DeliveranceI recently had drinks with an old friend and camera operator, Steve D. He may not want me to reveal his full name. Not because of the drinks. Let me explain.

Steve had exceptional prowess behind the camera. There wasn’t a tree he wouldn’t climb or ravine he wouldn’t descend to get the shot. He was eager to please … and talented.

One spring day twenty-some years ago, Steve was with me on an Eastern Shore farm. I’m not sure, but I think we were shooting cattle. Why is another story.

Good camera people are great at mimicking dolly and tracking moves with a handheld camera. So on this particular day, Steve was backing up to give me a beauty shot, pan, and pull out all in one move. Beautiful, but not something we’d planned.

Next to us was a huge HarveStore silo containing, well, sludge. I watched Steve back up toward the concrete pad surrounding the silo. Now, normally, I’m behind a camera operator in motion, just in case I need to save him or her or the camera. But I couldn’t get there in time. (Thank God.)

Steve walked backwards toward the concrete pad as the crew and I watched the pad eat him up. The pad was a slick, grey-brown pool of manure. By the time Steve could stop, he was up to his chest in … poop. A pool of poop.

The camera? Quick witted, Steve raised the 30-pound camera (worth nearly $100K) over his head. It was like a vision from the closing sequence of the movie Deliverance. You know, where the hand shoots up out of the water, kind of saying, “I’m still here!”

Somehow, Steve kept his equilibrium. And somehow, even after we hosed him off and gave him some of the farmer’s clothes, the three-hour drive back to our public television station was also memorable.

So, in Steve’s honor, I told the story to the other camera folks at the cocktail party with Steve and I that night. I was so proud of Steve. Dennis said, “You don’t have to tell US. Your camera shoot is legend!” And, just like that, a roomful of arms went up in a kind of Deliverance salute.

These days, I would easily have had a digital picture of Steve and his Slumdog Millionaire-like descent into, well, a cesspool. And I could have probably sold it on eBay. Or at least posted it on Facebook. But you know what? I don’t really need one. I got the shot and the memory. And, apparently, dozens of people continuing to give it the airtime it deserves.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl
    Oct 11, 2009 @ 14:49:43

    I am so glad that you are writing more often. It is great when you share these stories; Some people would read them and if they didn’t know better possibly think it was part fiction. I am glad Steve has strong arms.


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