PA fun and foibles Part 2….revenge of the Tokina

On Part 1, of PA musings, I talked about all of the driving and snow fun, and today I shall talk about the much loved and hated Tokina lens. But before I do that, I wanted to mention one fun fact when driving in a blizzard. DO NOT USE YOUR HIGH BEAMS!!! Found this out the fun way. It looks like driving at ludicrous speed. And it’s a great way to wake up your senses!

Now about this Tokina…it takes beautifully wide epic shots. And you’ll see quite a bit of the results in the movie, and some are in the trailer. But what no one tells you is how much of a pain in the butt it is to actually shoot with it. Well, for the PA and crew it is.

The movie takes place in a house that got blasted by snow blizzards and had limited storage of all of our camera  and personal gear. This meant that if we were shooting inside, whichever room wasn’t being used for the shot, all of the non-essential stuffs were moved into a different adjoining room. This isn’t too bad, as everyone would chip in to help and move things around. Things like, chairs, sand bags, tables, especially the “craft” table, unused lighting equipment, cables, camera gear, and much more. Sometimes it’d take about an hour to clear things and move things around and then setting up the shot. Because of the sheer amount of equipment, the ‘storage’ area could at times be filled to the brim. Usually we could get away with this, as the doorway wouldn’t be in the shot. But then…4 words would be spoken after filming a scene that would bring us all damn near to tears.

“Let’s try the tokina,” utters our director Clayton Cogswell.

As soon as he’d finish that sentence, the feelings of anguish and defeat became palpable. This meant that we would have to clear anything the camera could see, and that was usually everything, like a gecko, this lens could damn near see a full 180. So we would now have to clear the adjoining storage room. And where did that stuff go? Outside! This meant all hands on deck. It wasn’t so bad the first dozen times, especially on the days where we shot only inside. At least we got to stay warm.

However, there were those days where we would shoot inside and outside…at night! Did I mention how cold it was? We had nights where it was below 0. BELOW 0!

And it’s not like we would set up a shot and use the tokina for the entire shoot. We’d go through multiple set ups, depending on the lens being used. So there’d be lighting equipment, sand bags, and host of other gear that couldn’t be seen in one shot, and then have to be moved out entirely for the big bad tokina.

The entire crew had loads of fun moving the equipment around in the cold weather, while also standing outside to film. It’s what helped keep us warm. That, and the numerous hand/body warmers that many of us used. There were cringe inducing moments such the time(s) someone (usually my clumsy ass) would inevitably slip in the snow, or grab a metal C-stand (light clamp thing) with their bare hands. What kind of idiot would do that? If we’ve learned anything from watching “It’s a Christmas Story,” we all know frozen metal objects don’t play nice with bare skin.

Alas, I can recall some rather painful looking times when Clayton would want a light moved slightly because it would be in the shot, and instead of waiting for someone, he’d just gallop over, and grab it…with his BARE friggin’ hand! Now, most of us had gloves on, whether it was ski gloves, mittens, snow gloves, something, so moving it wouldn’t be a big deal, other than trudging in 2 feet of snow. Not this friggin’ guy. He’d either left the gloves inside the house, or would be holding the camera with one gloved hand, and didn’t glove the other to control the camera or whatever, but all I know is, he said it would only be for  a few seconds, no biggie, and then grab onto the frozen metal pole and walk it over somewhere. He did this on more than one occasion. I’m all for a team player, but daggummit, wait a few ticks and someone gloved will move the damn thing! Afterall, no glove no love, amiright?!

To this day, I still don’t think he got all of the feeling back in his hands.

Being the PA did have it’s advantages though, because as much as I griped about having to drive to Duluth, or the many trips to the local (only) shopping center, I reveled at times knowing that I would be free and clear of the tokina. Of course I’d come back and say, “tokina shot setup already? you should have waited just a bit to move all of the gear, so I could help.” hehe.

After what felt like months, we finally had completed shooting in Wisconsin. Through blizzards, shoveling a lifetime worth of snow, slips, bangs, and long days and nights. We even had a wrap party, where yours truly almost killed half the crew driving them back. Simply because I thought the deer on the side of the street would wait for me to pass. Nay! Nay I tell you! In my defense, the deer did just stand there while we approached. As I slid to a stop, it stared at me, and looked me dead in the eye and i swear he smirked before crossing the street. That doe-hole. He had at least 4 car lengths to cross but waited until I was nearly on top of him!

I quietly blamed the tokina on this mess. Not sure how, but I know it was involved.

I think it heard me, because the tokina would have the last laugh. After packing my car for the long drive back to LA, I had been entrusted with tokina to take and ship it back to the rental house. This was because there were no fedex drop off areas close to us, and at some point on the drive, I was bound to run into one. About an hour out of town, as I blasted my k-pop, said goodbye to little Washburn, the dumps of snow, and reveled in the idea of being able to fart, without it marinating in 4 layers of clothes, as well as no longer having to deal with clearing stuff away for the tokina, my phone rings. I was actually surprised to hear it, as coverage was spotty at best, and the only time I usually got any signal was in Duluth. I answer, thinking it was some of the crew waiting for me so we can caravan out from Superior. I was partially right. It was our director.

“hey man, do you have the tokina?”

“Yup. safe and snug in my front seat, ready to be dropped off for shipping,” i said all cheery. Eager to get to civilization and be able to stream music again.

“crap. how far are you from the shooting house?”

sigh. “ummm…about 35-40 minutes out?” I was filled with dread at what he was about to say.

“the guys need it back at the shooting house for some quick pickups and photos. so-o sorry. we thought they had it or you were still with them.”

I grit my teeth. not even a sigh could come out. “uhhh…no problemo,” i happily and defeatedly said. As I passed a famous cheese curd store, i turned the car around, all the while just maniacally laughing my ass off, at the whole absurdity of what I was just told. i was now headed back into the little town i so happily left, just moments ago. Damn tokina. DAMN YOU TOKINA!!!

And by the way, i shit you not, just before i finished that last sentence, i spilled my soda on my laptop. Damn you tokina. damn you right to hell!

On my next installment, i shall muse about the wonders of Tapatio and snicker salad.

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