The Scott Shaw Blog Be Positive

Where’s Your Sticks?

I was invited onto this film set a couple of weeks ago. Though back in the day I was always happy to show up to shoots and provide any help that I could whenever I was invited. But now, in the realms of today, I really rarely do that. I don’t do that unless I have some close association with the filmmaker.
 
Of course, if you pay me or hire me or something like that, well, that’s a whole other ball game. But, that’s not what this piece is all about.
 
The fact is, I hate to go onto these very-very indie film sets anymore. I mean, I’ve lived through so much in the No and the Low Budget Film Arena, that I find myself wanting to correct mistakes that are about to be made. But, I hate to do that. I don’t want to come off like the know-it-all. I don’t want to hinder anyone’s individual flow. Isn’t it kind of better to just let a person live and learn and create at their own pace, making their own mistakes? Let them live their own dream of reality, whether that dream turns out good or bad. For isn’t that where you really learn?
 
As I walked toward the set, I saw the director standing there. The first thing that I noticed, and the first things I wanted to question was, “Where’s your sticks?” You know, a tripod. The second question I wanted to ask is, “Where’s your camera?” I looked, but I saw nothing. But me, I kept my mouth shut.
 
I guess, as it turns out, the guy was going to shoot with just his phone. I mean, sure, that’s okay. I do it too. I’ve spoken about that, in this blog, a few blogs back. Yes, you can do it. But, if you want to do it right, even that takes some tools.
 
I mean, there’s things like an iPhone camera rig. A holding device to get a better grip on and greater control over your phone. There’s things like iPhone pistol grips. Me, I always carry this iPhone camera-orientated handgrip with me, just in case I need to film something on the spot. It works via Bluetooth. It slips easily right onto your phone and gives you way better control over the movement of the camera. Plus, I always keep a tripod in my car.
 
I mean, even/especially if you are filming with a DSLR camera or an actual video camera, a holding rig really changes the game.

Gimbals, I don’t like ‘em. Sure, in videos on YouTube, they all look to do great things. But, buy one and get them in your own hands and they never really perform. Or, they have a mind of their own—which is what I’ve experienced when using them. But, anyway…
 
I think back to when we, Don Jackson and I, were filming, The Roller Blade Seven. We shot that movie on 16mm film. One of the cameras we used was a Bolex Rex4 with a 24p crystal sync motor. A few times during the shoot, Don handheld that camera. There was this one funny experience when we were shooting my character at the L.A. Observatory, above Hollywood. I was walking with my sword and someone stepped into our shot. I mean, it was a public space. Don yells at them, “Can’t you see we’re filming a movie! Get the fuck out of my shot!” They did and we continued filming.
 
The thing was, Don was a pro cameraman. He knew how to hold and maneuver a camera, even when it was handheld. Few people possess that skillset, however, especially when shooting on an iPhone.
 
What I’m saying here is, if you want to do a good shoot, you need stability in your shots. You need sticks, you need a SteadiCam, you need a rig, you need something.
 
There was a time, introduced by TV Shows like, NYPD Blue, where they would present these intensely shaky camera shots. I always hated those. It was very distracting. I always called them, “ShakyCam.”  But, the thing was, that show had tons of money behind it. They were obviously doing that style of photography on purpose. But, it still didn’t look good. This is one of the things that looks so bad when people film scenes on their phone, the constantly veering and undefined movement. It really makes it look cheap.
 
You know, in life there is a difference between doing things half assed and doing them with intent. The problem is, in this digital day and age, few people comprehend this difference. They believe just because it can be done, it is done. But, where is the art in any of that? Is the doing done consciously? Because here lies the true difference between art and something just being done for whatever other reason. Art, you do/you create with a cognizant purpose. You do it with a determined intent. Everything else, no matter how good or bad it turns out, is not art. If it has no true essential definition in its creation, it cannot be considered art. If you create with no fundamental essence as your basis, what have you really created?
 
Yeah, you can film a movie on your phone. But, if all you have done is capture an image with no sense of directed purpose, what have you really created?