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.

Hey, what time is it?

Atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado

One of the things I love about my job is I never know where I may find myself. Case in point, this week I found myself around the world’s most accurate clock. Pictured above (with my head poking in the background) is the NIST-F1, a cesium fountain clock at the University of Colorado’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. It serves as the US’s primary time and frequency standard. It is 10 times more accurate than the previous incarnation, the NIST-7.


As it turns out this is only part of the clock. The entire apparatus actually spans several rooms connected by various cables, cables that were everywhere. The producer and I made sure to step around carefully, lest we were to trip over one and accidentally unplug it. We wondered, if that happened, would time stop?

Solar Panel Study in Golden

National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden Colorado

A couple weeks ago I was driving west on I-70 toward the mountains to go skiing. Driving past Golden, for the first time I noticed a massive facility off the highway. What is that? I wondered.


I got my answer this week when I was hired as director of photography for a shoot about NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the source of the massive structure I noticed on that drive.


In the course of the shoot we got a tour of the facility, including this area where they test and monitor various solar panel designs (you can see downtown Denver in the background). Some of these panels have been out there for 20 or more years as part of the study is seeing how long a panel will last. The panel most often being used today is one that has a grid-like pattern on its surface. In the past, solid black panels were popular but birds would frequently fly straight into them to their death thinking they were a body of water. The grid design was developed to break up the silhouette.

A Colorado Avalanche Star AND HAVEN’s BRAVERY


Sound recordist Ty Klocke and I worked on this touching piece about Colorado Avalanche star Matt Duchene and a five-year-old girl in Highlands Ranch who has been battling cancer since she was two (see previous post below). The story was produced by Sportsnet Canada.


Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy


Last week sound recordist Ty Klocke and I worked with Sportsnet, Canada’s version of ESPN, on a hockey story involving the Colorado Avalanche. We first sat down with Avalanche head coach and legend Patrick Roy (above). But the thrust of the story involved an interview that followed him, specifically Avalanche center Matt Duchene.


Duchene has become close to 5-year-old girl named Haven, who lives with her family lives the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch. Haven was diagnosed with cancer shortly after her second birthday. She has undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy and several clinical trials. And she is still not completely out of the woods. Yet upon meeting her, you would never guess she was in the middle of a fight with cancer. When asked what his favorite thing about Haven was, Matt replied, “her smile.”


Indeed, Haven’s smile is one filled with joy and happiness. And it was clear to us that Matt had been a big contributor to keeping that smile on her face. After Friday’s game, we were with Haven and her family in the bowels of the Pepsi Center while they waited for Matt to emerge from the locker room so they could say hi. Despite it being several hours past her bedtime, Haven was bubbling with giddiness. When Matt finally emerged Haven was so excited she hard trouble producing words.

It was a pleasure being a part of telling this great story and, along with Matt, we are rooting Haven on and she continues to fight her battle against cancer.

Denver’s Best Ice Cream


Over the summer I worked with Craig Spinks of Denver-based Quadrid Productions on this commercial for Denver’s Sweet Action Ice Cream shop. Located on Broadway in Denver’s Baker neighborhood, Sweet Action has become known for its hand-made ice cream that uses Colorado ingredients and comes in several exotic flavors (“Stranahan’s Whiskey Brickle,” anyone?). It has been voted Colorado’s best ice cream shop by USA Today and Denver’s best ice cream shop by 5280 Magazine.


They contacted Craig to produce a promotional film. Craig specializes in films for small businesses. He has built his business creating high production values to films that are normally out of reach for budget minded small businesses.