On location for <em>Walk of Shame,</em> camera crew members Larry Nielsen (center) and Milan "Miki" Janicin (right) help set up a crane shot. The wireless focus remote Nielsen will use is hanging from that purple carabiner on his jacket.
You won't believe it — I didn't — but the person responsible for keeping each and every shot of a movie in focus never looks through a camera lens.
"No," says focus puller Baird Steptoe. "We do not look through the camera at all."
Steptoe has worked as a first assistant cameraman on films from The Sixth Sense to Thor to last year's Grownups Two. He says he's learned to judge distances — precise distances — with his naked eye alone.
"I mean, I can tell you roughly from you to me right now," he says. "I would say about 2-11."
For 40 years, Dean Smith made his living as a stunt double in Hollywood Westerns — including eight Oscar winners and nominees — like True Grit, The Alamo and How The West Was Won.
"I was able to make all the leading men look good," Dean tells his wife Debby in an interview with StoryCorps. And not just men, he adds.
"One time, I doubled [as] Maureen O'Hara. I got the clothes and I got this big red wig. When I got back on the set, they laughed at me and they said my legs didn't look too much like Maureen's," he laughs.
Milan "Miki" Janicin slates a scene on a location shoot for <em>The</em> <em>Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift</em>. Given the crowded location, "I'm actually on the phone with my first assistant, so he could let me know when the camera is rolling," Janicin says.
More than the roar of the MGM lion, more than the 20th Century Fox fanfare, the iconic sound of moviemaking is the sharp clap of a slate — although film folks have a language of their own to describe it.
"Miki's hitting the sticks on this one," says assistant cameraman Larry Nielsen, pointing to his assistant.