With hundreds of careers and opportunities, the filmmaking industry can be a unique experience for a filmmaker. Options include pitching an idea, or a commission through screenwriting, casting, shooting, editing, and screening your project. Filmtools decided to take a deeper look into the world of a Filmmaker. This week, we had the opportunity to speak to Steadicam operator about her work. This is what she said:
What inspires you?
Jessica Lopez: Cinema history and how it all became to be. How my favorite filmmakers, inventors, actors and Steadicam operators who got through the hard times, achieved multiple dreams and changed the dynamics of filmmaking over and over again for the past 140 years. I’m addicted to reading biographies of filmmakers, artists, and actors. Honestly, it’s where I get my best ideas on survival in Los Angeles.
Why did you choose this field?
Jessica Lopez: I like to say the profession chose me. A set of skills, and interests I had as a little girl. I liked sports, mechanics, outdoors, and a deep love for movies having lived near a theater. Many years later in film school, I put on the Steadicam rig for first time and I felt challenged in all those same areas again. So it only seemed right that profession would fit my personality, physical aptitude, tiny mechanical ability, and love for creating art.
How does Filmtools help you?
Jessica Lopez: Well, I had a nice friendship with Filmtools previous owner Stan McClain (former cameraman and president of the SOC). He actually has been supportive of camerawomen for many years and was always very encouraging and helpful to me personally as a customer and SOC member.
Most of my tools and spare parts come from Filmtools. My belt and pouches, camera covers, pelican cases are all products purchased there, small bits that make life more simple at work. I’ve always counted on Filmtools since I first arrived in Los Angeles with stars (ac gear) in my eyes.
What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on before?
Jessica Lopez: Amazon’s show “Transparent”. The first show I’ve ever been a part of where the production, director, cinematographer, and creators make it a point to bring every one of the cast and crew together like a family. As below the line crew members they believe in us, respect us, pay us well, and encourage us to share our feelings, emotions, and passion in our specific job responsibilities. It’s a show where you can be any race, any gender, any orientation, any body type, any religion, any income level, and any creature, without being judged, but being lifted and encouraged for who you are, how beautiful you are, and what you bring to the art of storytelling. Truly a marvelous place to work. Something magical always happens during the craziest and happiest of days.
Do you have any projects that we can help promote?
Jessica Lopez: Yes, I just worked on “Thistle and Thorns” an artistically wonderful art installation and simultaneous short film consisting of a 7 1/2 minute Steadicam take walking a woman into a journey through a magical land with challenges of vines, flowers, creatures, caves, and up a mountain to an end point marking a circle of life revelation that represents ancestry, culture, growth, feminity, and strength. It’s a fairytale story for little girls of color that empowers them to become strong women in life and to not be afraid of their challenging journey ahead. In promotion of “Black Girl Magic.” see link for further description of the story.
The story is created by Director Kalie Acheson of Animi Design and Actor/Writer Jazmin Monet Watkins. Sets were all hand built. Elaborate costumes and makeup for the characters that complement the set design. Throwing back to early cinema with influences of George Melies “Trip to the Moon”. More than 80% of the crew were women. Females working in Grip, Electric, Camera, Art Department, Wardrobe, Talent, and Production. The entire cast was performed by women of color with different ethnic backgrounds, including two talented little girls that played our Princesses. 1 week set construction. 1 day of prep, 2 shoot days. Shot on Red Dragon, Zeiss wide zoom 15.5-45mm. Shot at 32mm focal length. Used standard Steadicam and MK-V Alien Revolution technology. Equipment companies who sponsored the production and were in the promotion of below the line women crews on set: Standard Vision, Fiilex LED Lighting, Kino Flo-Systems, Airstar LA, Matthews Studio Equipment, Castex Rentals, Band Pro Film and Digital, Inovativ Carts, Sony, and MK-V Omega Systems.
Still, photographs were taken of the characters and story. When the video is released there will be a children’s book to go alongside the story of “Thistle and Thorns.” All proceeds will go towards paying the remainder of production expenses and crew. Then the rest of the funds raised will be donated to a children’s charity (still being determined, will be posted on site).
Links to follow the progress and release of “Thistle and Thorns”
Do you have a piece of essential gear that you don’t leave without?
Jessica Lopez: My Inovativ Cart. I know it’s cheesy to say a cart instead of the latest transmitter or breakout box, but I really do love the convenience of closing it up into a case and shipping it on a plane. Always ready to work. Plus I was able to customize it by having my buddy do some graffiti art on the outer shell. One of a kind.
What advice would you give to people interested in this industry?
Jessica Lopez: If you want it bad enough, you’ll have to work really hard to prove that you are hirable, that you can handle yourself, and you can handle hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear in your hands on a professional set. The people in charge need to have a level of trust there first. Try to keep your mind occupied with training, research, networking. Develop some good karma, stay positive, and try to enjoy when you have time for the journey will be long, scary, emotional and physically demanding. But after a lot of patience, and a lot of practice the network you have created for yourself will start to call and hopefully pay off.
I worked as B Camera Operator/Steadicam Operator on all the Texas unit stuff on Amazon’s show “I Love Dick” featuring Kevin Bacon and Kathryn Hahn. The trailer just released this week. Instagram for Amazon shows: @transparentamazon @topple
Where can people follow you on social?
Jessica Lopez: The best place to follow me is on Instagram @steadijess (instagram.com/steadijess). I also have a Facebook (facebook.com/ladyops) #steadijess #ladyops are my specially created hashtags. I encourage all camerawomen to hashtag #ladyops. My website is www.ladyops.com
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