Being a cameraman is generally not a comfortable job, espcially at music festivals like SXSW. The rigs on our shoulders are as hard and heavy as they look, and keeping cameras. steady gets exponentially more taxing as the minutes and hours tick by. On the third night of shooting, I looked in the mirror of my Austin hotel room and saw a knot in my shoulder that protruded like a golf ball.
My position last week was leader of ENG Coverage which amounted to a lot of artist interviews, multiple-camera shoots of a few shows, and ‘getting some color’ of the festival. As lead ENG, I was often put in a producing position when we were out in the field. The camera operator in me hated passing the buck and sending people off to get shots. The producer and editor in me appreciated that I was able to send the tall shooter to the rear of the crowd, and make sure that the three ops in front weren’t all framing up the same picture.
Our interviews were led by a journalist who was a master at making artists comfortable during the 20 minute slots that we could schedule with them. Capturing their conversations left me surprised more than a few times. In particular, DNCE made a big impression on me. Without talking to them, it would be easy to typecast them as very difficult people to work with, but they turned out to be some of the most courteous and friendly people we interviewed. Everybody was sure to shake hands and introduce themselves to the whole crew. The band also said goodbye to everybody and were generally conversational when the cameras weren’t rolling. Shaking hands and saying ‘hi’ to crew members might not sound like much, but it’s a huge contrast to artists who become more seasoned and see us as just another part of their workday.
Even as a grown-adult, it’s dangerously easy to judge people by how they look, or disrespect public figures for nothing more than being public figures. Spending a collective ninety minutes with Joe Jonas and Cole Whittle was a strong reminder of how wrong that practice is. I’d love to do a tour doc on these guys.
I didn’t get to shoot either of the DNCE shows, but I did get a fair share of new music. BANNERS’ live set surprised me with its electricity and kick. He was nothing like what I expected from a very sedate music video performance that I was on-set for in January. Aurora absolutely owned the stage, and wound up downloaded to my phone before we even left the venue. My martini shot for the festival twas live coverage for The Struts playing an acoustic show in the JW Marriott’s Presidential Suite, and the unamplified voice of Luke Spiller was unstoppable. I can’t wait to see how that shoot comes out.
Thinking back on that last show is what prompted me to really reflect on this shoot, more than I usually do after wrapping out. I feel incredibly fortunate to spend time with these artists, and to have access to their performances that is generally reserved for VIPs and contest winners. I get to work with them as peers to make content for their fans, and spend a little bit of time living vicariously through their talent.
The driving force behind my passion for video has always been to educate people, and give them access to the best moments of incredible experiences. SXSW was an opportunity to tell a lot of stories to a *lot* of fans, and it’s a huge honor to be entrusted with that position. I can’t wait to do it again.