Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Echo Lake- A thanks to Birns & Sawyer

Echo Lake, a feature film on which I was Cinematographer and a Producer, premieres this week at the Dances with Films Film Festival in Hollywood. In anticipation of the premiere, I wanted to write a few words about Birns & Sawyer, without whom we would not have been able to accomplish what we did on this film.

I met Michael Rogers at Cinegear in 2013. Like the rest of the nerds, I was wandering around, salivating at all the many new film toys being displayed. At some point I noticed a slim looking van parked at the Birns & Sawyer booth. I wandered in and discovered it was tightly packaged One Ton Grip Truck. I was intrigued.

Michael approached me and we quickly hit it off and started discussing the state of Production Shrinkage in the industry. In the low budget film world, budgets are shrinking, but gear is getting smaller & lighter. Crew sizes are shrinking, but lights are becoming more flexible and need lower power. There is good with the bad and bad with the good. However, Michael and I were focused on the good. New film tech was making possible now what would have been impossible only a handful of years ago. In addition, he seemed to share my spirit of experimentation and approach- which was pretty much, "Get out there and see what you can do."

I was in pre-production on Echo Lake at the time and invited Michael to experiment with me in designing a different kind of film package. We didn't have much money, but he was eager to work with me in creating a mini-feature film grip & lighting package built for mountain production. I told him that I wanted to be able to shoot in the middle of nowhere, without generators, and still be able to light. He didn't blink.

After several tests, discussion, dozens of emails and plenty of stop-ins at Birns & Sawyer, we put together a small package built entirely of LEDs. At the time, LEDs were new to the film world and Michael and the crew at Birns & Sawyer were on the front edge of the technology. They rewired gear so that we could attach batteries. They stripped the Sprinter Van down to its essentials so we could fit in a Dolly, several lights, batteries and whatever else we might need in the middle of the woods with what essentially boiled down to a 4 man crew.

It was a physically demanding shoot and perhaps one day I'll tell some tales (the Cindercone hike that almost killed us all!). For now, I wanted to extend my thanks to the amazing team over at Birns & Sawyer. Thank you for experimenting with me.