My Introduction to the Field
The first car I ever owned, in 1978, was an International Scout II. It had 4WD and looked like a large brown shoe. One of my many and increasingly stumped mechanics called it “the Combine”. It was as the driver of this small truck that I had my introduction to the field.
Phil, my boyfriend of 8 months, was shooting second camera for Dan Reeve’s “Smothering Dreams”. The scene was to re-enact Dan’s harrowing survival of an ambush in Vietnam where he had served in the Marine Corps. The shoot took place over a June weekend in a cattail swamp near Ithaca. I drove the 1″ video recording equipment around in my Scout. Dan had asked everyone on the shoot to prepare by reading Michael Herr’s “Dispatches”, (1977). Reporting from under fire, Herr writes: ’Quakin’ and shakin,’ they called it, great balls of fire. Contact. Then it was you and the ground: kiss it, eat it, fuck it, plough it with your whole body, get as close to it as you can without being in it or of it, guess who’s flying around an inch above your head? Pucker and submit, it’s the ground. Contact.’
The days were hot, the hours long, the gear finicky, and the story heartbreaking. The perfect ingredients for a career.
Our First Project
Shortly before I graduated from Cornell with a BA in theoretical math (I still think it should have been a BS), Phil and I went to the annual athletic awards dinner for my polo team. Attending the dinner was Terry Mallet, the Athletics Director. We convinced Terry that a video on The History of Cornell Athletics would be a very useful fund-raising tool, and in 1982, we finished a 30 minute show called, “Here We Are Again”. (the title is taken from a line from a fight song). Dick Schaap, Cornell ’62 provided the voiceover. The video was edited on 2″ videotape, and then transferred to 16 mm film and shown theatrically.
My undergraduate math degree, I was told, qualified me to become either an actuary or a math teacher. At about that time, IBM released the original PC. This was 1982. It ran on DOS 1.0. Like most recent college graduates, I was able get paid to show people how to use this brand new operating system. By the time DOS 3.0 was released, complete with an important innovation, the c:/ prompt!!, I had decided that I liked working with videotape better. The ¾” videocassette was in wide use, a huge improvement over threading up the 1″ tape machines – a skill I never did acquire. We still edited on 1″. With Doug Dunning. We worked with Doug as our video engineer in the 1″ room for years. He would let me run the character generator myself, the brand new Chyron. Later on I grabbed the controls of the first DVE, and used every digital video effect it had, whether the shot needed it or not. The worst of these can be seen on “How to Play Lacrosse”, in Japanese, a show we produced for Grumman in 1986. One machine led to another, one show led to another, one video format led to another, and we created many, many programs.