My name is Michael Schneider, I am 40 years old and have been working as a 1stAC based in Berlin for about 12 years.
A lot of roads lead to film. Which one did you take?
I came to film rather late, because I grew up in the provinces, where, unlike in the big cities where filming is constantly taking place everywhere, you come into contact with film rather less. But already in my childhood I bought DVDs mainly from the point of view where the most "behind the scenes" material was included. Peter Jackson's webblog "King Kong Production Diaries", which he kept parallel to the filming and their felt immediacy, then finally triggered the desire to somehow "want to Film". While I was still studying media, I went to Hamburg for an internship on the set of a TV series and stayed there. After that, I went to a camera rental company that still had a lot of 16mm and 35mm cameras as part of its daily business, but also invested in high-end digital cameras very early on. There I got to know several focus pullers who took me to my first jobs as a clapper loader. In 2008 I moved to Potsdam and the Berlin area, where I still live and work today.
The special thing about filmmaking for me is being part of this very special community, for whom working on a project is not just about the money-making applies. These people put a lot of passion and energy into realizing an idea (of someone else) and still find personal fulfillment in the process. You get the opportunity to see the world from many different perspectives, or to be part of a completely different one for a short time.
I think the job of the focus puller has changed a lot over the years. When I started, the place of the Assistants was next to the DoP/Operator. Today, you sometimes fight for your place in the same room. For me as an assistant, it is essential to see the actors, to react to spontaneous movements in front of or at the camera, or even to be able to anticipate them. However, there are of course situations in which this is simply not possible, and then it's important to have a video system with reliable range and low latency. Especially because there is still a need to shoot with an open aperture in the large format area and therefore there is very little to no room for error.
Great gear is ...
In one word: reliable. In times when classic rehearsals are a thing of the past on many sets and a picture is actually expected all the time, equipment has to work. Text rehearsals or set rehearsals offer - at least to us in the camera department - the opportunity to quickly optimize something in the camera setup or to troubleshoot if something is not working as it should. These time windows, which are important for us, become smaller when "rehearsals" are usually shot right away. So, the equipment has to work ... even under adverse conditions. So of course, you become more cautious about implementing new technologies, at least if they don't promise the one big workflow relief you've been waiting for, for example. But I don't think this sentence can be generalized. I would decide on the basis of the respective application.
Are you a nerd?
I think the balance of technology and creativity is what makes this profession for me. However, I wouldn't call myself a nerd.
My most extraordinary / strange / crazy / weird / fascinating experience on set ...
It's hard to pick out one experience, because for me they are actually experiences in their entirety. I think I can consider myself lucky to have been around a lot in this profession. Often, it's the smaller and, at first glance, perhaps unimpressive films. Three years ago, we were in Israel, the West Bank and the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan for a film. That's no longer just work, you're right in the middle of this conflict, you realize what people have to deal with every day, and then you end up in the desert literally at 30 - 40°C, spending the nights in Bedouin tents for budget reasons, and then driving to the set in spectacular sunrises on the flatbeds of 50-year-old LandCruisers through a breathtaking landscape past wild camels in extreme discomfort. These are contrasts that also get to the substance. Then it's the people you're there with and experience together that give you the support you need on some days. And in the end, "Nowhere Restaurant" is even an extremely watchable film.
One sentence about our products that we may quote:
For the current Sky Original SOULS, we had a relatively large Dwarf set with us, in order to permanently supply sound, direction, script, focus and a separate panbar for the gimbal with one image from two cameras. In addition, a C-camera was added at short notice or a complete second shooting unit was set up. With the simple choice of channels on the transmitters and receivers, we could integrate a wide variety of cameras wherever they were needed. This offered us a high degree of flexibility and reliability, especially with the many narrow motifs.