Have Helicopter, Camera Mounts, Will Travel.
By Michael Clark
NEW YORK – A pilot and a producer have teamed up to form Aerial Cinema Productions here, offering ground-dwelling production companies and agency producers a range of aerial cinematography services.
Pilot Ray McCort, who trained under renowned West Coast film pilots Alan Purwin and Bobby Zajonc, and producer Jennifer Andrews, formerly with Elson Productions here, were underway with the company’s first large project last week- a spot for a watch manufacturer of Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, directed by John Bruno of Venice, Calif.-based effects house Digital Domain. The company has working agreements with several aerial camera mount companies in Calif. and a local helicopter firm. McCort said they have also enlisted two DP’s – Josh Narins of It’s Not Easy Productions and John Inwood of Green Leaf Films, both here- who are available for Aerial jobs. The company is also training a full-time technician and is compiling a stock footage library, McCort added.
Andrews said the new venture will simplify the process for producers wanting to arrange aerial shoots in and around New York City, including the shipment of gyro-stabilized helicopter camera mounts from camera mount companies such as Continental Magnum Mount and Spacecam Mount, both in Van Nuys, Calif. “We will get to the point where (producers) are not going to have to fly people out here from L.A. and pay $5,000 for it,” Andrews said. The company joins Al Cerrulo’s National Helicopter firm in Farmingdale, N.Y., in the somewhat limited New York aerial cinematography market. McCort, who has been flying planes and helicopters for 10 years, and flying camera-mounted aircraft for the past three, said most regular pilots do not harbor the patience or the artistic eye to understand what filmmakers want once the production is in the air. “If something is aeronautically not safe or practical, you have to think of alternatives that will make them happy and get the same shot,” McCort told SHOOT.
For the Timex-Indiglo spot, McCort used a gyro-stabilized Wescam camera mount to take Bruno above the city at the first light of dawn. The rear, side and belly mounted cameras – which can weigh up to 400 pounds and are balanced with counterweights on the opposite side of the aircraft – are operated by joysticks from within the cockpit, where DPs and directors can monitor the shots on a video assist monitor.
Buying The Brooklyn Bridge
McCort, who is among less than a dozen aerial film pilots in the country, said the East River bridges are very popular for aerial shots from the company’s leased Bell Jet Ranger 206B which is stored in nearby Caldwell, NJ. The bridges are common settings for car commercials, and at press time Aerial was waiting to hear about an assignment for BMW, McCort said. He commented that most of the aerial film pilots work on the West Coast because there are fewer space limitations and a vast array of locations.
“Here in New York almost all the shots people want are condensed to a 10 mile radius – from the Brooklyn Bridge up to Yankee Stadium, the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty,” McCort said. Pilots also traverse through airspace this is controlled by three major metropolitan airports. “It can get a little hairy and confusing up there sometimes. you got a director, a DP, a chopper with a 400-pound rig and you’re hearing from Kennedy (JFK Airport), LaGuardia and Newark,” McCort said.
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