Ric Waite - Getting Into the Business

On Saturday we lost Ric Waite. He passed away at age 78. He was a great DoP (Red Dawn, Footloose) and a lot of the people I met while teaching at the Colorado Film School– where Ric taught cinematography before– really admired him. I was always disappointed that I never got to meet him.

I heard the sad news through a small snippet on ASC's Facebook page, and they linked to a story on his very under-appreciated blog about his first day as a DoP, which was also his first day in "the industry." I found it inspiring, funny and endearing, and helpful to those who are nervous entering into a big, often overwhelming industry.

Here's the excerpt ASC used from his post, "Getting into the Business":

"The director gave my my first set up. A nurse leaves a room down the hall, comes toward us to the nurse's station, chats with another nurse for a moment, then walks away up another hall. I thought to myself - she's going to move? Hell, I'd been photographing people - mostly girls - on a seamless background using strobe lights. How the heck do you light a person to get fom A to B? I hadn't the foggiest. So I confessed my sins to the Gaffer. (He's the guy in charge of lighting, usually how the cameraman tells him, but not always.) His name was Cal Bassin and what a terrific guy he was. He just smiled, told me to follow him around and pay attention to what he did and how he did it. I followed his advice. Finally, he announced we were ready and I should tell the director so. I did and he - the director - said fine Ric - just climb on the dolly and we'll get a rehearsal. I took one look at this huge camera mounted on this funny looking device that had a hand wheel in the back and another small hand wheel on the side. I thought to myself, what the hell's that? I'd been used to a small tripod and either a Rolleiflex or Hasselblad. So, I conjured up myself and said to the director: "You know, I really like to sit in a chair and watch the actors - make sure they're hitting their marks, staying in their lights, etc." He said "okay, we'll get an operator over here right away." They did (And he subsequently taught my how to operate what I eventually learned was called a Worral head) and we were off.

Well, that's how it went for the first six months I was there. A bit of lying, a hint of cajoling; a little bit of stalling and a lot of watching, learning and keeping my mouth shut - but a smile on my face - Always! And I began to learn how to be a cinematographer. My "lessons" continued for another what? Twenty years? Thirty? Hell, you never stop learning. And when you do, you're dead."


mark.james.mccann said...

That is sad news, he was a great dp.

Love that story about his first day.

April Frame said...

I love this story, thanks for writing it down. He was one hell of a man, I'll never forget his motto, "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life."