Texpat Christopher Shea

16 Jan

Christopher Shea is not only a great Assistant Director. He is one of those people with wattage. This guy could charm the pants off even those mean ladies who work behind the counter at Macy’s. Chris shares his experience working in the film industry and what we all know to be the true meaning of life: TACOS.

Where are you from in Texas?
From NE San Antonio, the closest side to Austin. Then I lived in Austin for 15 years. San Antonio has my birth certificate, Austin has my heart.

Did you always want to work in movies?
ALWAYS. Acting, writing, directing, editing, lighting, cinematography. I LOVE it all and I’ve done it all at one point or another, only to settle most recently on the highly stressful task of Assistant Directing. Yay me!

How’s NYC compared to home?
NYC is waayyyyyy more vibrant, fast-paced, and gritty, but the people are generally the same considering 50-75% of the people you meet are usually from somewhere else also. The getting dark at 4:30 thing takes some getting used to and the frequent rain is also something that’s made the umbrella the ultimate NYC accessory. And the big culinary trade off seems to be bagels and pizza for quality mexican food and of course, TACOS. If you ask for a breakfast taco in New York City, you hear crickets dropping pins as tumbleweeds blow through the minds of the vendors you ask. Tacos = NWTBF.

How’s the New York film scene?
The New York film scene is thriving. Maybe not as strongly as the television scene, but the film scene is much stronger than it is in Austin, at least during the course of the last year. I love meeting new people and experiencing new activities not previously encountered on film sets. New York is perfect for that sort of thing, but just because there’s plenty of work AND because it is New York City, does not necessarily mean people up here have a firmer grasp of filmmaking than filmmakers anywhere else. In fact, there have been numerous occasions where it is quite the opposite. Either way, I think the concentration of affluence, mated with the attractiveness of cinema sort of produces a high frequency of projects in production at any given moment.

What’s your most surreal ADing misadventure?
That’s a tie. On one film last Summer called “Mt. Joy,” we built a barn exterior only to burn it down at the end of that week. The entire population of Lancaster and surrounding areas, news media and the fire department were on hand to watch, along with several Amish adults and children. It was suggested that 40 feet would be a “safe” distance to shoot from, but previous experience had led me to believe that at 40 feet, it would feel as if our faces were melting off. I suggested we go back further (65 ft maybe), but was overruled by the director (a always present part of the job), so we shot, lit the fire and then after 10 minutes, the blaze was starting to melt stuff and people’s zippers were starting to heat up beyond reason (not a great spot for concentrated heat). We had to cut and relocate the entire crew, back, another 20 feet to finish shooting before the structure completely fell. It was a lot of yelling and ensuring that we were indeed getting the right shots. I remember looking back into the eyes of some Amish kid (in my mind he has a beard, but I know that’s impossible) about 20 feet further back and the look on face was that of pure astonishment and wonder. You could tell he’d never seen anything like that. It sort of lent an interesting perspective about the movie, my job, and my life. I smiled.

And the second involved a film I worked with TexPats’ own Jenny Joslin where not enough planning was made to ensure that a 65 foot Panavision Technocrane would make it’s way poolside at the Catalina Beach Club near Long Island. The shot involved tracking a subject from a 2nd floor cabana house down to a diving board where the subject would dive into a pool (where we followed him with a underwater mount called a “Hydroflex”) and then reveal our protagonist at a poolside bar. The Shot was suppose to be spectacular, but no one had checked to make sure there was a six foot clearance at any of the entrances to the club before hand. We could not get it in, or around, or poolside, for that matter. So, this $7,000 dollar, 5,000 pound, German designed, steel beast only got as far as the parking lot where we opened up the truck it was in to pose for pictures before sending it back to Panavision. The Teamsters were smiling in the pics, but now I realize it’s probably because they got paid well to basically do nothing. We made our day anyway and came up with some nice alternative shots, but I think all day, people were left wondering what that shot would have been like. I certainly was. Jenny of course looks beautiful no matter what angle you shoot her from, so she made the day that much better to get through.

Most magical ADing experience?
Making it rain. Again, the same project I was on with Jenny. The budget was just sweet enough to recreate a classic film noir scene on film with fog, a circa 1940s vehicle, period costumes, and of course, rain. Three rain towers positioned over an area about 150 feet in length meant we could only have two towers on while the third waited to be activated as the camera tracked and panned with our lead. The pressure from the hydrant on the street wasn’t strong enough. Couple all of this with special lighting instruments that recreate lightning and from watching the monitor, it was clear that magic was indeed made.
Any juicy celebrity sightings?
Uhh, Jarred Harris in the East Village. Haley Joel Osment on a music video in Prospect Park. Kristen Wiig at Jenny Joslin’s birthday party. OH, and Curt Humphries at a Annette Flores afterparty – probably the best one.

Where can we find you on a normal day?
Daytime working – you can’t. Although you may run into me somewhere on the streets of New York City. Daytime not working – humble abode in Clinton Hill – BROOKLYN. Night time – Fulton Grand in Clinton Hill, Franklin Park in Prospect Park, Bar 116 on MacDougal Street and of course late nights at Artichoke Pizza.

You’re hosting a dinner party with five of your favorite people (living or dead). Who’s in attendance?
Stanley Kubrick, Eddie Vedder, Albert Einstein, Grace Kelly, Buddha (standbys – Gary Oldman, Ernest Hemingway, Christopher Marlowe)

One piece of advice for someone who wants to work in the pictures?
“Keep it up, don’t stop, don’t lose your place.” — New Villager


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