Posts Tagged ‘Motion picture production’

In Motion

Friday, October 4th, 2013


One of the more dramatic motion segments I have experienced was in the course of shooting motion picture for a film project centered on Hawaii. The stills image above is a quick grab done as  Tyler Swain., Rob Dafoe and I worked 3 camera positions at Anahuli Bay, Hawaii. I think that we all got chicken skin in the course of this days long shoot, repeatedly. We were cognizant of being able to witness something bigger than some people from the Waikaloa Halau performing.

Shooting motion and understanding the nuances is really quite complex.  At least it is, if you engage as a Cinematographer, where your camera moves tell the story. For the purposes of this blog, I am going to use other people’s work.

Here is a great looking story on Hula. The Huamana.

Here is an outstanding body of timelapse work done by a young Cinematographer named Cory Hansen. The piece is entitled “Dark As Night”.

I doubt there is much as sacred or significant in this world as our story. It is that way because it belongs to us. So when we share that, and push the envelope of vulnerability, what we really are doing is baring ourselves to the universe in a way. We give our story up.

Years ago a close friend of mine rang me. He had just returned from a Studio Executive meeting. He is a well known screen writer. He told me that another studio had stolen my story (One published in a Magazine) given it to a screenwriter who developed the screenplay and it had somehow wound up on the desk of his EP. They had asked him to rewrite it.

I asked him what he was going to do.

“I said no. I told them I knew the writer and that the story belonged to someone else. But I suggested they have me write a new piece. They agreed. How do you feel about this, David?”

My response was instant. “Well, it is not my story at all. It really belongs to the men I wrote about. It is their story. I was merely a witness”

“Well, would you consider helping me pen the new one?”

“Of course. Their story matters. It is significant.”

So we did that, and as things go in the entertainment business the project was stalled in pre production and was never made. It was ironic and sort of funny. Possibly  a bit sad, even. Why? Because it was the story of Mark Foo, and what I had seen over the course of nearly 12 years. It delved deeply into the life and world of another friend, Maverick’s pioneer Jeff Clark, who helped me understand Maverick’s and come to terms with Mark’s death, which had affected me deeply.

So you see: our stories are sacred.

sacred |ˈsākrid|
connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration: sacred rites | the site at Eleusis is sacred to Demeter.
• religious rather than secular: sacred music.
• (of writing or text) embodying the laws or doctrines of a religion: a sacred Hindu text.
• regarded with great respect and reverence by a particular religion, group, or individual: an animal sacred to Mexican culture.
• sacrosanct: to a police officer nothing is sacred.

Motion picture capability is expanding rapidly. One of my favorite companies is Go Pro. They have been highly supportive when I needed help in production. One of their camera lead developers is Cinematographer Pete Hodgson. They even had Pete help me on a production for Nat Geo.

Here is the latest Go Pro trailer. Shot using the Hero Black 3+. You can tell a different story with the POV potential of this system. And beyond it, what heads in will allow for much greater focus on our stories. I like that a lot, because in a life, your story matters. It is all we have.

Aloha nui loa.

Sierra Partridgepuuadj.9261Mickey MunozMark Foo, photo Bobby Owens

 A young Mark Foo. Photo: Bobby Owens




The Percolative Effect of Mike de Gruy

Monday, February 13th, 2012


Mankind in Nature

Mankind in Nature

“Self-knowledge comes from knowing other men.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Oft times I will awake with my soul in what could be described as a jumble.

Ever use one of those old percolating coffee pots? The type which, when the water boils, it spews forth, on to fresh dark ground coffee, and the rich aroma of it will fill an abode with such a heady fragrance, that it pulls you from sleep? Well of course you have. That is where the social axiom arose from: “Wake up, and smell the coffee.” Well my position, is that our soul grasps the scent and composition of a thing while our bodies are in repose.

Today was a good example of the percolative effect. I woke with this in my heart. 5 am. Percolating. Effervescing. I could not rest. Out it came, onto the ground as dawn broke.

Yesterday was the Memorial Service for a colleague. Mike De Gruy.

Watch this TedX talk.

The phone in my little MS3 rang through the car’s bluetooth as I wound down Coast Hwy 1 on a stunning Santa Ana late afternoon recently. I was on my way to do a camera test of a recent repair by Canon on my 5DM2. Dr. Andrea Neal’s pleasant voice echoed out of the car’s speakers as I rounded Mugu Rock and saw the plate blue glass of the Pacific, extending forever in a windless, haze free, rare gem moment.

“David, Mike DeGruy died in a helicopter crash in Australia today”. My immediate response was: “Oh shit!”. The words hung in the air. It was as if I were a cartoon illustration, and the bubble scrawled on paper with the words, stared back at me. We rung off.

As I nosed the car down the sweeping turns made famous by a myriad of films and commercials, I rang my former Film Commissioner, and dear friend, Martine White, who was now back in the field working production as a Locations Manager.  When she picked up, the first thing that she asked, was if I had gotten her e mail? “Nope dear, on the road. Just back from Hawaii, and running a camera test before a Motion Picture shoot in SB tomorrow with Misa (My sister, a Santa Barbara Choreographer). Mike?”

I could hear the  sorrow in her voice. All of us in Production are close. We are soldiers in the battle of making a living in the field of content creation, which defines so much of what popular contemporary culture is. When one succeeds, we rejoice. When one suffers, we offer comfort. But when one dies….

Well, death is a process. We each as creatives need to figure out how to be. Because sure as the sun rising, someone will ask the question of us: “What do you think-feel about….”

“Mike died on a scout in Australia David” He and a pilot. The helicopter went down on takeoff. I am very sorry.” ” Ah yea, me too Martine. I just heard a moment ago. I am doing some work at the moment. I will get back to you in a bit.”

And there it was. A pebble had dropped into the creative blue pond of our lives, and the ripple created by metal to tarmac was spreading throughout the world. Mike DeGruy was dead. I had no words really. No feelings. Just a numbness. I have lost friends and colleagues to Helos before. It happens. As in much of what we do, there is an imminent signature of great danger beneath the facade of safety when we work. All of us recognize the potential risk. We prepare for it. Some of us train diligently.

I hate Helos. My aerial vehicle of choice is an overhead wing Cessna. I had a test pilot from the company explain to me how to ditch one at sea before. Unless you hit something, you will likely walk away from most incidents in a fixed wing small plane, or swim away. But sometimes, a Helo is the only tool for the job.

I did my camera test, and late that night I began my online research into the incident. A short search and I found a crash site photo which told me what I needed to know, professionally. This is what occurred to me on examination. I am guessing that both Mike and the Pilot thought that they could make it.

A chain of events occurred, which created a moment, that took their lives. All of us have those. Life is precious in it’s frailty, really. But in an incident filming, you plan, and never stop in your focus, till you return home, crew and yourself, safely to friends and family.  I was pretty sure Mike would have been expecting to pull it off, even as they hit the ground. I would.  None of us ever loses that focus. Ever. And Mike was good at this survival stuff.

Camera Test

Camera Test

My insides had begun to move regarding this.

Last night we all met in Santa Barbara at the Fess Parker Double Tree resort in a huge rotunda.

Donna and I were late of course. But we got there in time to hear one of Mike’s brothers tell Mike stories. De Gruy was one foking bright light. There was not one of us there in what was likely a crowd of multiple hundreds, who had not been touched by his passion and love for the Oceans, Mankind, and Community.

As the rotunda service ended, I stopped to speak with one of the guys wearing a mic doing security, who had asked me about the camera I held, as we walked in. They wanted to make sure no one was photographing. We had a funny moment when I had looked up at him and said, “We are at a service for a dead camera man” . He got it, and as Donna assured him we were not there to film it, he and I shared a laugh, in an intense instant of sorrow. THAT was de Gruy.

I shook his hand and thanked him for serving that day, it turns out he was a fan of Mike’s as well, and said he had really enjoyed Mike’s work. My response was this. “We all did. He made a lot of it. And it will be around forever.”  With a faint smile to each other we parted, and Donna and I walked to the beach where a soliloquy of sorts would occur.

In the course of all of us making a concentric circle around a big sand castle Octopus, and baskets of flower petals, I shot a bit and observed. What happened some may see as happenstance and a natural occurrence.



My relationship with Nature and God does not allow me that perspective.

As family and friends adjourned to the surf line, and a Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol boat sped near shore and let fly with it’s water cannons, and we all bid farewell to one of our own, I watched something develop almost instantaneously in the sky above. As the sun set behind the Santa Barbara Mesa and afterlight blossomed, I watched as one cloud became two, and a massive red exclamation point expanded over the Western Horizon.



In my native culture, we believe that the soul leaves here for the next plane in the West, it sort of follows the sun.

Some things and people never really change, but they do evolve. That cloud meant a lot to us all.

I would imagine he had seen friends and family gathered, and just then had caught a glimpse of what lay ahead of him. He was just like that. A living, glowing, exclamation mark.

Possibly one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen, that cloud. I think we all knew what he was saying.

Aloha oe.




The Artist as Asset

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Outward Bound

Well, I am home again. Sort of. Bali, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Central Coast California for a half day. It has been a long last month or so of being “on the road” building assets, which basically means creating content in stills and motion picture to be used in roughly a dozen ongoing projects.

The Canon 5D Mark 2 established itself as a ground breaking piece of equipment for someone like me. The things that a creative operator can do with it will prove to re define cinematography as time passes. Here is a great link that details some of the work arounds you will need, should you decide to convert to DSLR high definition motion capture.

But now that truly flexible low cost tools are in place and content acquisition has become more simple than ever before, what will determine the bar of content? Now more than ever it will come down to the ability and perceptions of the artist.

Developing yourself as an asset means being able to do a large variety of different types of work on the fly. Bruce Brown once told me that the key to success was keeping a crew small. This recent trip was a great illustration of small being efficient as Aaron Marcellino, Donna and myself basically were the complete production crew. It worked well, as we were able to navigate the complexities of a traveling production and just returned home with 16 time lapses, 18 hours of motion and approximately 3000 stills. It will all convert to an 80 minute film based on the experience of what amounted to a humanitarian-creative pilgrimage of sorts for Betty B, Donna’s eco sensitive line of fashion accessories and jewelry and four of the women who represent her company.

Right now multiple projects loom and I realize that it may get difficult catching up on things like family obligations and wading through the huge amount of post production this excursion generated. Looks like I leave for SF again shortly and then head out into the desert for a music video shoot with Tyler Swain and Rob Dafoe. Time to make lists and build a calendar again.

The images below are a small cross section from the trip, in pretty much a chronological order. Many of the images are stills studies shot in the course of building time lapse or motion picture footage for our upcoming film. You can see why the artist becomes your primary asset in production in looking at this tiny slice of our content. The footage is amazing. I could never have done this a year ago without a huge crew, and the irony is that with a huge crew, you could not do this either without spending a lot more time and money.

Seth Godin explains how content communication is changing our world a bit right here.

New tech! Sent along by Dan O Donnell

The future is here for the independent artist. Everything works at last.

View from our room on BaliMary O and CeningenHailey at Villa GayatriPlumeria StrandDonnaDavid BoothDouble TroubleJeanetteSteamer Lane. CaliforniaA young Rym Partridge by his Grandmother, Imogen CunninghamUnion Square, San FranciscoUnion Square DawnSan Francisco SundownGolden Gate Home: Ventura

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.