A School of Film and Animation (SOFA) student in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology is getting a close-up view of the filming of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as well as some pretty amazing work experience.
Loren Azlein, a fourth-year SOFA student from Cleveland, is working as a camera production assistant (or camera PA) for the Columbia Pictures/Marvel Enterprises movie, now filming in downtown Rochester. The nine-day shoot is filming a car chase scene on downtown streets. Like many productions recently choosing to bring their business to New York, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has cited the state’s film and television program, under the leadership of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, as a major reason for coming to the Empire State.
“I took a production assistant workshop at the Rochester/Finger Lakes Film and Video Office,” Azlein recalls. “When the film office learned about some of the movie being shot here in Rochester, I expressed my strong interest to work as a production assistant on the crew. The studio noticed I had camera experience on my résumé, and after I was referred to the camera department, they told me I was the best candidate for the job because they were looking for a local Rochester camera production assistant.”
That was in February, and after exchanging numerous emails among the production company’s second assistant director, SOFA and the Rochester/Finger Lakes film office, Azlein was notified she had been chosen for the camera crew just three days before the April 30 shooting began.
“I couldn’t believe it when I learned I would be part of the crew,” Azlein says. “It’s a day I won’t forget anytime soon.”
As a camera PA, Azlein is serving the set’s entire camera crew. She helps the crew with whatever it needs, but primarily takes the camera magazines—light-tight chambers designed to hold the film and move motion-picture film stock before and after it has been exposed in the camera—from the film loader and delivers them directly to the camera on set. She also charges and distributes batteries for the cameras, assists in the changing of lenses, collects and distributes camera reports, and “many other little things that make the camera crew function smoothly,” Azlein says.
“The experience has been incredible,” she says. “Before production begins, you never know if you’re going to be doing things like getting people coffee, but I have been working directly with the camera crew and given key responsibilities. Everyone has been very down to earth and taken me in as one of their own.”
The days are exciting—and long. Camera PAs are traditionally among the first crew to arrive and the last to leave the set. “Call” times—when the crew needs to be onsite and ready to go—have varied from 6 to 7:30 a.m., and Azlein often gets home after 9 p.m.
She and her fellow crew members meet up at the camera truck each morning and Azlein makes sure the batteries on the truck are fully charged and places them on their respective camera carts so they are ready for use. She communicates regularly with her fellow crewmembers using a walkie-talkie.
Azlein’s behind-the-scenes roll is part of history: The Amazing Spider-Man 2—set for release in May 2014—is the largest production ever filmed in the state, with scenes also being shot in Long Island and Brooklyn. The governor’s office estimates it will create 3,500 jobs, and call for the casting of 11,000 extras.
The decision to film the movie entirely in New York is being credited to the state’s popular film and television tax credit program, which began in 2004. Since Cuomo took office, the program has taken off—experiencing a surge in program applications. It is estimated that the 349 projects that have filmed or applied to the program during the Cuomo administration will result in over $5.5 billion in direct spending in New York.
“Under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership, New York is becoming the place to be for the film and television industry,” says Kenneth Adams, Empire State Development president, CEO and commissioner. “Productions like these ‘spin a web’ on local economies, creating jobs and injecting cash into the city. But they also bring benefits—first-hand experiences like these—that result in new opportunities and exposure for the community.”
Malcolm Spaull, administrative chair of SOFA, says the tax credits helping to bring the film production scene to Rochester also provide invaluable and unique career opportunities for students such as Azlein.
“These tax credits have afforded a tremendous opportunity for Loren that not many college film students ever get to experience,” Spaull says. “The excitement in the emails she has been sending me since becoming a member of the crew here are priceless. It is an experience she will never forget.”
College of Imaging Arts and Sciences Dean Lorraine Justice says Azlein’s success is yet another testament to the unique skills and talents of RIT film students, as was recently demonstrated by the success of SOFA alumni who worked on digital effects for the Oscar-winning Life of Pi movie and the rave reviews received by current film and animation students at Rochester’s recent High Falls Film Festival.
“The School of Film and Animation’s curriculum, developed by our faculty, students and successful alumni, is rooted in a shared passion for filmmaking,” says Justice, noting the new Bachelor of Science program in motion picture science “adds to the broadest curriculum choices anywhere.”
“Our BFA degree in film and animation production is one of the most selective programs at RIT and annually attracts the very best students. Loren and her exciting work on Spider-Man 2 is yet another shining example of that ongoing tradition.”
Azlein, meanwhile, hopes the karma of working on Spider-Man 2 will stick with her as she weighs her next move, which may be working on another superhero movie.
“I hear they are shooting Captain America 2 back in Cleveland where I am from,” Azlein says. “I think the experience on Spider-Man 2 will go a long way and definitely help me.”