what I think my next shot should be. For instance, we normally zoom in to the face or chips of the winning player at the end of a hand, so I'll throw in a zoom out to a medium shot of the whole table. It gets me out of a rut and gives the director/editor something different. Even if it doesn't work out, they capture a b-roll feed for a backup, so I know I have a bit of a safety net.

Well, thanks for letting me bore you with my latest production exploits. Wedding season is right around the corner and I have more MMA action coming up, so stay tuned for some interesting stories from behind the camera. 

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