Friday, December 24, 2010

Chicago's Bravest

I have been lazy. The old disease snuck up on me when I thought I was in remission. But at least I have been busy in the studio trying to figure out the nuances of the new film camera I bought. Toying with film has proven to be quite an undertaking. I cannot fathom trying to write a cohesive sentence after I have been taking meter readings in less than favorable conditions and playing the role of Art Director as well. So whine whine whine life has been so tough. Something happened this week in Chicago that deserves address. Some acts of bravery were executed that make me shake my head in awe of human capabilities.

A one alarm fire turned into a several alarm fire on the South side. Departments responded without hesitation as the calls went out. When they arrived at the correct address they knew the dilapidated building. This particular building had a reputation for being a destination for the destitute. Squatters and homeless addicts often broke through the barriers put in place in order to find shelter from the harsh Chicago weather and members of the CPD on patrol. This make-shift residence somehow caught fire and demanded a rapid response from not just one firehouse but several.

Along the way the firefighters had to deal with misinformation and frozen fire hydrants. Despite the roadblocks Chicago's bravest were able to provide all necessary equipment and personnel necessary to combat this fire. These men and women followed procedures and began their attempts at disrupting the temper of the blaze.

One of the first things to happen is what gets me the most. Two firefighters, Corey Ankum and Edward Stringer, ran toward the flames in order to make sure that no one was inside. These two me were not hustling toward a building full of precious school children or rescuing a batch of puppies from and animal shelter; they went after any one who might possibly have a heartbeat that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The slightest possibility of saving a human life was in the percentages and proper protocol was followed. Earlier in the month a coyote was rescued from a slab of ice that had drifted pretty far out into Lake Michigan. Again, proper protocol was followed. The men and women whom reach the ranks of "firefighter" are called to duties that are far beyond many people's capacities and capabilities. They are, absolutely, far beyond my own.

Mr. Ankum and Mr. Stringer did not make it out of that building alive. The bagpipes are playing "Amazing Grace" in their honor. Two of Chicago's Bravest sacrificed their lives for people who may or may have not been inside a building that had been neglected. The building had been abandoned by its owner. No human being should have been inside those decaying walls and trusses. Now, families are suffering through a horrific sense of loss just a few days before Christmas.

How Mr. Ankum and Mr. Stringer acted is stuff Hollywood movies are made of. I have often dreamt of acting the role of "hero" in many situations that would require stunt men and a lot of safety harnesses. On a few occasions I have had the opportunity to pull of some sort of heroic deeds, but failed to execute the necessary actions to achieve such a prestigious title. It's funny, how heavy my shoes became at those times. I failed where others have done so much better.

I know my limits. Maybe, at times, I can go beyond my limits. I am glad we have those who go beyond their limits without hesitation. Having Angels and Heroes among us is something we should all be thankful for. Whether it is the guy who jumped on the gunman on the Long Island Railroad back in the early 90s or your local Volunteer Firefighter we need to know that there are those, and their families, who deserve so much more than they get. My appreciation and my heart goes out to all those whose job it is to protect. More than I am able to offer goes out to their families as well.

As the Holiday Season passes by please be well aware of those who allow you to live the way you do.  I know I need to be more appreciative. Have a safe and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It sounded like a .45 going off!

The new camera arrived...a Mamiya 645E. I love the feel of it. The first time the shutter went off I jumped! Dang, that thing is loud, but it sounds so sweet.

Patience is forced upon me with this camera. I love how careful I have to be setting up the shot and composing the frame. So much metering and tweaking is necessary, but that is why I bought the used beast. I have to slow down and be thorough...this will be good for me.

The first day went fairly well. The biggest problem was finding the right amount of pressure to exert upon the shutter release button on the rapid wind grip. TTL metering is not my friend. Yesterday, I basically wasted a roll of 120 film trying to find my trigger finger. Call it a bad case of pre-mature shutter release.

Today is a new day. Practice sessions continue. My neighbor, an actress from Second City, is coming to the studio to be a test subject as I go through the detailed process that is shooting film. My buddy Tim is also coming over to sit for me. I appreciate good friends and good neighbors coming to the studio. I will reward their patience with M&Ms and good refreshments.

Who else wants to stop by for a session?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fox's New Series: The Chicago Cold...

This December 15 will make 4 years that I have rented in Chicago. People from back home always ask if I can handle the winters here. I have always told them that the dry cold here is not as bad as any wet cold with the least bit of humidity. In fact, the coldest I have ever been in winter was during a three-day cold spell in New Orleans in December 2002. There was no way to fight that wet chill. The air penetrated all layers and I had to wear a down sleeping bag (basically an expensive Snuggie from REI) in the house. Wearing a lot of layers can easily combat the drier cold I have dealt with in Chicago. But then I worked a couple days on the new TV show "The Chicago Code." After two days of working outside before winter has even begun  I am nervous about what the future might bring. Actually, it's more than nerves; it's fear.

Some of the folks I worked with that grew up in and around Chicago complained about the uncomfortable temperatures we had to deal with. This made me feel better about my own misery. I am none too apprehensive to complain about the goings on that take place on a movie set but I did not want to be the new guy from back East bitching about the weather when it's not even February. We all suffered through these miserable days as brothers and sisters and everyone got along pretty well. All the work was completed with professionalism and nobody suffered any medical trauma. At one point I did think I was going to break. However, the nice girl from Craft Service brought me a well-timed cup of hot chocolate when I was unable to leave an 8X (for close to three dark hours) that was getting ready to sail right into the middle of the CTA Building.

Working outside for a couple days allowed me a little time to experiment with my layering strategy for the ensuing winter season. This week I went with my light-grade layering system and while I was miserable, I was able to handle the assigned tasks without taking too much time and making too many mistakes. Knots were a bit of a problem, but they stayed tied. The Key Grips (Rigging and Set) I worked for are some super nice guys who understand the misery the crew experiences working in less-than-favorable conditions. I hope all bosses are as compassionate but from what I hear that does not seem to be the case.

Despite the conditions I am glad I am getting some work here in Chicago. I am thrilled to be a part of I.A.T.S.E. Local 476. I have met some great people and learned some new tricks from some well-versed technicians. For the next several months I am going to try and avoid the wind and stick my face out for every ray of sunlight I can. Spring cannot be too far away can it?