September 18, 2010

100 Voices, getting the band back together

I was approached by my friends at MOD3 Productions, Matt Asner and Danny Gold to put a production team together to document a one of a kind tour. It would be a trip to Poland and Israel providing coverage and stories as 70 Cantors performed in spectacular venues across Warsaw, Krakow and Jerusalem. Well I was in. I just had to figure out what a cantor was. As I was referred to by the famous comedian, Jackie Mason, “I see the gentiles got the good seats here tonight.” So as it was explained to me, a cantor is the person who leads the congregation along with the rabbi.

I began to assemble my team and I knew it would require guys who were versatile in many areas. I had to shoot documentary style, on the fly and sit down interviews, scenic shots, concerts and more importantly, play with the hand dealt to us. I hired Tony Melfi whose background in news and experience in covering sports and entertainment was so valuable. I then hired Anthony Lenzo. Anthony, owner of Air Sea Land Productions Astoria, NY is an amazing jib operator. We had jibs (camera cranes) at all of our big venues and they provided breathtaking sweeping shots.The nice thing about Anthony, he can shoot ENG just as well as any of us, so to bring someone that could wear two hats was huge. Also heʼs basically a MacGyver (where I put myself in the MacGruber category) and that is valuable when you are halfway across the world. Finally, we had to
have a sound recordist that could record ENG interviews as well as really knock out capturing the essence and scope of the concerts. I called on my friend Mike Ryan from Actual Size Audio in Connecticut. Mike is very particular about his audio but also understands how not to bog down the production, once again rolling with the punches gets huge points in my book (I really donʼt have a book).

So I had assembled my production team, guys that not only are so talented with their craft but guys I wanted to hang out with. I have known them all for over ten years and knew I could count on them working in different conditions with the best attitudes. I never once heard a complaint from any of them as expected. As far as hiring a crew, I
always want someone who can do the job exceptionally but someone I want to have a dinner with and hang with.

We traveled pretty light only bringing the necessary items for our cameras and audio and renting the rest with our production company in Poland. Our coordinator/driver, Kamil, quickly became one of us. Upon revealing his middle name which sounded like he said Chewbacca, he became Chewie and it didnʼt take him too much persuasion to give his best Chewbacca growl.

Matt and Danny (MOD3 Productions) worked us like mules but thatʼs okay, our crew was ready for it. Just kidding. We decided what our stories were and followed them the best we could with the resources we had. We had a plan and stuck to it. They never played the “we are above the line and you are the crew” card. We were all one team, working for one goal, to get the best product we could. There were so many setups, locations and scenarios to touch upon. Our team put together a remarkable piece of work. We knew when we were capturing a powerful service in Auschwitz, I believe the only one of its kind, that it was an important story to be told.
This documentary was my first full length documentary as the Director of Photography and I couldnʼt have done it without the team. On Tuesday, September 21, 2010, we will get to share our work with everyone as it plays in 485 theaters across the United States.
I always feel if you can inject positive energy and are allowed to let your creativity flow, good things will come of it. This is a very important piece for me to be a part of and good things came of it.

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