Chapter XXXIII


Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)

pp. 143-146

The camera man whom I am now going to report has had European experience in addition to American; he is now a "star" man on one of our animated newspapers.

"People tell me that mine is an easy job, with nothing to do but turn the handle of the camera," he remarked to me recently. "Let them spend a week with me and they would get an entirely different impression.

"I remember my first commission as though it were yesterday. It was to film an important baseball match, and to obtain some good photographs I placed my machine right in front of some fans, thereby obstructing their view. They first began passing uncomplimentary remarks and I was foolish enough to argue with them. Before I could grasp what was happening, handfuls of mud and the like were thrown at me and soon I was smothered; then I beat a hasty retreat.

"On returning later for my camera I found it smashed beyond recognition. This lesson taught me to move away to another pitch as soon as a crowd shows the least sign of anger.

"A balloon ascent was my next eventful time. My orders were to go up in the balloon to take some scenes in mid-air. Well, I did, but the wind was so strong that it blew us against a tall tree in a field. The collision was so violent that it nearly tore off one of my fingers; the gas envelope burst and we descended to earth at a rapid pace. For the next few days someone had to take my place, so indisposed I was.

"Once an important event at a big factory sent me there on business. I thought it was going to be a 'tame' affair, but it proved not so. The workmen angrily protested against my filming them, giving as a reason that they were made a laughing stock by their friends when they had been seen on the screen before. To miss this event would have cost me my job, so I defied them. I only piled up the trouble, for the men immediately threw down their tools and went on strike. The rage of the boss knew no bounds, but the strike scenes I secured were well worth it.

"Now to proceed to some of my experiences in England. You have no idea of the comptetition that exists among us cinematographers. Do you know that on the occasion of the Royal visit to Henley I lived the night before in a canoe on the river in order that I should get the best position by the royal pavilion? I have also slept on Epsom Downs so as to be in readiness to obtain some typical early morning scenes as soon as Derby Day dawned.

"Like our newspaper brothers, we camera men have to hustle. The taking of the Derby film -- England's classic race -- will give you a good idea of the hurried nature of our work. I am stationed by the winning post and I record the actions of the horses as they stampede past. I then gather up the camera and tripod as fast as I can and dash off to the waiting auto a quarter of a mile away. It is no easy work to push through crowds, especially when burdened with a heavy camera.

"All my companions are waiting for me and we are off in a jiffy. Fortunately there is not much traffic to hinder us going back and we make the twelve mile journey to our London works in less than an hour. We then dash up to the dark room, where we speedily develop our negatives and are spared the remaining processes. When I walk into the local movie theater three quarters of an hour later and see people enjoying my work on the screen, I feel mightily pleased, I can tell you.

"So you see, our work is not child's play."

Making the Movies - Contents ... Back to Chapter XXXII ... On to Chapter XXXIV

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