Now well-known as a go-to aerial photographer throughout Hollywood, GBHQ interviewed Dylan Gross back in 2000 about his time spent as an assistant cameraman/loader on Ghostbusters II.
Here is the interview as it was presented back in 2000 with the original introduction as well.
What is a "camera loader?" What does "1st assistant camera" mean? All of these are terms you would hear on a movie set. After working on 45+ films, including Species, George of the Jungle, Bad Boys, and many others, Dylan Gross has had an extensive career and is still going strong today, working in aerial filming and commercial directing. However, one job stands out on his resume. It was actually the second film he ever worked on, he was 19 at the time, the film was Ghostbusters 2.
Q: How did you get the job of working on Ghostbusters II?
A: Maybe predictably, my father. Ghostbusters 2 was one of the first films that I worked on full-time, and I was 19 when I started. My father was the show's Executive Producer (Michael C. Gross), and my summer jobs for many years were on film sets. I was the (there is one on every set) producer's son who someone was told to give a job... in this case, it was a little more serious, a s I was part of the shooting crew. It was my first "real position" - and with the Camera Crew, which was generally considered the hardest part of the crew to become part of (of the below-the-line, working crew, that is). In fact, even with my father as one of the two Exec. Producers for the show, he was told at first that due to the tightness of the camera union (at the time, IATSE local 659), even he couldn't get me a job with them. For a couple of weeks during pre-production I helped out some of the physical special effects guys (the makers of the slime!). Then things worked out with the camera crew by the time that principal photography began. It was my first show in the union. My father would say that I didn't have to keep the union card, at least I had it. And my direct boss, Cameraman Michael Chapman, joked that it was a complete waste of time to get in the union... he was probably right, but here I am, doing camera work almost a dozen years later (my father moved out of the film business around six years ago).
Q: Explain your job to our viewers if you would please.
A: At the time, my job was pretty lowly. A couple of factors were there - first, there was quite a bit of responsibility in even the lowest camera department job, typically loading and unloading the film into the camera magazines. On any movie, the handling of the film takes a special importance - rightfully so - all of the days work is trusted at one moment to the person handling it. Second, the guys in the camera department wanted to send a message that I was very lucky to have gotten into the camera department so easily. Most, if not all of them, paid many more dues before they were allowed membership. So, for the first week, I wasn't even allowed on the set. They kept me on the camera truck, where all of the equipment was, building wooden shelves for the camera cases. I was finally allowed to hook up the video monitors that show what the film cameras were shooting (video assist). On today's sets, that is a separate job from the camera department, but being relatively new, the monitors and equipment were left for the camera crew to deal with. Most of my days were spent wiping Ghostbusters Slime off of piles of tangled fifty foot video cables. As far as my future camera work, eventually I got my hands on the film (film loader), and then the slates (second assistant camera) on the TV show Quantum Leap, as well as features like Kindergarten Cop, Heart and Souls, Point of No Return, and The River Wild. I was a focus puller (1st assistant camera) for a few years, and then ended up, through a friend, getting into aerial (helicopter) filming. Almost by mistake, that became my specialty as, at first, a technician, and then as a Cameraman myself, shooting. This has been my mainstay for several years, and has led to the beginning of a Commercial Directing career (I finished my last of three directing spots recently).
Q: How much time was allowed for filming in N.Y. and L.A.?
A: Honestly, I don't recall. I think that the N.Y. unit (which shot first, doing exteriors before the L.A. sound stage work) shot for maybe a couple of weeks. In L.A. I think that we went for around 60 days, or twelve weeks of five day shooting weeks. As I recall, for a large show, the film was relatively on schedule. Most of my energy was spent perfecting the removal of slime from cables, so the finer points of the schedule were lost on me. There were also some re-shoots and additional shots made after the principal photography was wrapped, I belive about a week's worth of work.
Q: In your opinion, what was the hardest scene to film?
A: When N.Y. starts to be enveloped in slime, the related scenes were a mess. There were many sets that became covered in the sticky mess, and keeping the cameras clean and safe was mostly janitorial work for the bottom end of the crew. The slime was everywhere, stuck to cases, cables, shoes - everything. Everywhere out of the shooting scene were hoses to pipe slime, things to trip over - it was a tiring environment with very long hours.
Q: Who was the best to work with?
A: My dad knew Bill Murray casually for many years, and he had seen me as a very young kid and breifly on a few occasions, growing over the years. He joked with me quite a bit and made it easier to be around the set. Somehow it evolved where I would have cigarettes for him with some of my camera stuff (in a pouch on a belt), so I would get these summons to the center of the set for a cigarette, often at times where the set was closed and just the actors and the director (Ivan Reitman) were rehearsing. Overall though, a film set is a bit like the circus, and there are amazing characters thoughout the whole crew. It is quite an environment to grow up in, and many people made it a memorable place to be.
Q: Were you a fan of the original film before working on the sequel?
A: I was in school full time on the first movie, which came out in the summer after the ninth grade for me. For a fourteen year old, it is a pretty huge movie. I think I got as sick of the Ghostbusters song that went to the top of the charts as anyone else did, but yeah, I really liked the original a lot.
Q: What are some of your favorite stories from working on the film?
A: Some of the smaller things are definitely lost to my memory... Like any good union member, I did spend a lot of time playing cards on set. There was a one-handed game that the sound guys played, that only involved one poker hand and could be played pretty discreetly during long setups. The sound crew was a three person crew - mixer, boom man, and cable man. The cable man was always running the games, and was incredibly good at starting rumors as a past time. He would plant one piece on information with one crew guy, and then another with someone else. He would be the catalist to some amazing rumors that I couldn't believe he could start. The film shot through January in L.A. and he started the rumor that the Superbowl has changed where it was going to be held that year. He had members of the crew (a lot of sports bettors) changing their wagers based on this rumor that he somehow started panic among the serious sports fans. Somehow, from spending many hours a day crawling under and behind things with those video cables, I became known as the Monitor Lizard. The office got word of this and thought it would be funny to credit me as that in the film. Because of the way things worked on a union film then, the legal department needed it cleared with my union to call me that. Amazingly, the office still made the request to my union, who found no humor in it and insisted that I take a normal credit.