Ben Richardson, Naguib Fredericks, Garrett Brown, Siyabonga Jim & Georgia Court
Dredd Helps South Africans Train With Steadicam Inventor
Three South Africans – Georgia Court, Naguib Fredericks and Siyabonga Jim – recently spent a week in America hosted by Garrett Brown, the Oscar and Emmy-winning inventor of the Steadicam®.
Their trip was organized by Kalahari Pictures and sponsored by Dredd, an upcoming graphic novel blockbuster adaptation, which shot in Cape Town and Johannesburg with Kalahari at the end of 2010. Dredd will be released worldwide on 21 September 2012.
DNA Films’ Andrew Macdonald, who produced Dredd, said, “We had a great time shooting in South Africa, so we were looking for something to give back.”
Dredd had already trained a significant number of South Africans through the skills transfer inherent in being Cape Town Film Studios’ first-ever production and South Africa’s largest yet 3D production. Dredd also trained learners from The Film Industry Learner Mentorship Programme (F.I.L.M.) and The Cape Film Commission.
Kalahari Pictures’ Michael Murphey suggested the Steadicam training to Andrew after being approached by Siyabonga Jim, an upcoming cinematographer who shot the 2012 DSTV short film winner iBhayibhile (The Bible). Siyabonga had started corresponding with Garrett after struggling to find Steadicam training opportunities in South Africa or affordable courses overseas.
Garrett offered scholarships to Siyabonga and two other South Africans for a week-long intensive he was running for upcoming DOP Ben Richardson, who had just won Best Cinematography at Sundance for Beasts of the Southern Wild, which also won the Grand Jury Prize. Chris Fawcett, an Irish Steadicam operator living in Amsterdam, volunteered as an additional instructor for the week.
Garrett was the Steadicam operator on nearly 100 films, including Rocky, The Shining and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. He calls being a Steadicam operator “one of the best jobs in the business” and now runs workshops across five continents, with an impressive list of past pupils that includes Oscar winners like Anthony Dod Mantle, who shot Dredd.
Expat South Africans like Chris Haarhoff (Fight Club, Bridesmaids) and Andrew Rowlands (Gangs of New York, The Fighter) are among the best Steadicam operators in America, but there’s a shortage locally. “The handful we have are all white and male,” says Michael, “so it’s great we could send three talented and deserving South Africans. It should change their role in the South African film industry and change the South African film industry.”
Before the trip, Georgia, Naguib and Siyabonga were given copies of The Steadicam Operator’s Handbook, written by Jerry Holway, but the actual training at Garrett’s farm outside Philadelphia was hands-on rather than just theoretical. “It was almost 24/7,” says Garrett. “They expended an awful lot of energy here.”
For Siyabonga, the biggest inspiration was just meeting Garrett. “He invented the Steadicam and was the first guy to operate it, and now it’s the Steadicam®!”
Georgia agrees. “It was an unbelievable experience and one I will cherish forever.”
Garrett was one half of Two Voices, the well-known ad-lib duo on radio for Molson and American Express. Although he’s never shot in South Africa, Garrett came here once just after democracy “to help teach South African radio writers how to be funny.” Considering that we now regularly win Radio Grand Prixs at Cannes Lions, don’t be surprised to see Steadicam become one of South Africa’s new areas of expertise.
Garrett’s certainly impressed with his first intake. “This was the best workshop of all,” he says. “I ended up liking them all a lot. They’re all deadly serious about their craft, quite adventurous and physically skillful, with strong ideas about movies. Learning to play this instrument is a lifelong task – I’m still learning – but these guys got very close even in one week. They’re off to a great start.”
Dredd, Kalahari Pictures and Garrett have worked together to make a Steadicam rig available to the three students now they’re back in South Africa. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.