It’s first-year film school, and I’m waiting in line at the equipment cage so I can sign out one of two ARRI BL16 film cameras. I load my SUV with gear and head north early on Saturday morning with the crew, consisting of myself, two actors, a handy friend and one amazing film school colleague. We later arrive at a cold and desolate 200-acre farm about two hours from Toronto in hopes of shooting the greatest WWII student film ever.
After unloading and setting up shop in the rustic old house at the far end of the property, I begin to prep my equipment. Once my 16mm film is loaded and ready to go, I strap on the 40-plus-pound battery belt that the camera requires and look into the camera case for the cable to connect the belt to the camera. I dig through the big case, and after checking every nook of the case and everywhere else it could have fallen, I come to the realization that I’m without the rare and very necessary three-pin ARRI battery cable.
After trying to call the school and anyone from my class who may be able to help, I’m left with no solution. The cable I need is locked inside my school for the long weekend and nobody can get it. Then my clever friend, Eric, who has come along to help out and watch us shoot, says he may be able to make a slightly different cable work. We drive to the only nearby town and check every possible electronics and hardware store, but to no avail. The only thing we end up with is a three-foot-long section of the thickest gauge wire we can find, two copper pieces side by side inside a plastic sheath. The gauge of the wire looks to be about the same as the diameter of the three-prong holes on the belt and the camera that the cable should have snapped into.
Back at the farm, within minutes Eric has MacGyver’d the section of wire into a two-prong cable and we begin trying to attach the belt to the camera with it. As he plugs the second prong into the battery belt, the camera motor cranks to life and I hear the unmistakable purr of a shutter opening and closing. Eric then fashions a couple of hooks that secure the cable to the belt itself and we’re able to get the cable to stay in place for the most part. My film is saved!
This experience taught me to always triple-check everything, especially when shooting in a remote location. Another valuable lesson is to think outside the box when looking for help for your micro-budget film crew. Without the help of my mechanically inclined friend who knew nothing about filmmaking, this short film never would have been salvaged.
Tyler Ippolito is an independent filmmaker and up-and-coming novelist and screenwriter with a background in automotive marketing.
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Everyone who has spent time in video and film production has a funny tale or two about this life. Odd and quirky things happen to us and our colleagues that we all like to talk about after the shoot.
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