Two weeks ago I had the immense pleasure of attending the Betz-Tools/Tiffen Gold workshop in Germany. I was only lucky enough to hear of this workshop through a colleague of mine, who kindly forwarded on the registration information to me. I'm hoping that by sharing my experience on the forum, other operators may take advantage of this course in the future and enjoy the same extraordinary career benefits that I did.
To begin, I will reiterate what has been said to new operators since the late Ted Churchill's formation of Steadicam as a profession - take a workshop! I worked doing small television broadcasts and films for the past three years, and I did reasonably good work for the scale of productions that I was contracted on. But seeking to establish myself in a larger market, it became very apparent to me that I needed formal training before I could start phoning DoPs.
I assume that it's apparent to most people on the Steadicam Forum that the main focus of a Steadicam workshop is to refine one's skills operating a Steadicam, so I'll keep that part of my reflection short and simply say: yes, the course yielded great improvement in my operating. What I instead would like to address i are the highlights of my time in Munich that I did not necessarily expect when I registered.
What was immediately clear to me when I arrived was that no cost was spared in bringing in industry leading operators, all of different backgrounds and all having made significant contributions to their respective markets. The instruction staff changes from workshop to workshop, but Mr. Betz's central position in the European Steadicam world allows him to consistently bring in talented teachers each year. The number of instructors and guest instructors also allowed us to hear various perspectives on techniques and business practices, as well as a myriad of anecdotes from the different types of work that they were involved in.
Chris Fawcett, who many of you know for his helpful contributions on this forum, brought with him a wealth of knowledge to his position as the head instructor. A pleasant surprise to me was his focus on the health-and-safety side of our industry. Being a younger operator, both in age and experience, the lasting advantages of proper technique and posture will undoubtedly play an important part in my ability to continue this line of work over the years.
Despite the fact that Tiffen had a large part in putting on this class, I did not get the impression that I was sitting through any sort of Key West timeshare seminar. Mr Thwaites is a true credit to his firm, and he discussed the capabilities and limitations of Tiffen rigs in an informative, but not aggressive, manner. Mr. Betz and his engineer had systems from other manufacturers on-hand that they were more than happy to demo.
Ulik Kahlert was also there with the SteadiSeg and Segway Rickshaw, and made himself and the equipment available for several days. As with most workshops of this length, a great deal of other vehicles were used.
In addition to the chance to rub shoulders with all of these greats, one of the most valuable components of this course was the networking that went on between attendees. It was good fun to get to know these people, some of them established operators and others just beginning (but with great things ahead of them), and I left having made many friends from all corners of the world. For an industry so reliant on personal contacts, the atmosphere of mutual awe and admiration for the art that is Steadicam sparks rewarding relationships.
And of course I cannot forget the people who made this workshop possible. Herr Betz and Frau Mahlo worked tirelessly throughout the week to ensure that everything ran smoothly, and while reserving my place in the class, Frau Mahlo responded with speed and courtesy to my many inquiries.
It is my understanding that this workshop will be run again next year under the direction of Betz-Tools. Without hesitation, I encourage any operator looking for the next step in their career to request more information from the Betz team. Already the workshop has opened several new avenues for me, and I am confident that the best payoffs are yet to come!
(to our moderating team: I put this thread here instead of Events/Workshops because it already happened, rather than being an upcoming workshop)