Posted on September 03 2020
Refocus On the Legacy of The Gear, Not just the Image
As our circle of connections continues to grow to new people through social media we have the opportunity to hear amazing stories from people about where they got their first camera or why a particular camera is so special. We love when they share which model holds a special place for them and if it was owned by their dad, mom, grandfather or some other person of influence in their life.
So often, we focus on the legacy of the material in the archives we see. And while it is amazing to see our family and our history recorded in real time, the thing that transcends to the next generation with a sense of responsibility, nostalgia and pride is the gear.
This camera was my dad’s. It was important to him, and therefore it is important to me, we hear time and again.
I’d like to share with you a story that came from Lee Parker. Lee had posted on Instagram a photo of a lapel pin that belonged to his dad. The pin was a Beaulieu 4008. Now we know ALOT about the 4008 at Pro8mm. In fact, we went to the factory in France many times in the 1980’s and 90’s. But I had never ever seen this before. I became very curious about this piece of “swag”, and wanted to know more from Lee.
Lee Parker writes:
My Dad, the Orthopedist, was an amateur film maker wannabe. 1958 I starred as Hood Robin in a parody of Errol Flynn’s Robinhood. My brothers were Little John and the evil Sheriff. Our next door neighbor was Mad Marion. When, at the end, I had to kiss Mad Marion, she refused and I walked off the set. My Dad was Writer, Director, DOP. The camera was an 8mm Bell & Howell wind up. One of my earliest memories is watching a Cinerama movie, an airplane shot flying low over a jungle or forest. I was 3 and the thrill of that shot sealed my destiny, and ultimately to shoot simulator rides for SHOWSCAN, Iwerks and McFadden, for who I was head of film production. writer, Producer, Director.
We lived in Oroville, 120 mile north of San Francisco. My Dad has been in the Merchant Marine in WWII, joined the Air Force to go to Medical School. He was serving in a MASH unit in the Korean War when I was born. In 1966, my Dad became interested in sailing, and the B&H no longer cut it. He was a life long subscriber to the American Cinematographer magazine where he first saw the at first the Beaulieu. I’m sure it was love at first sight. He spent the rest of his days filming his boys in sailing races, and travel. He ran 1000’s of feet through the 4008 - most of which I inherited when my Mother died in 2014, along with the 4008
The B&H came to me around age 12 when the Tony the Tiger stop motion ads came out. I figured out how the were done, sitting on the ground, shoot a frame, slide forward a few inches, take another and so on. So my first short film was my sister racing her toy animals around the yard and up and down the street. My next film was more ambitious. Made as a sophomore in high school, it was called YOU CANT KILL A CRAZY MAN. I used the 4008 to shoot it. I have it posted on Vimeo along with a few others. If you guys are the 8mm telecine house in Burbank, you did the transfers. My next film I made during the summer break I made in hop of being accepted to the UCLA Film School. It was a parody of TV cop shows of the era, with a dash of Chechen and Chong - called LOS BOMBOS 12. My Dad had purchased a Uher sound recording projector and I sound striped both CRAZY MAN and 12 so the had real sound tracks and even one sync sound dialogue scene.
The IMAX / 70mm world collapsed in 2004 with the advent of the RED ONE. I was in the middle of building my second 65mm camera, this one and IMAX camera with a carbon fiber pull down claw. The future was clear - film was dead. At the age of 50, I was obsolete. I had to re-invent myself I’d taught myself computer programming in the late 1980’s, creating the first handheld computer ASC Manual. I wrote a program to convert NDF SMPTE timecode into Kodak keycode for editing 70mm with video. There was no 70mm telecine, so I pointed a video camera at the scene, and wrote the keycode numbers in the flash frames between takes. The program calculated the drift of the film projector relative to the SMPTE. it worked perfect, and the first 70mm film edited with video was the ToddAO Cinespace 70 demo film. I was the head of the ToddAO camera dept at the time, we were renting cameras to Showscsn and Iwerks. Mark Magidson and Ron Fricke approached us with BARAKA and I made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Ron used my program to edit BARAKA. It was my first feature film credit.
I taught myself electronics to make my 65mm camera. It’s not like you can go to the store and by them. So when my life long dream of being a filmmaker came to an end, I started back to my college job, building movie sets. I landed a job on POSEIDON doing the electronic props for the ships controls. The Art Director on David Fincher’s ZODIAC approached us and I made the KRON TV studio for the film. He loved my work so much, when he landed the gig to do JJ Abraham’s STAR TREK re-boot, he asked me to do all the Spaceship consoles. On that gig I met my future, Al DeMayo who’d just started a company called LiteGear. I designed and built their first LED dimmer. I’m now the Chief Electronics Engineer for LiteGear, in charge of LED light system. We’re changing the way movies are made. Emanuel Lewbeski loves our light and he’s won three Academy Awards with it. First with BIRDMAN.
I’m not shooting anymore, but I get to enjoy contributing to the art of the moving image. And when, one day, I go to receive my Technical Academy Award you know what tie tack I will be wearing
This story is not unusual, however it so often goes under the radar when we talk about the legacy of filmmaking. We talk about what was shot, not how or what it was shot with. We hear how Spielberg keeps his first camera on his desk, or someone goes off to film school with their deceased fathers camera. We hear stories like Lee Parkers and how his dad’s amateur filmmaking launched him on his own career path. When you use the gear that your loved one used to create images, there is a strong connection to that person. While you might not remember the specific footage, you remember and revere the experience.
While I did some research and could not find anything about the Beaulieu 4008 Label Pin. I did find one on Etsy for $14.95 so I bought it! If anyone knows the history of this, please do email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will update the blog.