A View From Behind the Meter
I spent most of my career working in the independent film marketplace. When I first started in Hollywood, during the early 1970’s, the unions basically had a closed shop, so I aligned myself with small enterprising independent producers. The relationships developed were mostly based on the fact that we both were obvious outsiders that still needed to make a living and pay the rent each month. Companies like Birns & Sawyer were our lifeline to equipment and information. “Easy Rider”, produced in 1969, as I remember was a film that was produced out of Birns & Sawyer; so when I first went to work at this company in 1971 the legacy was still very much alive. Denny Clairmont was head of the camera department at Birns & Sawyer at the time and he was an advocate of the independent filmmaker. That legacy is still very active in the minds of the staff and such movies as Carmen Marron’s “Go For It” and Youssef Delara’s “Filly Brown” have been produced in the present day as well as many others which we have given support all the way to completion.
Many other companies can offer equipment cheaper and they also possess more inventory in terms of volume but few can help in the information end of the process. The idea is to aide the film maker to make a product that can be a “commercial success” on a limited budget. I stress the concept of “commercial success” because most of the people in independent production have limited experience and any information that will create viable exciting images is greatly appreciated by their audiences.
I can not tell you how many new clients have come into my office and said that someone had recommended that they speak with me about their up and coming project. It is difficult for anyone to come to any company and ask for help. I do understand this dilemma but when I look back to my beginnings I thank God there were people that imparted information and showed me how to do a myriad of techniques in the industry. A technician at Chapman showed me how to manage a NIKE crane, at F & B Ceco I learned how to repair the Mitchell R 35 high speed 35mm camera, at Birns & Sawyer I learned how to collimate an Angenieux lens, and at J.L. Fisher I was taught how to work an 11 dolly for “Evil Dead II.” In each case I was able to improve my technical skill and move up the ladder.
Moving up the ladder allowed me to improve my client base and at the same time improve my financial reward. Helpful people within the organization, who had my interest at heart, not simply folks who just gave me cheap equipment, were the critical element that allowed me to be better than those around me. Making relationships with experienced film makers who had been in the firing line and returned unscathed were keys to success which eluded many of my peers along the way. I had huge competition for each job. I asked and received help from every source that was available in order to win projects from other technicians. An inexpensive equipment package isn’t always the answer to solving your rise in the industry but knowledge of how to use that package is essential in your growth as a lighting specialist. That knowledge can be obtained by speaking to the experienced personnel at the rental agencies that promote such interaction.
We here at Birns & Sawyer are fully dedicated to make your success as effortless as possible.
Come in and check us out!
-Michael Rogers, Lighting Consultant and Educational Outreach
BIRNS AND SAWYER