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Matthew Borek
On 3/23/20, 6:59 PM

-My name is Matthew Borek and I am a Los Angeles based focus puller. I am a proud member of Local 600 and instructor at SteadiSchool. My proficiency in math and the sciences paired with my love for film is what drew me to working in the camera department. 


Questions:

  1. I became a 1st AC through the training of my mentor and advisor, who I met in 2004. I began my career in Chicago as a Film Loader / 2nd AC but had an excellent teacher who helped me to grow and ingrained in me the skills required to work as a 1st AC.
  2. There are many facets that I love about the job, including the ever changing technology, the collaborative environment, and the feeling of accomplishment when you help others succeed. 
  3. My dream 1st AC job is working on narratives in network television. I would consider myself to be among the fortunate few if I were to secure a position in the camera department on a show which ran for many seasons because of the consistency and the opportunity to learn from other crew members with more experience than myself. 
  4. My favorite job to date was a car commercial which shot in Oregon. I was new to the team but everyone quickly became comfortable with one another. We were presented with many challenges as the weather turned dramatically at the beginning of the gig but we banded together to get the days done and bonded nightly over meals and shared time which could have been spent alone. It is an experience I’ll never forget. 
  5. I learned the most from my first mentor, Cynthia Harrig. My filmmaking career began before digital production was common place and she was integral in my understanding of not only film but how those principles apply to the digital landscape. 
  6. My other passions are union activism and mentorship. I know that being an engaged member in Local 600 is required because what happens with the union impacts my career and livelihood. I will spend my time leading by example in the hope that others will follow suit and find the ways in which they enjoy participating because we are stronger together. I am also very passionate about mentorship opportunities because I had a strong mentor who had a profound impact on me at the beginning of my career. I consider the film industry to be a trade, and the best way to learn a trade is through apprenticeship. I offer myself to others through avenues such as SteadiSchool and IndustryJump so that people who want to grow as filmmakers are able to connect with me to gain information and learn from my experience.
  7. I keep my spirits up through my passions, union activism and mentorship opportunities, as well as through taking time to be with my family and share my love for filmmaking with them. I am fortunate that they also share a love for the arts and we have been spending time watching movies and television together. I hope to learn how to strike a better balance of work / passion / life in the future so that I successfully spend more time living my life once we go back to work.
  8. I hope that we all learn that every person who fills a role on a project is equally as important as the next. We all play a particular part and bring unique qualities to the table, and we are better off together than apart.
  9. I had an educator who once said to me, ‘If we aren’t here for each other than what are we here for?’ His name was Ronn Pitts. He helped me to understand the value in the collective over the individual, which is a lesson I’ll always remember.
  10. I don’t know that I have a Soft-Skill Super-Power. I do my best to maintain a certain humility about myself, work, and life. I strive to be known as a compassionate leader who not only holds technical knowledge and has the skills required for the job but is understanding, thoughtful, and places people above the product. I have a tendency to remember my fellow department members over the project and attempt to surround myself with others who feel the same way. Is that a super power? I don’t think so, but you be the judge. 

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Clemens Hönig

--Clemens Hönig--

1001133
| 5 5 7
Vienna, Austria
--Clemens Hönig--

Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

Clemens Hönig
On 3/25/20, 8:42 AM

Hey Matthew, Thanks for the interview! Being a great mentor is definitely a super-power as well...


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4
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Rozemarijn

--Rozemarijn--
1097
| 3 3 6
Zandvoort, Netherlands
--Rozemarijn--

1st AC for over 10 years

Mainly Features and Drama


Rozemarijn
On 3/26/20, 10:17 PM

How did you become a 1st AC?

During my years on Filmacademy I worked as a clapper/loader in the summer vacation, and when I graduated in 2008 at the Dutch Filmacademy I started out as the first DIT in the Netherlands with the RED One just being on the market. It introduced me to a whole new way of filmmaking and focuspulling I had never seen before. Instant gratification. Not long after I started to do small 1st AC jobs with the RED One, because I was one of the first to have worked with it. My actual love for focuspulling was when I was doing a Dutch tv series, when focuspulling became natural to me. No thinking. Just being a part of the scene.

 

What do you love most about your job?

The thing I love the most about being a 1st AC, is having a team of friends and collegues around me. People who I can trust, and trust me.  Who I can advise and help in the process of making a movie or tvseries.

I love it when a DP let’s me do my thing. Letting my play with the focus. But also run the show behind the scenes. Making sure everything works, everything is in its place, organized,  the assistants doing their jobs (meaning, being 1 step ahead of me) and being invisible whenever is needed.  

 

What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?

My dreamjob as a 1st AC would be any feature or series with my dear friends. Because it doesn’t really matter how big the budget, show, feature or set is. In the end, its about who you are making it with. Who are right by your side and have your back.

 

What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

The most exciting job I’ve done was also the biggest so far. It was a 7 million euros feature with 5 cameras at all times, me being A and C cam.

A Viking movie with locations all over Europe, dirt, mud, no way to get there with a car, hundreds of extras, horses, stunts every day, fire, all day rainmachine. Something I had never done before, and I loved every minute of it. Long days, large team. And we nailed it. It was a once in a lifetime experience for me, we don’t make that kind of features here in the Netherlands, so im very proud to have been a part of it.

 

From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)

In 3rd class on the filmacademy we had a 1-day course in focuspulling from Herman Verschuur. And the look in his eyes, when he told us about a shot of a cat, at a 180mm at t2, I’ll never forget. Fire.

The most things I’ve learned, are by making a mistake and get up again. Try, practice and repeat. Not being ashamed to ask a more experienced focuspuller for help and tricks. And watching others do their jobs, observe. And watch movies, and try to understand why a focuspull is done or isn’t done.

 

What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?

I love my days off, being home alone when the husband is to work. Just enjoying small things. Going to the gym or doing some things around the house. So I guess my other passion in life, is my actual life. Living a wholehearted passionate life.

 

How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?

My spirit is up, most of the time. Enjoying the small things, a walk on the beach, reading a book in the sun, my animals in the garden. But I have to be honest, its hard. Being out of work for longer than a week or 2 has never happened to me. So I try to get my spirit up, learning from others. Being inspired by others. And see it as a personal test, if I can do that too.

 

What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

In general, we can learn to appreciate little things. Stop complaining. Be happy when we are on a set. Don’t nag about the late lunch or the early call time or the van being parked too far away from set. Just appreciate what you have. And enjoy it. And if you don’t, find your passion in life. Its too short to let it go to waste.

 

What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

When I became 30 years old, I had a panic attack on set. Caused by working too much for too many years and a personal situation.

I couldn’t focus anymore and had to leave the set. Called production and told them I would be back in the next day.
The next day, I couldn’t. So I called, ill be in next week. That never happened either.

It took me months to be back on track. Being forced to have good look in the mirror and face myself. Felt lost, alone and in pain.

But in the end, it was the most precious life experiences I’ve ever had. To be able to have a good conversation with yourself and knowing it will all be allright is one of the most valuable skills ive inherited from that experience. And to be openhearted, kind and vulnerable is not a weakness. It’s a strength.

 

What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?

Don’t think too much, just go with the flow.

 



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Clemens Hönig

--Clemens Hönig--

1001133
| 5 5 7
Vienna, Austria
--Clemens Hönig--

Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

Clemens Hönig
On 3/31/20, 7:33 AM

Great interview Roze! It's great to have you on the forum as a community manager!


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4
Brian Aichlmayr
On 3/23/20, 3:13 PM

Hi everyone,

My name is Brian Aichlmayr. I am based in Houston, Tx USA and have been pulling focus since 2010.

  • How did you become a 1st AC?

    I became a 1st AC after working on a indie film as a Grip and watching the AC on that film build/ AC the camera. One day we had a short shoot day and the AC couldn't show up so I volunteered to AC that day, fell in love, and proceeded to do what i could to get behind the camera. Luckily the DP of the film took a liking to me and we worked on many films after giving me a chance to practice my skills and learn what not to do.

  • What do you love most about your job?

    I love the technical side of the job. Organizing, building, coordinating gear and delegating there work load across the department (management). Ive heard the phrase, 1sting is 10% pulling focus and 90% politics, and ive come to believe in that.

  • What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?

    I would like to work a major feature one day. Experience the ins and outs and see what its like being in that environment vs where i have already been.

  • What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

    This is a hard question to answer because there are so many aspects to consider when selecting the most enjoyable jobs. I'll talk about a Houston Methodist commercial working with DP Mathieu Plainfosse. He selected the Alexa LF with panavision glass. It was when the LF first came out and I had a lot of fun working through the systems ins and outs. Being one of my first times working with panavision gear, my learning curve was quite large. Onset dealing with multiple zooms and primes with no time for marks and a director that liked to work fast, setlife was pretty hectic. I had some real hard pulls to commit too and not a lot of time for error. As they returned the following year for another commercial, i had the opportunity to again prep and work with the LF, this time with a different firmware and new experiences to learn from. We got our ass kicked everyday with the amount of work we had to put in but man, the experience and drive to get the job done greatly outweighed any doubt of hating the current job. It was rewarding to get the DP the shots he wanted and make the moves to be ready before he was. Overall, the experience with working with Mathieu made these shoots one of the best.

  • From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)

    Honestly, DP Larry McKee taught me the most about my job and from there I had to teach myself how to become better at my job. www.theblackandblue.com was super helpful for this and motivated me to get on Instagram to watch how other AC's operate.

  • What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?

    Engineering. I love creating things.

  • How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?

    Good things come to those that wait. Patience, just like onset, is key. Also, a lot of gaming...

  • What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

    We are not invincible.

  • What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

    Safety is key. Be aware of your surroundings even if everything is safetied. Bad things can happen in an instant. An indie I worked on had a pickup shot on the side of a two lane highway. Production hired police at both ends of our run to keep us safe with 300ft of cones between to indicate to drivers to stay in the left lanes while we worked on the emergency lane by the right lane. Basically like you'd see when shutting down a lane for maintenance. It was an overnight shoot on Oct 31st and we had a 4k lighting the area as a main source facing slightly towards traffic. The crew stopped and pulled the picture vehicle off to the emergency lane (well behind the cones) to rerig a hostess tray. Durning that time I took it upon myself to wait in a standing by vehicle with camera to get a mini nap in while they rerig. Time passed and i decided to take the camera out and see if they were ready for me to mount up. They gave me the option and since it was a chilly night, I decided to wait and I returned to my resting place in a different vehicle if front of the rigging car while they continued rigging. Not 5 minutes later I woke abruptly as debris peppered the van I was sitting in and a Toyota Tundra like vehicle was racing off taking out cones along the way with our police officer who was watching the start of the run trailing behind him. I jumped out to see people in a ditch and multiple crew members scattered about, some not responding right away. One of my friends (audio) had been pinned between the picture car and the truck and ran up against the hostess tray breaking vertebrae, his leg and a few other parts of the body. Panic set in as we tried to get our mixer to respond to us and when he came too, he had no idea what had happened. We ended up having to life flight him out of the area. A few other crew members also received minor injuries. The truck had a gash from the front passenger wheel past the door. The cops reported that they chased the truck for 2 miles before he pulled over and fell out of the truck drunk. It was his 3rd DUI we later found out. During the aftermath as we gave our reports to the police, I was asked to fire up the camera because we needed to document the cones, police etc to show that we were doing what we could to be safe. The DP and I walked to the end of the road (all lanes were shut down at this point) and started filming. The director caught wind and ran over to us to see what we were shooting and started trying to direct our shots for his movie. I broke and let him have it as he had no respect for the crew creating his vision. Crew members onset are like family. Luckily my friend made a full recovery and still mixes today without support to keep him moving. Unfortunately, production (director) cancelled crew coverage for the shoot without letting us know and my friend ended up taking on most all the bills. The truck driver, was out the next day on bail and i believe never received much (if any) jail time. All my friend could do during the trial was to make the truck driver see what he had done to his body. The thing is, this was a pickup shot and the first time we had been out, a truck ran into some of our cones but corrected and no one was injury. Just a close call, the second time, not so much. I think a lot about that decision to return to the vehicle to wait till the rigging was done as I would of been in the line of fire and production would of had to buy another camera. 

  • What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?

    Didn't know what this question was so I googled it. According to a quiz it mentioned i am a leader. 

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    Clemens Hönig

    --Clemens Hönig--

    1001133
    | 5 5 7
    Vienna, Austria
    --Clemens Hönig--

    Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

    Clemens Hönig
    On 3/25/20, 8:36 AM

    Hey Brian, thanks for your insights and spreading the word! Stay safe!


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    Gunnar Mortensen

    --Gunnar Mortensen--
    100476
    | 3 2 6
    Los Angeles, United States
    --Gunnar Mortensen--

    E Gunnar Mortensen saw 2 Panaflex cameras drive by on a process trailer for the filming of Ladybugs. Even at that young age he was hooked. Came up through the Camera Department in Denver before moving to LA. Considered to be a career Focus Puller he has worked to not only to improve his skills but also has taught workshops to build the camera community around the globe.

    Gunnar Mortensen
    On 3/23/20, 2:01 PM


    1. How did you became a 1st AC?

    Started as a camera trainee operating the Sony clamshell recording the video tap on 435 for car commercials in Denver and driving the film to the airport. Moved up from there over the years from loader, 2nd to 1st.


    2. What do you love most about your job? I love when multiple people work together and become in sync to accomplish a tricky shot. That feeling when it all comes together can’t be beat.


    3. What would be your dream 1st AC job and why? Well this is a tricky one to answer but I think the sweet spot of jobs is working in the 40-50mil range. You have enough money to get all the toys, everyone gets paid proper, and the page count is low. 


    4. What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

      The most exciting job was the water unit for Chasing Mavericks, being in 50ft waves cruising around on zodiacs and being in the water at night when we learned that pointing 20k into water attracts sharks. The most enjoyable was Yes Day which we just wrapped for Netflix. The entire cast and crew was just so pleasant to work with, short hours and everyone was top of their game. Plus their were four babies born on that show including my Son.


    5. From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regrads of focus pulling) I’ll never forget Richard Mosier taking the time to teach me to thread a Panaflex. Bob Hall for teaching me to properly break down a one liner and Jonas Steadman on streamlining a camera build. As for Focus Pulling is something that you just need to figure out for yourself, all the tips you get just get whittled down to the feel on your fingertips.


    6. What is your second passion, or counter balance to focus pulling?

     My second passion is B&W photography which is my artistic outlet. Being a Focus Puller is more of a technician which I enjoy being a battle field commander. Making sure the dept keeps humming along.


    7. How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job. now, before and after corona?

        I this is the longest that I have sat at home in 3 years and I am holed up with my Wife and new born Son. It’s hard to be discouraged when you look at his face. 


    8. What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way? I Always tell everyone that don’t spend above your means and have enough savings to float you in unforeseen  times.


    9. What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

        I have worked through the bumps of 9-11, the writers strike, Great Recession and now the Corona Pandemic. We will get through this and on the other side is a surge of work. 


    10. What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?

    I think most people compliment me on is my sense of timing which is as important as locking onto someone’s eyes. I call the actors my Dance Partners, they lead and I follow their movements. 


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    Clemens Hönig

    --Clemens Hönig--

    1001133
    | 5 5 7
    Vienna, Austria
    --Clemens Hönig--

    Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

    Clemens Hönig
    On 3/25/20, 8:35 AM

    Thank you for your support Gunnar and for your willingness to share your knowledge!


    Your Reply


    2
    RAFAEL FARINAS
    On 3/24/20, 4:38 AM

    Hi, camera people! My name is Rafael Farinas. I'm a focus puller based in São Paulo, Brazil. I'm 41. Pulling focus since 2012.

    1. How did you become a 1st AC?
    I started in TV/video/ ENG industry in 1998 operating Broadcast Cameras in small production companies. Then I worked for almost a year in a TV station in São Paulo. I was feeling unhappy cause it was too simple, no big challenges... so I tried to find my place in the Film Industry sticking me in a camera rental house. That was in the end of 2001. Traditionally here in Brazil you get in the camera department working as a video assist operator. In 2005 I moved to 2nd AC. In 2010 I started a transition doing small stuff (shorts and low budget ad's) and  in January 2012 I jumped to 1st AC. 

    2. What do you love most about your job?
    It all started with the passion for the cameras and all the equipment. But today, what I love most is the happiness of the first day  of shooting and the mix between happiness and sadness of the last day of shooting... I mean the feeling that the job is done. That you and your crew gave the best of yourselves to get it done. I love my crew. I love the camaraderie feeling that surround me and my fellows, the jokes and etc...

    3. What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?
    "The Dream Job" is that one where you have a good workplace, with respect among the crew. Is that job where you don't have to explain to the other's that you are doing your best not for you, but for the project itself. Is that job that you don't have to struggle with the production for minor stuff and for good and decent work conditions. It's 12 on /12 off, 5 x 2, with weekend day off's. When this things happen, it's a "Dream Job".

    4. What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?
    I don't wanna be unfair with anyone or any production company....but obviously there are some jobs that has that something extra. The most famous is the Season 5 - Episode 1 of Netflix "Black Mirror - Striking Vipers". People came from the UK to São Paulo, Brazil. It was a good way to exchange experiences and meet new people and learn new things. There's a HBO USA miniseries called "The American Guest" that hasn't aired yet that I loved to be involved. They took us inside the Brazilian Amazonian Rain Forest to shoot the trip that Theodore Roosevelt did in 1913 here in Brazil. "Harassment" - Brazilian Globo TV  / Globoplay shot with Zeiss Master Anamorphic with an incredible look and photography. 2nd and 3rd Season of HBO Latin America - "PSI" with great stories.... A job is exciting when it brings new challenges, it's enjoyable when the story is good and the crew is nice, it's different when it takes you out of your box.

    5. From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)
    I'm very proud that when I was a 2nd AC and a Video Assist Operator I could work with some of the best in Brazil. Most of  the knowledge that I carry with me today I've learned with those guys... I'm very thankful to them... The wisest think to do is to pick the best of each one. But... I have to make a special thanks to my dear friend Fernando "Menudo". We've worked together for 10 years. Fernando is one of the most experienced 1st Ac's in Brazil. He's focus pulling since 1987. My special thanks to him! 

    6. What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?
    As Lance said above: "I need to find another passion"... Shooting mostly TV / Streaming Series one after another since 2016... sometimes I feel that I forgot to live my own life. It's kind of sad to say... But I counterbalance my set life with a very simple life. I love taking care of my kids ( I have a 15 y/o daughter and my boy is 13), taking them to school, trying to be a good dad... I have to admit that I love housekeeping. I love my cats too. I really enjoy going out with my girlfriend. São Paulo is a huge city so I really like to discover the city, discover a new restaurant... Watching movies and series, obviously. I love to visit my family in Santos which is my hometown. Oh! I have a lot of fun going with my boy to Santos Football Club matches.

    7. How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?
    I live my simple life as I mentioned above... this year I promised myself that I would spend more time with my friends and family. Being a 1st AC is a way of living so I always try to know whats new, whats around regarding equipment. I believe that the we as a species will learn a lot with the Pandemic. The world will change. It will be a new mindset. 

    8. What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

    We can learn that what we do is really important. Entertainment has never been so important. Not only because now there are many people in front of TV's, mobiles, iPad's watching stuff, but the stories that are being told in this very powerful media (streaming), can change other people's minds. Even if it's a documentary or fiction... What's told can shape people's opinion and beliefs.

    9. What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?
    Be the leader of your crew even outside the job. Call them. Ask if they need something. Ask if their families are doing fine, if everyone is safe. I remember i was told once...: "A 1st AC only have another 1st AC to understand him / her". We can change this to: "a film crew member only have another film crew member to understand him/her". Sure we have our families and friends but only people in the Industry will understand how is to be a freelancer and be sad not only because of the lack of money or the lack of jobs....but being sad to be away for so many time from the job that we love to do. 

       10. What is your SSSP (soft-skill super power) which makes you a focus puller ?
    I love focus pulling. I'll say it again: "I LOVE FOCUS PULLING".  I remember one day as a 2nd AC I thought that I could never be a Focus Puller... I thought that it was impossible for me... That said, I would divide the SSSP in two: My soft skill Is how I guide my crew to make the job flow easily. Each job has its characteristics. Different directors, different DP's, different producers. Sometimes beach, sometimes urban, sometimes jungle, interior, exterior.... big money, short money, etc... My "super power" (based on what people tell me) : is the timing and the refinement in rack focusing. I really believe that good rack focusing is essential in telling stories. 

    Thanks a lot for having this place to share experiences. Good to know from all the colleagues around the world. Focus pulling is like Music. It's an Universal Language. Hope you get through this sad moment of mankind with good health. Protect your self and your beloved ones. Peace! 


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    Clemens Hönig

    --Clemens Hönig--

    1001133
    | 5 5 7
    Vienna, Austria
    --Clemens Hönig--

    Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

    Clemens Hönig
    On 3/25/20, 10:15 AM

    Thank you Rafael! It is great to see, that everyone shares the same passion! Stay safe and take care of your family and reach out to your colleagues and friends!


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    1
    RAFAEL FARINAS
    On 3/26/20, 4:13 AM

    Congratulations for this great idea of bringing all together!


    Your Reply


    2
    Matt
    On 3/23/20, 9:37 PM

    Hey, I'm Matt and I'm based in Portland, Oregon. I've been in the industry since 2006 but started working camera department in 2009. I rather quickly made the jump to 1st and have been doing it ever since.


    • How did you become a 1st AC? 

      One of my early mentors in Portland, who was hiring me as a 2nd, kind of threw me in the deep end for a job I didn't think I was ready for, but he did. Luckily, I think he was right and knew the DP would help me find my feet as well. I started Focus Pulling here and there around 2010 and then moved into it full time around 2013 or 2014. I was fortunate to have several small production companies utilize me as their go-to AC and allowed me to learn a lot in the field rather quickly. 


    • What do you love most about your job?

      I love the collaboration between myself and the DP / Operator. Especially when they trust me to pull on instinct. It allows for myself to feel like I'm part of the creativity of the shot and breathe life into the image by directing the audience focus. I also love building the cameras. 


    • What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?

      I think it would be doing TV or Features with the people I've grown close to over the years, DP's I've had a blast working with who have put their trust in me for commercial work. I'd love to move up to TV and Features with them. To expand on this though, I'd also love to be able to do some really long shots (ie: Episode 6 in Haunting of Hill House is mostly 5 long takes or Deakins' 1917). The coordination and teamwork required to achieve what they did would be really challenging but really exciting, I think.


    • What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

      This is tough. I am still on a bit of a high from my first Feature as a 1st, which wrapped late last month. I am used to the hustle and flow of commercial world, which in the PNW, rarely gives the budget for a 2nd AC - and sometimes I'm both the 1st and the Gimbal Tech - so being on a Feature with a 1st I look up to and respect as the DP (His first as DP) was really fascinating. I learned a lot and I think honed some skills that commercials I've worked make it tough to really focus on (like getting actual marks, not just using my laser measure 5 seconds before we roll again). I learned a lot from him and had a lot of freedom to run the department and pull from instinct. 

       

      I think in hindsight, my most enjoyable job was actually one of those tough commercial jobs. I was 1st for a DP I love working with, and one of my first big gigs as his 1st - so I really wanted to prove myself. We had 2 cameras but 3 different setups that all were happening quickly - Handheld, MoVi and Hydroflex. B Cam lived in the Hydroflex with a tech who jumped in and helped 2nd for me as well. A Cam moved between Handheld and MoVi. We had a bunch of difficult shots to do as well on MoVi so it was really stretching me. At the time, I had no idea how I was doing, and honestly felt I was really shooting myself in the foot. I later heard from some friends that behind the scenes, the DP, Producers and Directors were remarking on how solid a job I had done. Hearing that boosted my confidence a lot and made me a lot more comfortable for bigger jobs to come. That DP now calls me on as his 1st all the time, which was a massive goal of mine to achieve. 


    • From whom have you learned the most, and why? (In regards to focus pulling)

      I think I'm constantly learning from so many great AC's and DP's around me, including so many of you online, as well as from the incredible crew at Koerner Camera PDX - but if I had to choose - 2 Portland AC's in particular really took me under their wings early on (one mentioned above) that both saw I was ready to move up before I felt ready and gave me the opportunities and advice to be successful as a 1st. One other person, was an LA 1st - Joe - who worked on a lot of HBO shows and movies I really enjoyed - we worked on a bunch of travel commercials together that I was Gimbal Tech / B-Cam 1st. He started mentoring me right away, helping me break away from bad habits and really focus on being a solid 1st.


    • What is your second passion, or counterbalance to Focus Pulling?

      I don't know if I could pin-point one but I do enjoy Photography, Music and Cooking.


    • How do you keep in spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?

      I spend a lot of my free days at Koerner Camera doing build tests or trying to learn from the many talented techs there. I also try to keep my finances in check, to make sure nothing is getting dangerously low. Still trying to figure out how to stay in spirits during Corona. I've signed up for some volunteer positions to help in my community that I'm waiting to hear back on so hopefully those come through soon.


    • What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

      I think this is a great question and I'm not entirely sure. For myself, I've found joining Local600 to be really difficult and confusing, with extraordinarily bad communication on their part (took 2 months to even hear back from a single person after a lot of calling and emailing). I'd hope the union sees the needs and really makes it a lot more straight forward to join, as well as fighting for us in these moments. 


    • What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

      Stay humble. Mistakes happen, don't get cocky and think you have learned enough. Let's always push each other to be better, both at our jobs and to each other. We are a family and I hope we would look out for one another. I'm sad to see above that Chris has struggled with bullying on set. Don't be afraid to protect the crew around you. Let's have each others backs and support one another.


    • What is your "SSSP" (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?

      I honestly don't know. My willingness to learn or acknowledge my mistakes? I try to make sure my team feels supported and that everything has been handled so all they have to do is mount up and compose the shot. I also try to be really positive, even when I'm stressed out. On the recent feature, I wore this silly Elf hat during our Christmas scenes at the producers request. I was the only one to do so but it seemed to help crew morale and I was okay with people giggling at how silly it was, even if it made someone smile just a little bit that's having a rough day. 


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    Clemens Hönig

    --Clemens Hönig--

    1001133
    | 5 5 7
    Vienna, Austria
    --Clemens Hönig--

    Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

    Clemens Hönig
    On 3/25/20, 10:22 AM

    Hi Matt, Thanks for the interview. Great to see, that you are trying to help the local community during this down-time! Stay safe and in focus!


    Your Reply


    2
    1. How did you become a 1st AC?.
      After 10 years or so in the photography industry I applied for the trainee program in the local Union. Moved as a second AC to finally figure that 1st AC would be my dream job.

    2. What do you love most about your job?
      Technical aspect of the job and being part of a team. Forming relationships with each departments is both a necessity and one of the most joyful part of my job.

    3. What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?
      Good scenario/ amazing team/ big budget.

    4. What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?
      Usually the IATSE gigs are the most enjoyable/challenging jobs for me. The crew is amazing and you want to be as great as everyone around you. To feel the passion around you is always a great motivation.

    5. From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)
      I am lucky enough to be supported by the "older" ACs around me. Both 1st and 2nd ACs are tight knitted in here and I can't count the number of hours spent on the phone receiving/giving tips and tricks about the job. 

    6. What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?
      Started yoga couple months ago to work on my posture and my mind. 

    7. How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?
      Water will flow under the bridge and things will be back to normal if we all put effort into fighting against the virus. We should all take that time off to reflect on ourselves, socialize and learn new skills.

    8. What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?
      Without any form of culture people would be freaking out right now in their homes. Do you know anybody who havent watch a movie or listen to music since the last 6 days? Our job is a necessity, not just a luxury.

    9. What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?
      Even if we're all in a quarantine I feel like everybody is getting closer at the moment. I think it is beautiful to see. 

    10. What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?
      I take care of people around as I expect from them to do the same for me. I strongly believe that we win as a team and lose as a team. Got told by too many people that i'm the most stoical person on set. I will take that as a Super-Power

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    Clemens Hönig

    --Clemens Hönig--

    1001133
    | 5 5 7
    Vienna, Austria
    --Clemens Hönig--

    Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

    Clemens Hönig
    On 3/26/20, 7:45 AM

    Hey Charles, Many thanks for your interview. It's important to focus on the positive effects these days! Keep in focus!


    Your Reply


    2
    Lance
    On 3/23/20, 3:19 PM
    1. How did you become a 1st AC?

      In college, I worked on short films with classmates nearly every couple of weeks. We called them "Light Clubs." We would create, experiment and learn about the different departments/positions on set. One day, I was asked to pull focus by a friend that had spent some time on more legitimate productions as an intern. I pulled off the barrel of the fixed-lensed Panasonic HVX-200, ha! After that, a couple of years went by and I graduated and ended up on my first couple of features, as a camera dept. intern. Learned a ton. Once on my own, I had to make it in the world so I found that becoming an AC (something not too common at the time in Grand Rapids, MI) was an advantageous move. I would work my way up!

    2. What do you love most about your job?

      I love that it doesn't feel like a job, but more a career; a way of living. I still can't believe I get paid to do something I enjoy. I cannot imagine a healthier way to "work."

    3. What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?

      A dream job would probably be to work on a highly acclaimed TV show or a movie. Something like Breaking Bad, The Marvelous Mrs. Maziel, Mindhunter, Stranger Things, etc. There are a plethora of different directions that could go. This also includes proper budgeting! Sadly, the most popular and well-received film I've worked on I was as a 2nd AC on for part of it, not a 1st. It was a little A24 film called The End of the Tour. 

    4. What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

      I'm not sure I could find just one, because there are several for varying reasons. I worked on a Toyota Supra spot last year in the Kagel Canyon area outside of LA that was nearly all arm car, which I've done many times, but this was just so damn fun because it was higher intensity. The whole production was done very well and the crew was amazing. 

    5. From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards to focus pulling)

      I think I have learned the most from mentors in my home city/state, Lon Stratton at Stratton Camera, and honestly, the internet. Back when Evan Luzi was doing The Black and Blue, I was right there with him at the same point early in our careers. It's also surprising how much you can learn by watching ACs in BTS footage from various productions.

    6. What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?

      I really need another passion, ha! I've always had my career also be my hobby, doing things on the side to improve and make you better. Coming up with solutions that you don't have the time to employ while on the set. To me, it was that type of desire and dedication that made for good ACs. I knew of many people that called themselves an AC, but it was just for a paycheck. They never thought about it much off the set. 
      However, having gotten married, I really enjoy cooking with my wife. We are always trying new recipes and now I'm becoming addicted to creating good food and watching cooking shows like Chef. 

    7. How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?

      Right now, since it's so new, I'm just not sure how to deal with it. I've had no jobs last up to a month before so I don't think it'll hit home until then. However, I didn't have to also quarantine myself...

    8. What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

      This is a great question. Perhaps we will become more mindful of where we invest or save our money, in case such an occurrence returns one day. I'll think more about this but that's the first thing that comes to mind at this time. 

    9. What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

      I have always low-key panicked every new year as it is traditionally rather slow the first couple of months in the new year (at least in Michigan). I always struggled to go from tons of work all the way into December, to then love the Holidays and time off, to then nothing, or next to nothing. Every year it's a weird transition, yet it always remedies itself and before I know it, I'm quite busy. This year I somehow let that go more than before and then once again, I was working. This too shall pass. We just need patience and understanding. The work will return, and it may even be too much work because of lost time. 

    10. What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?

      I think it's just how I've learned to pull by eye a lot. I'll always fight for reference marks, but I have gotten pretty streamlined at pulling on the fly. I've learned the way a lens works and can feel based on my hand placement on the knob when to start ramping based on the distance to the subject as it changes. I also get a lot of enjoyment for clean camera builds and general organization. It's going the extra mile and making for higher efficiency. 

    Your Reply

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    Clemens Hönig

    --Clemens Hönig--

    1001133
    | 5 5 7
    Vienna, Austria
    --Clemens Hönig--

    Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

    Clemens Hönig
    On 3/25/20, 8:58 AM

    Thanks for sharing your story Lance! I think everyone has learned a lot from Evan Luzi. It was a great blog. Hope this forum will help other ACs, just the same way as The Black and Blue did.


    Your Reply


    2
    Schane Godon
    On 3/23/20, 3:41 PM

    1.  I was a camera trainee working on commercials.  A few of the assistants picked up on my interest in camera and taught me how to load.  The skills evolved from there, I went from loader to 2nd mostly on commercials at first, then eventually I got pulled into long format.  I worked as a 2nd for 7 or so years, around then several Dp's and operators started to request I come out as a 1st...  I bumped up to Focus puller in the early 2000's and I've been loving it ever since.

    2.  I love Storytelling.  The collaboration required by all the talented folks not just on set, but on the whole production to make a "Shot"happen...  When all of that hard work comes to fruition and a wonderful moment is captured it's simply the nicest accomplishment. 

    3.  I feel like I've had my dream 1'st AC job already.  When I look back on all of the projects and folks I've had to great pleasure to work with I consider myself very fortunate.  Working with everything from a BL4 or a Panaflex G2 in the early Film days all the way up to Mini LF's and Monstro's more recently (and everything in-between), I realize the dream for me is a scenario where I have to use my skills and experience to adapt, as every project is different.

    4.  So many enjoyable jobs...  I'd have to say working on "Heartland" the TV series is one of the best gigs.  Working at home in the foothills of Alberta every summer for the last 13 years (and still going) is pretty tough to beat.  A crew of talented professional folks I call friends to hang out with every day on set is a luxury everyone should have.

    5.  I was fortunate to learn about story and timing from a wonderful camera operator who's now a Producer/Director named Dean Bennett.  Back in a time (that I miss) when, I pulled focus off the camera and the Op and 1st were joined at the hip, we whispered ourselves through many a shot.  The collaboration and teamwork to elegantly tell the story is something I learned from Dean that hopefully I can pass on to others.

    6.  I know this is nerdy but my second passion is collecting investment grade comic's.  I believe my love of storytelling came from my love of comics as a kid. 

    7.  Using time off to try and learn is something that's always a pleasure.  Weather its reading up on the latest Tech, or catching up on those movies or shows people say you "need to see" I value the time to do so.

    8.  Working in this industry in a strange way prepares us for uncertain times.  The reliability of this industry can be volatile and those who've been making a living at it for a long time have learned to be prepared.  This should indeed cement that preparedness into a routine that will help navigate all uncertainties.

    9.  As I said before working in this business we are used to the lulls in schedules.  Use your time to support friends who may be having a tougher time dealing with the situation if you can.  Also as an artist be proud that watching our work certainly helps most folks out as there's a lot of content being watched, haha!  And I also agree that once this is over there will be a surge of work.

    10.  My skill is shutting the fuck up and listening.  Its amazing how far that will get ya ;)


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    Clemens Hönig

    --Clemens Hönig--

    1001133
    | 5 5 7
    Vienna, Austria
    --Clemens Hönig--

    Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

    Clemens Hönig
    On 3/25/20, 8:50 AM

    Many thanks Shane! Great to have you on the forum! Keep your passion!


    Your Reply


    1
    Roeland Bentvelzen
    On 4/2/20, 8:36 AM

    Hi All, I'm Roeland Bentvelzen. Pulling Focus from 2006 or 2013 (read answer #1) in The Netherlands and where it takes me.

            1. How did you become a 1st AC?


            After film school I had great interest in (learning about) lighting (practically). So my first years on set were filled with 
            electrical/lighting department jobs. Still thankful for the experience. Somewhere at the start of those years I also did a little 2nd AC-ing and I actually learned Focuspulling from the 1st AC's there and then. This was around 2005.
            But after a few years I pursuit camerawork which took me to corporate work mostly. 
            Corporate work can be adventurous aswell, it took me from Curacao to Tokio, but after a while I missed the way we work on set. I really believe in the system we have created and everywhere you work on a project that is not using the full crew system you can easily point out what's missing to make the production go better.
            So I needed to get back to the set. After contacting a few DP's, I got back working on the set Pulling Focus.

            2. What do you love most about your job?

            There is a lot to love working as a 1st AC. You get front row to all the action. But also you get to be close to all the main communication on set. 
            I love investing in my own gear making my work easier or my day on set more fun. I love the teamwork.
            The places we work that a "normal person" would never get access to.
            There's so much.


            3. What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?

            Hard question. I guess maximum adventure and the best scripted feature film but in combination with good working conditions.

            4. What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it? 

            The Baileys commercial in Turkey where ice-mixed Baileys where produced (pack shot) for so much takes that the director started drinking.. soon after we all did. Blue ocean bay, white sandy beach, sunny hot setting, you get it ;).

            5. From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)

            This can only be the first person you learn about pulling focus from. In my case that's Steven van Beek, Dutch focus puller. 

            6. What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?

            I love to run and workout. After a few marathons I now enjoy trail running. Not really a counterbalance, but I love pursuing my cinematographer carrier. 

            7. How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?

            Taking care of yourself the best way possible. Eat healthy and getting to rest a bit, you don't get the chance to rest a bit like this when it's done. Still.. since daycare closed I got to take care of my son (almost 3 years) all day every day. He's wearing me out ;P 

            8. What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

            How much we love our work if we would have forgotten. 

            9. What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

            I built up a "movie set" with the gear I own and played "movie set" with my son. We're gonna do that some more. I love holding all that stuff in my hands, putting it together, organising is the way "it should be". Teaching my son some new words like grit cloth, it's so much fun hearing him pronounce that.

            10. What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller? 

            Positive motivation. Be kind to all. Take time to help or teach your 2nd AC if he/she needs help.

            Your Reply


            1
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            Vince

            --Vince--
            --Vince--

            A focus-puller is the eyes of the audience. It's like telling a story without any words.

            Vince
            On 3/30/20, 11:54 AM

            Hi I'm Vincent, freelance focus-puller/1st AC based in Belgium.

            1. How did you become a 1st AC?
            I started as a 2nd AC a long side Frederic Van Zandycke when he was a focus-puller.
            Afterwards I did some DIT jobs on feature films, because I wanted to expand my knowledge in every aspect of the camera-departement. Several years as a 2nd AC I felt it was time to pursue my dream-job: focus-pulling. At this moment I'm pulling focus professionally for 7 years.

            2. What do you love most about your job?


            Maintaining sharpness and non-sharpness. Trying to feel what the audience is willing to see. Also the technical part of the job as building camera set-up's and inventing new stuff before and during shoots. 

            3. What would be your dream 1st AC job and why

            A memorable feature-film or tv-show that people will remember for a long time.

            4. What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

            I remember shooting "Als De Dijken Breken" a big budget Belgian/Netherlands tv-show. I stood aside the legendary focus-puller Didier Frateur. The shoot was almost entirely shot on the first Movi M15's in the most demanding conditions possible: rain-makers, wind-makers nearly every day. Keeping everything dry and up and running was a difficult task to maintain as we didn't know a lot how the Movi would react in certain conditions. I've learned so much from Didier, as he is a true artist and technician who has a very big knowledge due to his massive experience.

            5.From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)

            One guy: Didier Frateur. He is the most calm person you'll see on set, yet his skills are impeccable. 

            6. What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?
            I really love taking( black and white) pictures. My father was a photographer and I had a dark-room in my basement when I was younger. It keeps me creative and technical at the same time. Also playing the guitar keeps my mind fresh.

            7. How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?

            Re-organise my gear and do the things you wouldn't have the time for anyway. In my case it's finally cleaning my home and preparing to move out soon. Also BBQ-times!

            8. What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

            It's nice to see how bonded we are together and how we need each other to stay alive in this industry.

            It would be great if we could stay connected, even when this is situation has ended.

            9. What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

            Relax. It's a good time to reflect.

            10. What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?

            Stay calm and LISTEN to people. Don't feel like a superhuman who is invincible. Making mistakes is human. Be kind and even in the most stressful situations: smile!


            Your Reply


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            Carlos Cañal

            --Carlos Cañal--
            --Carlos Cañal--

            My name is Carlos Cañal and I am a Spanish focus puller working in the camera department since I am 19 years old.  I do mainly national and international features films and commercials.  I love to travel, get to know other people, cultures and of course colleagues from around the world.

            I am a very happy owner of a cPRO LCS too !!

             🎥😊

            Carlos Cañal
            On 3/27/20, 11:28 AM

            Hi everyone!

             

            How did you become a 1st AC? 

            I started to work in the industry in 2002.  I have done all the steps in the camera department.  When you do follow this path and you like to pull focus it becomes natural to step up at some point.  When you do a lot 2nd ACing you start to know well focus pulling craft, because at some point you know very well what the focus puller needs in term of markings, rehearsals and how to help him or her.  And even more important you understand better film politics and how to manage the department.  You can get the best of all great 1st ACs you have work with and add your personal touch to it.

             

            What do you love most about your job?

            I think the amazing people I have met all these years.  We are so lucky that we love what we do and we can make a life out of it.

             

            What would be your dream 1st AC job and why? 

            Sometimes I am watching an amazing film and I dreamed of being part of it, but to me its not only about the end result anymore.  The process and the work environment is very important to me as well.  We spend so many hours working and when I really enjoy the process and the end result is great, that is my dream job.

             

            What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

            10 years ago I shot a film with one of my favourite Spanish director.  We shot S35 anamorphic and we were 25 people including actors (the script was perfect to do it with such a small crew).  The director is amazing working with actors and the filming process was so intimate and pure… I won´t never forget.

             

            From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling).

            I have been so lucky to work with lots of great 1st ACs and also was trained in the old school way.  So I got from all of them!

             

            What is your second passion, or counterballance to focuspulling?

            Family and friends time, travel, eat, drink, sleep… :=)

            How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?

            I think the main thing I learned (Im still trying to better at it) is energy management.  When you are in a job (specially long form projects) your level of energy has to be very high.  Once I finish I need to recover and disconect and sometimes it takes long because you end up exhausted.  Within the years, I need less and less time to do it and can concentrate faster in other aspects of life. 

            About Corona: I had only two weeks left to finish a feature when production had to cancel it due the Covid-19.  I think It is gonna be an amazing film and now I am very relaxed enjoying this time with my family knowing that when the normal life comes back I will go back to finish that great Project.

             

            What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

            Now worldwide there are 2000 million people confined at their houses, sadly not all of them have access to computers, TVs and the net. These days our industry is helping a lot to the ones they have access to forget for a while about this huge drama and help to have our minds distracted and entertained.

             

            What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?  I just want to thank so much everyone that joined and contribute to this fórum, we are already a LOT of 1st AC from everywhere and this is already the best source of knowledge for us.  This forum connect us, the colleagues that like to share knowledge, that want our craft to be further developed.  THANKS!

             

            What is your ¨SSSP¨, which makes you a focus puller?

            Perseverance.


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            Clemens Hönig

            --Clemens Hönig--

            1001133
            | 5 5 7
            Vienna, Austria
            --Clemens Hönig--

            Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

            Clemens Hönig
            On 3/31/20, 7:36 AM

            Thank you Carlos. Stay safe and enjoy the time with your family during the lock-down!


            Your Reply


            1
            Jesper Rey
            On 3/25/20, 3:14 PM

            Hi all! My name is Jesper Rey, I'm from Belgium. I have been pulling focus professionally for 1,5 years.


            - How did you become a 1st AC?

            I went to film school for 3 years in Brussels. During that time I worked as an grip intern on the side. That’s when I met Vincent Segers also a Belgian focus puller who is very active on this forum. He took me along on my first non-student project as a video assistant, later as a 2nd AC. After film school I was fortunate enough to work as a 3rd and 2nd AC almost full time doing commercial work but mostly tv drama series, most of the time with Vincent.
            1,5 years ago I took the jump to full time focus puller and never looked back.


            - What do you love most about your job?


            I love the technical aspect of the job. I always look forward to a test day where I get to build up the camera, talk to the people at the rental houses about gear, testing out new stuff, …
            Being a 1st AC is a job that requires a lot of technical knowhow but you get to be creative at the same time, I like that a lot.


            - What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?

            My dream 1st AC job would be a feature film where every aspect lines up correctly: good pay, great other crew members, nice story, my favourite actors, …


            - What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

            Last summer I worked on a documentary series. We were a small crew consisting of only 5 people: producer, director, DP, focus puller, and sound engineer. We were shooting in another city every three days: NYC, Tokyo, London, … I didn’t know any of the other crew members at first but after a few days we became lifelong friends. The “borders” between our departments faded away. Long story short: I got to travel the world with 5 of my best friends doing what I love the most: focus pulling.


            - From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)

            I would say Vincent has taught me a lot about being a 1st AC. He also gave me insider tips and tricks on the focus pulling aspect of the job like how to measure distances properly etc.
            In my opinion the actual act of pulling focus is something that can’t be taught. It’s one of those thing you can only learn by doing it.


            - What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?

            Like many of us I think, I dabble in photography. But to really say it’s my second passion would be a stretch. When I have some time off, I like to tinker with my old motorcycle.


            - How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?

            I don’t really hate sitting at home that much. Don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer if we were all occupied with jobs all of the time but that just isn’t the case.


            - What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

            Family and friends are very important.


            - What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

            This is temporary. It may take a while but it is limited in time. Look out for each other but most importantly look out for yourself. We will get through this.



            - What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?

            I learned to keep my mouth shut on set. Only speak when you’re meant to. I also try to keep a calm and “zen” vibe in the camera department.


            Your Reply

            1
            Avatar

            Clemens Hönig

            --Clemens Hönig--

            1001133
            | 5 5 7
            Vienna, Austria
            --Clemens Hönig--

            Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

            Clemens Hönig
            On 3/26/20, 7:56 AM

            Hey Jesper,

            Great to have you here! Stay safe and healthy and you will be back pulling focus in no time.


            Your Reply


            1
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            Fabio

            --Fabio--
            101033
            | 4 4 6
            Madrid , Spain
            --Fabio--

            Started out as a focus puller 8 years ago, I shot movies and commercials in Italy, Spain, Turkey, Uk, Bulgaria, Morocco and USA. Love everything camera related, gear porn and sharp lenses. Sharpness is not debatable.

            Fabio
            On 3/26/20, 4:06 PM

            1.    How did you became a 1st AC?

            When in film school, I was studying cinematography and in the beginning I wanted to be, of course, a DoP. But I was lucky enough to have an excellent teacher that was a 1st AC and used to teach us about the cameras, lenses and so on. With him I found out that the most interesting part to me was precisely the camera gear, so I started to try get in every shooting I could as camera trainee. And one day, literally out of the blue and when I wasn’t experienced at all, I got the typical offer you can’t refuse from an Italian (of course) very important DoP. I gave me the opportunity to pull focus on the B cam of a feature he was going to shoot. It was hard and fast learning but I came out of that alive and relatively well.

            2.    What do you love most about your job?

            I started out in the film/commercial industry    as a PA, so in the beginning I found myself a lot in that typical situation of a complicate shot where the 1st AD says “Ok guys, every person that is not absolutely necessary for this shot has to leave the set. NOW” I was the first to leave. Now I’m the one who press the red button, so I’m always as close as possible to the action, and that is definitely what I like the most about my job.


            3.    What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?

            I would really like to be in one of those period big blockbusters that you shoot during several months in different parts of the world. Last month I was in Morocco shooting an international tv show about the crusades and it was a lot of fun, but just for weeks. I like very much to travel with my job, get to know people and places I normally wouldn’t. And I find period movies very enjoyable because you see stuff that you normally don’t see in other kind of productions. Also, you get to learn a lot of interesting stuff about the time you are shooting in.


            4.    What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

            I’d say it was last year, when I got the chance to work with a foreign director whom I was a big fan of. The best thing about the job was that everything was very high level (actors, script etc) and the director gave a very big importance to the focus, the speed of the racks and stuff like that to enhance the narrative. You can immagine I was under a big deal of pressure, but at the same time the job was so fulfilling and at the end of it I got the congratulation of the director. Coming from a guy like him, who had worked in amazing productions was the best compliment ever.


            5.    From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)

            I would say that the person I learned the most from is the cam op of the first feature I did as focus puller. I was a very young and unexperienced AC, while he was cam op since a couple of years but before that he had been 1st AC for something like 15 years and I spent 8 weeks having him almost as a personal trainer. I remember thinking every day at wrap “Am I really getting payed for this??”. I owe him a lot.


            6.    What is your second passion, or counter balance to focus pulling?

            As strange as it may sound for a person that lives 600 km away from the nearest beach, my second passion is surfing and I think is the perfect counter balance to focus pulling: you are mostly on your own (so it’s not team work as in the film industry), is pretty relaxed and helps you connect with the nature and disconnect from everything else, specially stress, crowd and tight schedules.


            7.    How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job. now, before and after corona?

            Corona virus as put ourselves and the entire industry in a very strange and unexpected situation. Since we can’t change the things globally, I think we have to focus on improve our skills and try to be a better professional when we get back to business. Actually, I’m convinced that a great deal of how good you are at focus pulling depends on how many days per year you spend working, which in a way is practicing. Now, it doesn’t matter whether you are a first class AC or you are just starting. Maybe for the first time, literally everybody has stopped so you have some time to dramatically improve your skills. Immagine this like a car race. Perfect your engine, brakes wheels and everything else while everybody is stopped, so when the race is back on you will be more competitive. Also, there are quite a few things I want to do with my gear (cleaning, organizing etc.). I've been quite non-stop last months and I used to think "When I have a break, I'm going to do this or that" Now is the perfect time!


            8.    What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

            I’m not sure globally, but as for Spanish industry (both film and commercial) I think that there’s a big lesson to learn from this situation. I use to feel that every production was very fragile, doing everything at the last moment and not taking in account unforeseen problems or issues that may come up, so whenever an unexpected situation happened it was tragic. From all this we should learn to be prepared when things go wrong, always have a B plan and not to bet everything just on one horse, I hope you follow me.


            9.    What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

            The experience I would like to share is not film related but to me it was very inspiring. I was talking on Skype with a friend who is older than me and when we were saying goodbye to each other I asked him if he was good. He said “Yes, I’m actually happy, because we are one less day away for this shit to end”. That made my day.


            10.    What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?

            As far as I’ve been told, I pretty much feel the shoot, meaning that I am usually right about the moment of a focus rack and the speed of it. It doesn’t always work, but I’m working off my ass to make it perfect!


            Your Reply


            1
            Philipp Uhl
            On 3/26/20, 4:20 PM

            Hi!

            With about 4 years of working as a 1st AC now, I'm relatively new to the Job compared to most of the others here, but I'll share my answers with you anyway:


            How did you become a 1st AC?
            I was into filmmaking as a hobby together with my brother when we were kids, and it all evolved from there. First I wanted to become a DP, but when I got the chance to be 2nd AC on a 10-day shoot on the Alexa Classic, I found out that the technical side of camera is even more fun to me, and that I was way better at ACing than at trying to be a DP. After that I did a lot of AC stuff for low budget music videos and student films, where I started to pull focus as well. 
            At that same time I started to work at a local camera rental house, where I got to know a lot of awesome people and learned a lot about camera equipment.

            Then it all went really fast from there and soon I found myself pulling focus on big commercials. So beside the few times when I worked as a 2nd AC, I didn't go the "traditional" way of camera trainee -> video operator -> 2nd AC -> 1st AC.

            What do you love most about your job?

            I really like working in a team with great people around me to accomplish something together. I like it when the result of a shoot looks really great and you can be proud of being a part of the crew that was behind that.

            Also, I enjoy the technical side of the job a lot and building and perfecting camera setups can be a lot of fun to me.

            What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?

            I would really like to get into feature films at some point and stop doing that many commercials for a lot of reasons. To shoot a nice feature with a great story (that I would want to watch in the cinema with friends anyway) and together with the people I enjoy working with most would be perfect.

            What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

            That's a hard one... I have a lot of shoots that I enjoyed for various reasons like working with a great crew, getting a nice result, an experience where I learned something important, an especially tricky shot that I was able to pull off or some fun equipment I got to use...

            For some reason, a lot of times many of these come together with music video shoots, I really love doing music videos!

            From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)

            As I wrote above, I didn't really go the traditional way up from 2nd to 1st AC, so I had only few occasions on which I was working under another 1st AC, being able to watch him/her pulling focus, so I learned a lot just by doing it myself. Back when I pulled focus on unpaid music videos and student films while working at the rental house, I bought the DJI Focus to get used to have a wireless focus control for focuspulling, even on all those small shoots where there wouldn't be the budget to rent one.

            I also learned a lot by exchanging experience and knowledge with my rental collegues, because most of them worked on set as freelancers beside the rental work as well, and additionally online resources like theblackandblue, some AC-specific facebook groups and this forum here helped a lot.

            What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?

            I would like to answer this question with "music!", but unfortunately I had to give up on that hobby because I just didn't find the time for it anymore. I played saxophone for more than 10 years and was in a Bigband, and that is something I really really miss. The sad thing is that I couldn't think of any other, non-job-related passion right now...

            How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?

            Before corona I honestly had rarely the situation that I was out of a job for any longer period, so sitting at home for weeks and maybe months to come is a bit of a weird situation for me, but I can enjoy it. I try to fill the time with something useful, and started to practice to get better at soldering and doing a few electronics/robotics online courses now, which is a lot of fun and I think will be helpful knowledge at some point.

            What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

            I hope that this situation makes the local organisations that are comparable to a worker's union stronger, because at the moment here in Austria we don't have anything that's as strong as the IATSE or even comparable.

            What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

            Try to make the best out of this forced downtime, do something you had no time for before and enjoy the pause. Most of us are working way too much anyway ;)

            What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?

            I find it hard to know this about myself, but I got told by others a number of times that I'm a good problem-solver, especially when it comes to rigging camera equipment... Also in this regard I'm similar to Mitch as I also try to have my kit comprehensive and versatile, making it possible for me to react to any situation on set.


            Your Reply


            1
            Mohd Abudin Abdullah
            On 3/23/20, 5:12 PM

            Hi everyone. My name is Abudin, friends call me Din. I am a focus puller based in Malaysia. I don’t remember the last time I received a newsletter from this site, assuming the one I received regarding this post is the first ever, i thought why not share my story. It’s not like i have any actors mannerisms that i have to study. Right, here it goes.

            1. How did you become a 1st AC ?

            By accident to be honest. I was a 2nd On a feature job a few years back, 2011 i think. At the time, not even once have i ever focus pulled not even for an insert. So one fine evening, we were at the end of a 14 hour day, the 1st AC went to the toilet, he had a stomach flu or something and we were down to the last hour of the day and we were on a time constraint situation, and so the Director, DP and Camera operator were discussing over the fact and i was manning the camera as usual. You can probably guess what happens next right. So there i am first time on the knob, wondering what the hell im doing, 85mm at T2 Arriflex 435 all the cast were 15 feet away from camera, sweating like i had just got out of the pool, AD calls it out, rolled it, action and cut. Im pretty sure i was holding my breath throughout the whole take. 2 takes later the AD comes up to me, he says, “are you alright” i said “yes” he said “check the gate”, checked it, all good, told the AD and the rest was history. We wrapped right after that shot. The rushes came back 2 days later. They saw it, DP came to me straight after, pats me on the back, tells me i did a good job and after that the DP would occasionally ask me to pull focus just for fun and that was how it all began. My take away from this that I believe would be helpful to anyone aspired to become a focus puller is that, It really helps when you really understand the whole process to hit marks, not just technically, but mentally.


            2. What do you love most about your job ?

            I love the challenges. Sometimes it’s not something you’ve never seen before or experienced but i always like to treat every situation as if im seeing it for the first time. I always bring the same camera team with me if i can and i strongly believe that My 2nd contributes at least 60%  of success rate at my focus pulling if not more. And of course because we’ve become close friends over the years, every job we got on is an adventure. 


            3. What would be your dream 1stAC job and why ?

            Well i have been looking for opportunities to work in different countries. No success there, yet. Why ? To be honest, it’s not the best time to be a filmmaker in Malaysia. Sad but true.


            4. What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever been on and what was so different about it ?

            As long as it’s a narrative.


            5. From whom have you learned the most and why ?

            In terms of focus pulling, i have to say, over the years, i’ve picked up a lot here and there. And most of it came from observing how people work. How an actor moves and knowing the story really helps to anticipate movements. And watching a lot of movies helps too. My father used to be a focus puller, now DP, he has never once shared his secrets to focus pulling. If he hired me as a focus puller, he would never give me any pointers, all he does is grunt and rolled his eyes if i’d missed a mark. But that really became a driving force for me to really find a way that works. And I wouldn’t be who i am today if not for him. 


            6. What is your second passion or counter balance to focus pulling ?

            I was a photographer before i got into the film industry, i still am but just as a hobby now. I play music and i also write poetries. But i am an aspiring DP. 


            7. How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job ?Now, before and after corona ?

            I consider time off from work a blessing, with the Pandemic is a misfortune but it is also a time to reflect and learn more about what’s around you and about yourself as a person.


            8. What can we as a movie industry learn from the current situation in a good way ?

            Be more forgiving. Everywhere in the world we are told to distance ourselves from everyone we know regardless of who you are, because there’s a risk that you might be carrying the virus. If you really look, everyday our livelihoods are being threatened by our governments by the virus and by everyone around us. We’re not self sufficient. Whoever believes that is kidding themselves. Today you’re depending on everyone to do their part. How do they look at you and not think you’re a risk to their welcome.


            9. What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit ?

            Roughly 4 years ago, in Malaysia, we were hit by the news of an embezzlement of funds by someone really high in the government, the prime minister himself actually. And a really heavy toll was being put upon each Malaysian to the fact. It effected the way we spend our money, it effected our wages and even the amount of jobs in a year. There were more filmmakers in Malaysia than there were jobs to hire them for. A handful of my friends in the industry had to switch careers because of it. I stayed, I could’ve easily followed right behind them but I didn’t. I didn’t worked my way up the ladder just to be taken down by temptation. My wife supports what i do. And she understands how much my work meant. To sum it up, as long as you’re not going through it alone, you’ll do fine, but if you are, know that it’s a choice you made.


            10. What is your SSSP (soft-skill super power) which makes you a focus puller ?

            Im told that I timed my focus well and some dp’s, Director’s even, has mentioned how they enjoyed listening to my insights when it comes to focus pulling. To them there is a bit of philosophy behind what we do on screen as focus pullers. It’s all technical what we do, but if applied well enough it becomes a story in itself.


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            Clemens Hönig

            --Clemens Hönig--

            1001133
            | 5 5 7
            Vienna, Austria
            --Clemens Hönig--

            Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

            Clemens Hönig
            On 3/26/20, 7:54 AM

            Hi Din,

            Thank you for sharing your story here. It is very inspiring and beautifully written. Maybe you can connect on the forum with some other ACs to do a job somewhere out of Malaysia (after the situation is back to normal). Would be awesome, if we could help you connecting to someone...


            Your Reply


            1
            Chris Steel
            On 3/23/20, 5:48 PM

            I’m Chris, I’ve been on set in one way or another since 2012. I identify as non-binary which has caused me some grief / bullying on set. There was a period where I was one person on set and an entirely different one off set for my own well being. I’m slowly learning to be the same person in both places.

            How did you become a 1st AC?
            While I was at university studying Graphic Design, I got a little set experience on my lecturers short films. I took whatever work I could get to be on set. Mostly sparking and utility AC on fashion and shorts. In 2014 I somehow landed a really low budget feature as B-Cam 1st AC. I was way out of my depth so I tried my hardest every day. After that I bounced up and down between 2nd, trainee, runner, and sparking to pay the bills. Because I had a feature credit I could get the odd low budget job as a 1st, so I took every opportunity to learn and perfect my focus pulling.

            What do you love most about your job?
            Building a team. Finding people that are really good but need a little push or a chance. I also love teaching what I’ve learned and learning from my team.

            What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?
            2nd unit on a major motion picture. All the toys and fun but not quite as much stress as the main unit.

            What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?
            I did a film called “Trick or Treat” in 2017 with the wonderful DP Maeve O’Connell. We had a great team with us and the crew really felt like family. We did a week of nights in Blackpool (north England) where we were fighting gale force hail one night and freezing lowloader drives another. It was tough, so we banded together and got through it. I can’t quite place exactly why it’s special because it all sounds so normal but that film holds a special place in my heart.

            From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)
            I’ve learnt so much from so many that it’s hard to make selections. On that feature back in 2014, Richie Simkins was on A-Cam having just moved to London from NZ. He had so much patience and time for me. When I was loading 16mm I worked with Jake McClean Walker for a day. Watching how he pulled taught me so much in so little time. I had a similar encounter with James Leckey who is incredible.

            What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?
            I try to keep active and my brain engaged. I make things and modify my equipment. I got into bouldering last year which has been great. I try and stay active withing the queer community in London, going to intersectional Burlesque shows and supporting the artists/performers where I can.

            How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?
            Usually I would get out, be active and try to network. Now I’m somewhat lost as to what to do. I’m thankful to the friends I’ve made in the industry who care for me and whom I care for. Right now the thing keeping me going is making sure they will be ok.

            What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?
            To support each other. Not see each other as competitors but as collaborators and friends.

            What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?
            Not sure how to answer this right now.

            What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?
            Keeping a level head and staying calm even during intense shots with no marks, no idea, no rehearsal, wide open, and on Steadicam. Then knowing when to step in and say when enough is enough.



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            Clemens Hönig

            --Clemens Hönig--

            1001133
            | 5 5 7
            Vienna, Austria
            --Clemens Hönig--

            Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

            Clemens Hönig
            On 3/25/20, 10:37 AM

            Hey Chris, Many thanks for your interview! Good to see, that you are keeping on the right track and be yourself! Also great, that you like to share your knowledge. thanks for your contribution to the forum!


            Your Reply


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            Aidan Gray

            --Aidan Gray--
            1304
            | 5 3 6
            Washington, DC, United States
            --Aidan Gray--

            IATSE Local 600 Camera Assistant | Washington, DC - Baltimore, MD - New York, NY

            Cmotion cPro System Owner | 1x cPro FIZ Hand Unit, 1x cPro ONE Hand Unit, 1x cPro Camin1x cPro Motor, 2x cForce Mini Motors

            Cmotion SteadyZoom

            Cmotion CineFade

            OTHER | Technovision MK3 Mitchell Geared Head, Magliner Junior Camera Cart, Yaeger Pro Senior Camera Cart, Teradek Bolt 1000XT 1:1, Teradek SidekickLT, SmallHD 703Bolt, SmallHD 703U, SmallHD 1703-P3X, CAS Advanced Spider Grips, Bright Tangerine 19mm Bridgeplate, BT Revolvr 19/15mm Studio FF, SolidCamera Scatterbox2 Goldmount/VMount Power Distro, IgniteDigi MoVi Pro System

             


            Aidan Gray
            On 3/23/20, 8:02 PM

            Clemens, I really appreciate you posing these questions! Its been great reading everyones’ responses and I love seeing the similarities between stories even when we’re on opposite sides of the world. Nothing profound below, but just my answers...


            •  How did you become a 1st AC?

            I worked in a camera rental house for several years, started PA’ing, Loading, and 2nding on sets whilst working there which led to me joining IATSE Local 600. Eventually, I met with enough DPs that wanted me to assist them that I started 1st ACing. 


            • What do you love most about your job?

            My favourite part is easily the problem solving - I love learning and storing information. It’s always so satisfying when you get to draw on some obscure piece of knowledge to solve a problem - the same goes for grabbing that random piece of hardware out of your bag and making use of it. This is also probably why I love coming up with and implementing custom solutions for camera rigs. 


            • What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?

            Well, obviously lots of money and time with crew members I love working with... But also probably a very technical shot or idea that required some fabrication to achieve? 


            • What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

            Most enjoyable have all been the no-budget short films I’ve pulled off with my friends just because they’re always crazy ideas, low stakes, and great people. Most exciting was probably either the DC Unit for Handmaid’s Tale Season 3, the Phantom operator for “Tesla’s Death Ray”, or the Phantom operator for “As Told to G/D Thyself”. 


            • From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)

            I’ve definitely learned the most about focus pulling by observing some brilliant focus pullers and their techniques. One of my first large productions, Heather Norton and Jamie Fitzpatrick were the A and B-camera 1sts and they’re two legends of the industry. As well as on set, also reading everything that Evan Luzi has written on The Black and Blue, as well as David Elkins in “The Camera Assistant’s Manual” gave me a good foundation. However, like Gunnar said, in my experience the best way to learn has been by doing.


            • What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?

            My hobby is collecting hobbies, but the main ones are film photography and mechanical engineering. 


            • How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?

            Managing my finances is always step one to keeping myself sane - outside of that, it’s just focusing on continuing to better myself as a person and in my non-work related skills (3D design, music, photography, etc...) 


            • What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

            Probably not going to land with most people in this group, but mainly I hope it shakes up IATSE and the union leadership into a way that we can make the unions work for us again. Local 600 has experienced a lot of leadership issues recently and everyone I talk to outside of the union says “Well, isn’t this what a union is supposed to protect you from?” and they’re very much correct. Hopefully this situation can end the polarization and we can all go back to making sure the union is supporting all the due-paying workers, not just the ones working long form television/movies. 


            • What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

            Whether we know it or not, we all have skills that can help support our community in times of need - currently, I am working with my local maker space OpenWorks and running large batches of 3D printed nylon face-shields to be sterilized and collected for emergency use by healthcare professionals. It’s a good use of my time and resources to support my community. It also keeps me occupied and my brain busy, which helps me stay sane. 


            • What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?

            If I understand the question correctly,  I think my soft-skill superpower is making my DP feel supported. Being a DP is a pretty vulnerable position as you have a lot of responsibility on your shoulders, and a lot of the time people feel like they’re constantly being attacked, and this sometimes turns people into assholes. I think my soft skill is making sure the DPs know and few that I’m there to support them and I’m in their corner, and in turn hopefully they are in mine. Building that relationship is very important to me and more often than not, a DP will feel it’s more important than every single take being tack sharp.



            Your Reply

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            Clemens Hönig

            --Clemens Hönig--

            1001133
            | 5 5 7
            Vienna, Austria
            --Clemens Hönig--

            Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

            Clemens Hönig
            On 3/25/20, 10:24 AM

            Thanks Aidan! Good to have you hear. I am grateful to know you in person! Stay safe!


            Your Reply


            1
            Hector Julian
            On 3/24/20, 8:11 PM
            1. How did you become a 1st AC?
              I was lucky enough to get an internship at a camera rental house while I was studying cinematography. Started cleaning filters, prepping some gear and eventually shooting some minor music videos and shorts as VTR and 2nd AC. From then on I started slowly working as a VTR and 2nd AC on comms, slowly 1sting on short films and MV's with young and new DP's who didn't have any money for wages. Luckily some of those DP's started growing as professionals and so I did with them until I just decided to work as a 1st only.

            2. What do you love most about your job?
              On one hand I enjoy the technical part. Being able to overcome tricky technological challenges is one of the most satisfying things (if that happens on the prep, obviously :P). I also love being able to discover new spots around, even in my own city on every single shoot. But the think I love the most about the job is the fact that it is a cooperative kind of work. You depend on others to get the job done and others depend on you as well. When everyone understands each other everything works jus like a clockwork :)

            3. What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?
              There are many dream jobs I'd like to pull at, but I wish I can shoot some kind of blockbuster/action film someday. I'd like to get the experience on that kind of production dimension, being able to play with toys and overcoming all sort of challenges.
            4. What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?
              It has been a car commercial with DP Tim Lorentzen. I spent several days with the man and I truly enjoyed the level of understanding we had between each other. Also it was one of my first car commercials, and I got the chance of pulling from a Russian Arm racing amongst a mountain road. That was truly a nice adventure.

            5. From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)
              I have learnt the most from local 1st AC's with whom I have 2nd AC'd with, and also some DP's who I work with. Some of them like to push technical challenges to the limit, and some of them just push the pace of the shooting and I learn a lot from all of those shoots.

            6. What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?
              Cooking is one of my dirty pleasures! And also playing sports such as football (soccer) and Padel. 

            7. How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?
              Being patient and enjoying this "downtime" is the key for me. Staying home and learning new skills is helping me a lot with the situation.

            8. What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?
              I think that we should just learn to stop at some point. There are crazy weeks or even consecutive months in which we can't even get a single day off (and I mean truly OFF, no phone calls or e-mails).  And this situation is teaching us that even though this job does sometime require a workaholik-ish way of living, we should all realize that there are more important things around than our job.

            9. What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?
              I read and watch all the Memes and jokes around the COVID-19 lately and I think it is impressive how people's creativity can overcome such a situation. People will never stop surprising me. 

            10. What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?
              Being calm and patient is key for me. Taking care of the DP is a MUST and also activating what I call "passive listening", which is kind of identifying always the dp's voice pitch in order to get his messages amongst other noises in the set, even if he/she's not talking to me.


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            Clemens Hönig

            --Clemens Hönig--

            1001133
            | 5 5 7
            Vienna, Austria
            --Clemens Hönig--

            Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

            Clemens Hönig
            On 3/25/20, 10:07 AM

            Hi Hector! Thanks for being here! I am sure you can follow your cooking passion during this down time. Stay safe!


            Your Reply


            1
            Douglas Birch
            On 3/24/20, 5:32 PM

            1.     Hey folks, my name is Douglas Birch and I work as a camera assistant in Chicago, Illinois.

              How did you become a 1st AC?

            I started as a PA in early 2014 in Scotland. At the time, I had still not quite figured out what path I wanted to take. This led me to attend a film school in Chicago. I had a professor who showed me threading and operation of 16mm film cameras which sparked my interest in being part of the camera department. This allowed me to get jobs as a loader on various music videos and shorts. While loading, I also worked at a local rental house which gave me to the opportunity to connect with others; these connections allowed me to get more jobs as a 2nd AC. Finally, I found my way into the commercial market and got opportunities to be a 1st AC which I have been doing ever since.

            2.       What do you love most about your job?

            I have always been interested in technology and learning how things work. I love problem solving technical issues and preparing the camera for what it goes through on set. I also love the feeling of accomplishment I get after nailing a particularly difficult shot.

            3.        What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?

            Honestly, every opportunity I have as a 1st AC is my dream job. No matter what happens during the production, I still learn new skills, work alongside some amazingly talented people, and help to create some awesome images.   

            4.       What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?

            I have been lucky enough to work on some very enjoyable projects throughout the years but perhaps one that stood out more than most was working with a wrestling company during one of their live shows. It was a wee bit chaotic and stressful, but it really helped me learn to react to human movement. We would often have only one chance to nail the shot which added pressure but also a sense of accomplishment when we captured some great moments.

            5.       From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)

            It’s nice to see that I share the same mentor as Matthew. Cynthia Harrig was the professor in film school that really ignited my passion for the camera department. She taught me the fundamentals of being a camera assistant and the discipline required to work in this industry. I learned many skills from her from repairing Arri SR’s to filling out proper camera reports. She played a fundamental role in helping me get to where I am today.

            On a side note, I would also like to thank Clemens and all the members of this forum. This forum has been a great resource of knowledge and I have learned a trick or two from the posts I have read.

            6.       What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling?

            My other passion is DIY and creating things. At home, I have a 3D printer and workshop which I am often in creating various projects. I recently converted an out-of-commission Red One into a Super Nintendo console which was a big learning experience and a lot of fun.

            7.       How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?

            I keep up my spirit by spending time with my wife and our cat at home. My wife and I both work in fields that require us to work very long days, so it is often rare that we get to spend this much time together. I also try to come up with different projects to create at home.

            8.       What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?

            In this industry we always must be prepared because we don’t often know what will happen next.

            9.       What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?

            Reach out to all your friends in the industry. This time is very difficult for us all and staying connected will help to get us through this. Use this time to help grow and support our industry.

            10.   What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?

            Probably keeping a level head and even if I am stressed, I try to keep it to myself. Our job can often become stressful and when you show your stress, it has a cascading effect on everyone else and makes the work environment a bit more chaotic. Remaining level-headed takes a weight off of your DP and helps to keep the department from rushing and causing a mistake. 


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            Clemens Hönig

            --Clemens Hönig--

            1001133
            | 5 5 7
            Vienna, Austria
            --Clemens Hönig--

            Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

            Clemens Hönig
            On 3/25/20, 10:03 AM

            Thanks for the shout out Douglas! Curious about that Super Nintendo console :)


            Your Reply


            1
            Mitchell D
            On 3/25/20, 2:50 AM

            Hi! My name is Mitch, I’m a 1st AC from NYC, and I’ve been pulling focus since 2013. It’s been a fun ride so far, and I’m glad to be able to connect and learn with all of you! 



            1. How did you become a 1st AC?


            I first started working on set as a Camera PA/2nd AC on commercial productions/short films when I was 15 in NYC. My first paid gig was working with the Alexa Classic, and from then on I had become infatuated with the ins/outs of the camera department. I soaked up everything I could, from the DP’s/AC’s and crew I was surrounded by. Fairly quickly I got my first gig as a 1st, and from then on I just kept at it when I could skip my high school classes. I worked my first feature (low budget indie, filling in for another AC for a bit) at 16 as a 1st, which really taught me a lot about organized multi-day productions, and I was amazed at how much trust I had garnered with some of the DP’s I was working with by just watching/listening/honing in on their conversations and the ways they worked.


            1. What do you love most about your job?


            I love the feeling of truly nailing a pull, building a tidy kit, and really being able to commandeer the organization of the department. The little details are what my eyes are always focused on.


            1. What would be your dream 1st AC job and why?


            I’ve within a few different levels of production, but I’ve always found the most joy in working with real stories/events. My dream is to 1st on a higher-end documentary project I’m truly passionate about, one that I can feel like I’m not just pulling to get the shot, but pulling to get the story.


            1. What was your best/most exciting/most enjoyable job you have ever done and what was so different about it?


            My favorite 1st AC job I’ve done was working on a travel piece about Jamaica. I often geek out on travel packing and organization, as well as the thought process behind how to build a versatile travel-friendly camera kit/build. We had three different camera packages we were working with, and amongst them I was tasked with building a POV helmet rig that was utilized throughout and provided a stable and versatile platform for all of the activities we were filming.


            1. From whom have you learned the most, and why? (in regards of focus pulling)


            I’ve learned most about focus pulling from a former 1st AC (unfortunately his MS diagnosis stopped him from working on set), and he’s taught me so much about what it is to have a good eye and building a kit bag that can serve on any production.


            1. What is your second passion, or counterbalance to focus pulling


            My second passion is in optics (not far off lol), building myself a workstation to work on the mechanics, and taking courses on the science/proper handling of the most important piece of equipment on a set (in my opinion). The workstation also serves as a place for me to experiment as well with other camera tech, electronics, and other projects that I enjoy.


            1. How do you keep up the spirit while being out of a job? Now, before and after Corona?


            I feel like there is no answer for what we should be doing with our time, everyone has taken to different routes of keeping themselves occupied and keeping their spirits up. For me, it’s keeping myself mentally in shape with mental training exercises as well as reconnecting with people, activities, and reading about both film and other interests in my life.


            1. What can we, as a movie industry, learn from the current situation in a good way?


            This time has allowed me to take a step back and put all of our hard work into perspective. It has given me time and space to grow outside of the industry. I don’t believe we should always sit in the film bubble, every experience and every bit of knowledge we build can at some point be utilized on set. It’s not always about the build, but sometimes knowing what’s going on with the crew, the cast, the subject matter itself can make all the difference in knowing what exactly to keep your focus on.


            1. What personal experience would you like to share at this very moment, regarding spirit?


            When I was first starting off on set I often lied about my age to crew (my tax forms however gave it away to production at times). It never created a fuss, as I did my job and acted with care and maturity surrounded by people often twice my age. In those days, everyone was a mentor to me, titles didn’t (and sometimes still don’t) mean anything to me. We are all sharing our time to create and participate in what we were put on this earth for. Now in this time more than ever, our collective knowledge needs to provide the basis for the future of the industry. So let’s make it how we want it!


            1. What is your “SSSP” (Soft-Skill Super-Power), which makes you a focus puller?


            I take pride in flexibility on set and ability to problem solve, and keeping a kit that reflects that with all the little bits and pieces for any issue that may arise.


            Your Reply

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            Avatar

            Clemens Hönig

            --Clemens Hönig--

            1001133
            | 5 5 7
            Vienna, Austria
            --Clemens Hönig--

            Hi, I am Clemens Hönig, marketing manager at cmotion. Even though I am not a focus puller myself, my strength is to adapt quickly, spotting problems and come up with solutions. I also like to connect people, as I think everybody can learn from anybody. If you just starting at your carrier, make your own path and if you are already experienced, become a mentor...

            Clemens Hönig
            On 3/25/20, 9:04 AM

            Hey Mitchell, Thanks for your answers. "Pulling to get the story" is a great way of putting it. Keep in focus!


            Your Reply

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            Asked: 3/23/20, 9:15 AM
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            Last updated: 4/2/20, 9:22 AM