DOCUMENTARY FILM ON DR. WILLIAM HURWITZ HAS DROPPED!

In the summer of 2015 I worked with Eve Marson and Sarah Goldblatt on their documentary feature film, “Dr. Feelgood: Dealer or Healer?” They had most of their film shot but needed pick up shots and interviews over a three-day period and they contacted me to be their director of photography for the shoot.

 

Eve was the lead producer on “Fed Up,” a documentary film about the food industry narrated by Katie Couric. As someone who pays close attention to the food I put in my body, I really enjoyed that film and thought it a highly important subject. This new film is about a doctor who was imprisoned for over-prescribing oxycontin to his patients, which led to severe addictions and deaths. The doctor maintains he was just doing his job to help people. Family members of his victims disagree. With the explosion in pain medication addictions in our country, this film comes at an opportune time and explores important questions about whether these drugs and the physicians who prescribe them are helping or hurting their patients.

 

The trailer for finished film is above. I was happy to see the scene I shot of the physician at his piano was included. The film recently premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival and is soon to be distributed by Gravitas Ventures and will be dropped on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play January 31. It maintains a 83 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

 

A CINEMATOGRAPHER’S BEST FRIEND: THE HONDA ELEMENT

Honda Element used for Denver video production

I have friends in the video production business who are long-time owners of Honda Elements. I remember them touting their virtues as far back as 2007, especially as tools for video production.

 

I didn’t care much for the vehicles visual aesthetic so I didn’t share in their enthusiasm. That all changed last year when during several car camping trips I noticed a lot of people driving them. They must be on to something, I thought.

 

So I looked into them and what others have done to modify their appearance. After seeing some inspiring examples, I knew I had to have one.

 

A couple weeks later I found myself driving my new car, a 2008 Honda Element, back to Denver from Jackson, Wyoming. My next course of action with the new car was tossing the stock grill and tires. The grill I replaced with a logo-less one and for the tires I picked up a set of BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2s. These bad boys are a couple sizes larger than the standard tires and feature tremendous amounts of aggressive-looking tread, even on the side walls! Yes, they are great for driving in Colorado’s muddy and snowy mountains, but most of all they balance out the car so it actually looks like it should. They change the complexion of the vehicle so much that I have had people stop and ask what kind of car it is. When I tell them it is an Element, they are surprised.

 

My modifications have not been limited to the exterior, in fact, I have probably done more work on the interior. I removed the back seats and installed a rug. I created a custom center console that has room for four large Nalgene type water bottles and seven beverages all together. And I have created a road trip/car camping organizing system for the back as well as a foldout platform bed that is used for overnight ski trips.

 

It was the later system I had currently in the car when I was hired as a director of photography by the good folks at New York based ASL Productions. They had storyboarded a tracking shot of a guy riding his bike on a bike path, so I offered up my Element for the shot, which meant have to set my platform bed temporairly on the sidewalk and generated a fair share of curious looks. Miguel, operating Movi Freefly, sat on the tailgate to nab the shots while I captured the cyclist on a long lens from a tripod. Miguel’s resulting shots looked fantastic. Those friends of mine were wise, I should have gotten an Element much sooner.

COMMERCIAL VIDEO ON WYKNOOP BREWERY

 

Curbed.com, a website owned by Vox Media that profiles features about all things home, recently launched a video division.  Their first project is a massive story on “10 Streets That Define America.” One of the streets they chose to focus on is Wynkoop Street right here in Denver, Colorado. They contracted with me to work as a field producer and cinematographer and director of photography on a video profiling the street.

 

The final published story and video may be found here. Two of the major landmarks on Denver’s Wynkoop St. that we focus on include the Wynkoop Brewery and Union Station. The producer of the series really loved a commercial I produced and shot for Hatchlab about seedling farmers in Boulder. She was interested in a similar style but also wanted to add smooth tracking beauty shots of the street. This was a perfect opportunity to use a newer piece of gear in my arsenal, which is a DSLR handheld gimbal made by Ikan and called “The Beholder.” It is just robust enough to accept a Canon 5D without weight issues. When I slap that on, voila! I’ve got instant steadicam-like shots. Well, maybe not instant, as it does require a bit of practice to get smooth shots, but once you have that ironed out the set up is quick.

 

Check out the shots of Union Station and Wynkoop I got with the setup in the final video.

Documentary film earns another award!

Documentary film award

“Parables of War,” a documentary film for which I served as a director of photography, just earned an IndieCapitol Award for best documentary short for 2016! Congrats to the film’s producer and director, Nina Gilden Seavey.

 

I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a cinematographer and a few of Nina’s projects over the years. She is a talented documentary filmmaker and her films always go on to accomplish great things. This film has been no exception.

 

I am happy to have been a contributor this documentary film and a part of a talented crew, including director of photography Gary Grieg, editor Ian Rummer, composer John Califra, and sound designer and mixer Cheryl Ottenritter.

 

The films stars Liz Lerman, Bill Pullman, Joshua Bleill, Keith Thompson, Tamara Hurwitz Pullman, Marjani Forte-Saunders.

 

The documentary is available to watch on iTunes and Vudu.

 

You can follow additional news about the film on Facebook.

DOCUMENTARY FILM INTERVIEW: JFK & MLK ASSASSINATIONS

Documentary film producer and Robert Blakley

These days nearly, if not all, documentary films contain an interview or more. For better or worse it is just how the structure of documentaries have come to be defined. So as a cinematographer and director of photography for documentary films, I find myself shooting lot of interviews. A. Lot. Everyone from the President to 5-year-old kids. Last month I shot perhaps my favorite one: Robert Blakley.

 

The interview was for a documentary being produced by Nina Gilden Seavey. Nina is a long tenured and accomplished documentary filmmaker. Additionally, she is the director of the documentary program at George Washington University and co-founder of The Silver Docs Film Festival, one of the preeminent documentary only film festivals in the world. I had the pleasure of meeting her while working as a camera operator on short documentary film of hers early in my career. That film went on to play at several film festivals win several awards. The latest film of hers with with I have worked and served as director of photography, “Parables of War,” recently completed a festival run and is now being distributed by Gravitas Ventures and has received a number of glowing reviews.

 

So I was happy to hear about her latest project when she called me to ask if I wanted to film an interview with her in Phoenix, Arizona. Blakley, now 85 and a retired attorney, lead the House Assassinations Committee investigations into the JFK and MLK assassinations in the late 1970s. If there is a person alive who knows most accurately the truth behind those assassinations, it is this man. Nina’s film concerns the student protest and Civil Rights Movement protests in the late 1960s so for purposed of the interview was interested specifically in Blakley’s knowledge of the Martin Luther King assassination.

 

But I couldn’t leave without an inquiry into the John F. Kennedy assassination. As a child growing up in the 1980s and early ’90s, every November 22 the JFK assassination was discussed. I remember my social studies teacher showing the Zapruder film and the analysis of the trajectories of the bullets. My teachers, along with my parents, were baby-boomers and children at the time of the assassination. It as much a mark of their childhood as the Challenger explosion in 1986 might be for mine. So I grew up surrounded by the emotional memories of that event and the continued efforts, some 30 years later, to grapple with what happened.

 

zapruder film still frame

The discussion seems to have faded dramatically since that time yet I don’t recall a conclusion or consensus reached on what actually was behind the assassination. So after we wrapped the interview. my curiosity got the best of me and while I was packing up my camera and lighting gear, I asked Blakley jokingly if he thought there was another shooter behind the grassy knoll. “Yes,” he said. “There were two shooters and I’m pretty sure I know who they were.” Say again? We talked for a quite a while longer in which he revealed that actors from the mafia and the Cuban-American community were behind the plot to assassinate the president. My mind was blown. Here is the man who perhaps knowns most accurately the truth behind the most notorious assassination of the last several generations and yet here he is quietly living out his retirement years in Scottsdale where none seems to be interested in talking to him about what he knows.

 

Fortunately, he has written a book about his findings. I’ll hold back on the details here and instead direct you to said  book. It’s available for one cent. I’m reading it now.

 

Letters to Syrian Refugees

Denver cinematographer Doug Gritzmacher with Helga Kissell at her home in Colorado Springs.

This week sound recordist Rich Jacobs and I worked on a touching film shoot in Colorado Springs for Voice of America that is garnering a lot of press from all the major news outlets.

 

Standing next to me in this photo is 87-year-old Helga Kissell. She wrote a letter to a 16-year-old Syrian refugee. “I know it is always difficult to adjust in a different country. I feel very deeply for you,” Kissell wrote. “There will be better times ahead.”

 

Kissell is no stranger to what it is like to be a refugee. She grew up in Germany during WWII. After her town was bombed by the Allies, her family escaped with only the clothes on their backs. A short time later, an American soldier she had met and befriended earlier while working at a photo printing shop sent her and her family a care package containing food and clothes.

 

That man, Leo, is now her husband (and is standing on the right). They kept in touch via letters for three years before Kissell was able to fly to the United States and marry Leo.

 

CARE, the same service Leo used to send packages to Helga is providing that same service to Syrian refugees.

Real Estate Cinematography

Doug Gritzmacher operates the Freefly Movi

This month I had the pleasure of producing and shooting a video for a commercial real estate broker. I got to work with several fun toys on this one, including the Freefly Movi, which is a gimble system that allows for smooth camera movement. I love it because it frees me up to create movement with the camera in any way I chose.

 

This being a real estate video, we of course needed aerial photography. I have been casually training myself on drone operation but for the time being I am unable to do so for commercial purposes. This is because the FAA requires UAV operators to possess a pilot’s license and a Section 333 exemption. Pretty steep requirements but understandable since UAVs are dangerous and it pays to have someone with experience and credentials behind the wheel.

 

Jonathan Gruber operates a drone for videography

 

So I work with Elite Air Productions. They come as a two-man operation with dedicated operators for both the piloting and the camera. This comes with several benefits — first and foremost it allows the pilot to keep his eyes squarely focused on the drone. You’d be surprised how easy it is to lose a drone in the air. Elite Air’s pilot, Jonathan Gruber, is a commercial airline pilot, so he comes with thousands of hours of experience logged at the controls. I was pleased to see that safety was his first concern: he would land the drone any time a pedestrian or auto approached.

 

Check out our work below in the finished piece.

 

Avalanche vs. Red Wings Alumni Game

Doug Gritzmacher camera interview set up for Sportsbet Canada

This past weekend Coors Field hosted an outdoor NHL hockey match between the Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings. Producers from Sportsnet, Canada’s version of ESPN, flew in from Toronto to cover some the action and festivities surrounding the match. This included an exhibition match between now retired players from both squads. We set up at their hotel to film interviews with some of these legends.

 

The Sportsnet producers had a specific look they were interested in for the backdrops. We used insulation picked up at Lowe’s hardware store. Using gold gel on an Arri light we were able to get a very cool look as you can see in the image above. I always enjoy getting an opportunity to try something new and had a lot of fun on this shoot.