How Do You Find These People? The Cinematographers

Andy Bowley, Cinematographer

Recently I had a lovely sushi dinner with my friend Meryl, a photography-based artist and teacher. She had just watched the clips of A Life’s Work and was taken by the quality of the images. “How did you find such great cinematographers?” she asked.

“A friend of a friend. That’s usually how it … actually, now that I think about it, I found them all through you!”

She was perplexed. Here’s how it went.

Wolfgang Held on the set of Tango Octogenario
Wolfgang Held on the set of Tango Octogenario. Photo by Peter LaMastro.

In the summer of 2001 my film 8 1/2 x 11 was accepted into the Woodstock Film Festival. Meryl, it turns out, had recently bought a weekend home in Woodstock  and I asked if I could stay with her the weekend my film showed, the third weekend in September, I believe it was. She didn’t hesitate for a second and the plans were finalized.

Then 9/11 happened. At the time I worked in Tribeca and I saw a great deal first hand. After that, the last thing I wanted to do was show my little comedy at a film festival. I called Meryl to tell her I wasn’t going to the festival, and she told me I had to, that I had to be there to see my baby. Meryl is a most inspiring person; it’s no accident she’s a good teacher. She convinced me to go. Not to get too far off track, but like everyone else there I felt weird about showing my film at that time, but there was something soothing about that festival. It was very much the right thing to do, to celebrate our ability to create and not succumb to the despair after witnessing our ability to destroy.

Andy Bowley amidst the ATA, Hat Creek, CA. Photo by me.
Andy Bowley amidst the ATA, Hat Creek, CA. Photo by me.

So, because Meryl told me I had to go, I became friends with a filmmaker, K. K., not too long afterwards, sent me an e-mail asking me if I’d be interested in being set up with her friend, R. I didn’t object. We became a couple and when I started looking for cinematographers for Tango Octogenario, she told me I should ask her friend, filmmaker and photographer Robert Palumbo, for recommendations. Both Wolfgang Held and Andy Bowley came via Robert.

Me and Thomas M. Harting, CSC, Mt. Lassen, CA. Photo by Danica Li Roth.
Me and Thomas M. Harting, CSC, Mt. Lassen, CA. Photo by Danica Li Roth.

And Tom Harting was Meryl’s doing, too. Through R. I socialized and eventually became very good friends with Roland Tec, and when I was searching for a d.p. in June 2008, Roland suggested Tom.

I’m not sure there’s a point to this story, except that maybe you can never really predict who is on the horizon of your life and how he or she is going to enter it.

The Shot That Got Away

In the last post, I revealed two of my favorite shots. I wish there was a third clip there.

The Golden Record
The Golden Record

When we were filming Jill Tarter at the SETI Institute’s offices in Mountain View, CA, we also had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Frank Drake, he of the Drake Equation. Drake also designed the Pioneer plaque with Carl Sagan and  was one of the astronomers responsible for selecting the sounds of earth that are contained on the golden record on the Voyager space probes. That record includes Blind Willie Johnson’s harrowing gospel classic “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.” The Voyager probes have left our solar system, and so has Blind Willie Johnson.

But I digress, sort of.  Dr. Drake and Andy Bowley, the cinematographer on this shoot, spent several minutes off camera talking about orchids. It’s a wonderful memory, but I wish I had thought to press the record button. I must accept that not everything can be documented, that some things will exist as memory only.

I’m working on this.