Wisdom From The Trap House

Georgia’s one helluva place. It’s a strange thing; I think the sun shines differently here. It’s got this very romantic quality to it. It’s punchy, it’s golden, it has a character all its own. I ride through the woods on the golf cart and find myself constantly in awe. Just the way it injects itself between all the trees, top notch stuff.

Ciarra (seated) adding the spice to this picture with a tasteful middle finger

Since I got here almost 4 months ago, I’ve been stupidly fortunate to have worked continuously in the film industry. I had no pretenses about having any kind of success anytime soon. Wouldn’t you know it, I’m on track to have worked on at least 20 productions since I got here by the time 2020’s done. For some perspective, that’s more projects than I worked on in the last 3 years back in Utah. That’s just in 4 months in Georgia. The future, on God, has never looked brighter. But I’ve felt like taking stock of the madness of these last 4 months, so I wanted to write my way through everything I’ve been experiencing. What I’ve learned, what I was wrong about, all of it.

Gas Station, somewhere in Nebraska

We were riding our way through the “Great Nothing”, as I like to call it. More commonly referred to as “Nebraska”. This special day on the road to Georgia yielded two very special phone calls which gave me a good idea of what I was to look forward to; I chatted with two directors about two projects. Booked both of them. One a feature, one a short. I was literally on the road to Georgia, and I’d already booked some paid work for myself. We celebrated with some Wendy’s (harder to find than you’d think in Nothingville, Nebraska). At this moment, all I felt was excitement and joy. But I was still not operating under any pretense. Figured this would be short-lived and I’d be looking for employment before Halloween. But as I’ve already spoiled, that didn’t end up being the case.

One of the only BTS pictures I have from my first feature

The feature I booked came first. I’ll write about that experience in a different post one day, but it was exhausting, it tested me in ways I never guessed it would, and I had to confront some of my blind spots and visual prejudices. All that for the better. To summarize it, I FINALLY gave into drinking coffee. But most importantly, while in the middle of that production, I got another lucky lotto and booked another feature as a Gaffer. And to date, it’s sort of been the project that’s opened every other door I’ve had open to me since.

Due to some extenuating circumstances, I was asked to relinquish Gaffing this feature to instead be the Best Boy Electrician. But due to some OTHER unfortunate extenuating circumstances, I ended up Gaffing it again. On this project, I met my two favorite people thus far. (Pictured below)

Alex. Gaffer, Vegetarian, Friend.
Ciara. Camera Assistant, Chef, Master of wearing black and exclusively black

I will also inevitably end up writing about Gaffing that feature. But for now the long and short of it is that my life hasn’t been the same since. I also had the honor of DPing an incredible short film (shoutout to Prithak and Kyle) as well during all of this, as well as shot that short I had booked on the drive out here. Both projects were a ton of fun, and I sit in eager anticipation to watch them one day.

Car rigging. Also a first.
Behind the scenes of “Calculated Love” which I DPed
Rare BTS photo. Me shooting “Grain of Sand”.

I had a great experience and a near-instant connection with Alex when he came onboard that feature on the G&E team. See, Alex is a man of many talents. Currently, he’s mostly a music video Gaffer, but does plenty of other roles. And he was about to pull me into a world I’d been terrified of my whole career; Rap videos.

For some unknown reason, Alex started asking me to come join his team on these music videos. Must’ve gone well enough, because it’s now a large chunk of the work I do. First video I went and helped him out on was wrestling-themed, and involved me blacking out like 8 large windows? It was really great. And it was also a big kind of change from what I’ve been doing my whole career. In narrative film, we’re intentional, the visuals help suggest the underlying emotions and themes of a story, and the shots are incredibly deliberate. The lighting is very structured, balanced, nuanced. Aaaaaaaand this was none of that. To quote Alex on that day, “we just want it to look cool. We do that, we did our job.” Welcome to rap videos.

Boxing arena. Darkness courtesy of all those damned blacked out windows

It took me a minute to shake off my old prejudices. There was something kinda pure about rap videos. How do we tell a story in like 8-12 shots? Especially if half of those shots are just performance shots? And moreover, how do we make those shots engaging? It started becoming more fascinating with each new video we did.

Grammy-Nominated artist “Yung Baby Tate”

Quickly I started really getting knowledgeable in a field I had seriously been lacking in. Mostly doing G&E work, I was forced to confront my lack of Grip skills, and finesse my electrician skills. The way we light things opened my mind to all new ways of lighting I’d not even been aware of, coming from narrative. I’d definitely underestimated the power of the Titan Tube. Seeing all these new avenues of previously unknown things was really exciting! Most of the time I’d have never lit any of these projects that way! To my detriment! It was sort of like I realized, in a technical way, I’d been lacking ambition. Why bother running 200 feet of cable into the middle of this field just for a soft fill light that might only get you 1/3 of a stop? And yet, watching it play out, seeing it in camera, I was amazed. This became (and actively still does become) a pretty regular thing for me to see. Sure, it’s not convenient to rig a skypanel and a generator to a pickup truck. But it’s hard to argue with the results when I see the shot! It’s really changed how I technically see the work I do now.

Result of my first ceiling rig

It’s a slow process, but considering I’ve only been doing rap videos for only 2 months, I’ve made a ton of mindset changes, and grown leaps and bounds in my skill and knowledge of Grip & Electric. I always had this weird fear of rigging. Such a silly thing. But I grew emboldened enough to rig a Skypanel and a Source Four to a warehouse ceiling a few weeks ago, basically by myself. That was a first for me. Never rigged anything like that before. Now, if I need to, I can rig a menace arm in maybe 5 minutes flat. I rigged a Skypanel to the ceiling of a strip club (just typical music video stuff) a few days ago, and it was a cake walk. You ask Justus 5 months ago to even look at a clamp, he’d probably have fainted. Progress, people.

Int. Trap House – Night. Alex and Phillip basking in the 1200W HMI shooting through that window. Gelled with Quarter CTB and a Urban Sodium.

We did this music video at a “trap house” a week ago. We won’t go into the cultural experiences I’ve had here yet, but boy, what a different world. Anyway, it was nothing crazy. Pretty simple stuff. Spent most of the night outside flying lights around to different windows. But talking to my fellow G&E partner, Phillip, when we had time, it was a breakthrough for me to feel like I kinda belonged. More than belonged, I was capable and worthy of the successes I’ve found out here thus far. I’d felt a bit like a fraud since I got here. Well and truly now, I feel like I’m skilled, like I can now tinker and troubleshoot my way through whatever lands in my lap, and that I have a contribution that only I can make (outside of my stunning setwear).

I have so many ruminations to make on the life I live now, and all the many facets of doing this full time, and finding balance, but I’ll save it for another day. This is well and truly just the beginning of this journey, and I felt the need to write about what’s been rolling around the noggin for a while.

Love you guys. Thanks for all that support you showed me when I moved. You could see my potential even when I hadn’t yet.

Published by DPJustusPage

A Georgia-based film industry professional attempting to blog his way through the trials and tribulations of this life. Father, Husband, Son, and lover of old things.

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