But….I’m just the Cameraman!

This post was written by Matt on January 18, 2010
Posted Under: Blogroll

After a very long absence from blogging, I’m getting back on the horse. But, Instead of a tip or technique in video production, I’m going start by telling you a story that was certainly a career first, and I hope, a one time event. I’m going to omit the names of some municipalities, because…..well just because. I’ve been working with a client who has created a new high-energy team building event that involves a ton of video interaction, big screens, and mobile devices all tied together. The program is conducted by former US Special Forces soldiers, Navy Seals, Green Berets, and the like.
They teach the same tactics used by Special Forces teams to plan their missions, to business executives in an effort to make their businesses perform better. The exercise involves planning a mission to rescue the kidnapped daughter of an American scientist. She is being held in Columbia, and you and your team must plan the rescue mission by using the Special Forces assets that are at your disposal. This is where I come in. We had to shoot and produce all of the video elements that make up the mission, including the rescue re-enactment.
So, off I go to Florida where the shooting locations have been pre-arranged by the client. It was going to be great fun. I had four former Special Forces soldiers, two of which are current SWAT team members in a large metro police force.


These guys were completely decked out in camo, camo face-paint, full auto assault rifles, 9MM hand guns, night vision, smoke grenades, it was like shooting on the set of Predator. The first half of the day, we shot in an abandon building that could have easily been in a backwater village in columbia, it was perfect. We shot all of the mission planning shots, complete with naked bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Grizzly rambos planned the mission on a makeshift table, all while loading lots of weapons.

By early afternoon, it was time to shoot the “rescue”, which was to take place at an airfield that was outside of town. The City police and the hangar owners where notified they weren’t being invaded and we were given permission to shoot in a very nice hanger. We had brought along a guy that was to serve as one of the terrorist. A nice construction worker that looked the part without any effort. We handed him a rubber, but very realistic, AK-47, and he was good to go. So, we belly crawled, sleep gassed, and assaulted the hanger numerous times while I captured great shots of my own private “Heartbreak Ridge” photographic coolness. With hangar assault and rescue shot from a dozen angles, I needed some slinking through the jungle shots. You know the ones I mean, barely visible camouflaged faces moving cat-like through the brush.


It was all going perfectly. For the last shots of the day, we were shooting the part I’d really been waiting on all day. The well armed troops told me that they had about 200 blank rounds for the assault rifles and I really wanted to get some high speed shots with the lens of the camera just inches from the muzzle. We were positioned at the bottom of a large hill that fell off from the service road of the airfield. Our “day terrorist” was sitting on the ground at the top of the hill watching the war games.

I positioned myself perfectly for a test shot and the shooter let it go. It was deafening! Much louder than other guns I had been around. One of the SWAT officers pulled some super ear-plugs from his kit and handed them to me, and I jammed them in my ears. They worked, I mean they really worked. Fully equipped, we got ready for a nice full burst from the assault rifle. The angle was perfect and off went a great 15-20 shot burst. I began checking the shots in the eyepiece playback, and they were great! Fire shooting out of the barrel, the angle, the depth, and that’s when it happened. I couldn’t really hear anything, but when I looked up, everyone had their hands up in the air except me. I looked up at the top of the hill, and there were two men in plain clothes with badges pointing guns at us and screaming. Even muffled, I could tell they were using the “F” word a lot. I could barely make out some of our group saying “friendly, friendly”, it really didn’t seem to make things better. There were more screams with lots more “F’s” thrown in, as I raised my hands. One of the SWAT guys was standing right next to me. He turned to me with a gravely serious look and said “lay down on the ground and do NOT move.” No problem, down I went. One Officer kept us under gun point, while the other came down the hill, where he began to disarm the small army lying on the ground. This wasn’t like taking a hunting rifle away from a drunken hunter, and as he began flipping dozens of rounds out of clips and chambers and un-sheathing giant knives, I knew we had to be headed for the pokey. This involved dis-arming procedure took place three more times, and with every new weapon discovered, I began trying to run the “what to do about being in jail, out of state” scenarios in my head. I was asked if I had any weapons on me, and I replied quickly “no sir”. Up the hill we all went, and as we reached the top, it just got better. There must have been a dozen more police cars, officers everywhere, and more arriving all the time. Now we’re definitely going to the pokey. The original two officers now allowed our private militia to tell our story, and it seemed to only make them more agitated. The fact that they almost shot us over what turned out to be….a video….kind of had them pissed. “We’re going to go through the cars for other weapons”. Considering that I had met most of these people that morning and I’m now surrounded by police cars… this should go well. Well, finally some confirmations came in that we had actually notified the city authorities, and we were not trying to “take” the airport. We were given our ids back and told we were free to go. I decided to drink a Coke, but the can just kept shaking and clinking against my teeth. It seems that the county had a undercover drug unit at the airport. They heard the gunfire and well, there ya go. Now, before you ask, I did not lower my hands to hit the record button on the camera. Why does everyone ask that?
More blogs to come, Until then, protect your cameraman!


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