In the Take a Little Time equipment article, I talk about what COVID did and didn’t change in the film equipment policies at Penn State for the Fall 2020 semester when we’d be shooting. If classes were to switch back to online without any warning, we’d have the equipment we had out, but no more. Given how many of my shots involved dolly pushes/pulls, I didn’t want to gamble on whether we’d have the dolly out in that scenario—the dolly whose track pieces likely wouldn’t fit in my 2003 Civic. However, our GoFundMe was doing well (we can still use donations for festival submissions, if you’re feeling so inclined!), so I went to equipment room supervisor (aka my boss) Mike Zelazny with a budget and a dream. Everything below came out of his head (with one exception!):
I bought a sheet of plywood, thick enough to support the weight of a camera and a Jake Jurich all at once. We measured the width of a doorway, since some dolly shots in Lilly’s film Pulling Daisies, also shot in October 2020 by yours truly, needed to do just that. (Plus, most of the construction decisions here were made to future proof the purchases involved as much as possible—just like the wireless follow focus, I own this dolly now, whatever I get into next!)
Out of the kindness of his sweet heart, Mike brought his power tools into work one September day and I got to cuttin’. (Mike only stepped in for the rounded edges he drew onto the board, a noble attempt to ankle-proof the whole operation.)
After sanding the edges down, we coated it in sealant (several times…Carson Spence also added a few layers of his own when our shifts changed later in the afternoon). Another day, I got to use Mike’s drill (this was all incredibly exciting to me) to attach a flange for the pipe handle, as well as the four dolly wheel apparatuses I got off B&H:
The track, also off B&H, collapses down into a carrying case that fits in my trunk. But fully built out, it’s 12 feet long, giving our 4-foot plywood dolly 8 feet of motion to work with. The bolts holding the wheels to the board are permanently screwed into one-way nuts, but Mike advised against tightening them all the way, so the board will work with curved track should I pick that up in the future. It should be known that Lilly Adams pitched in attaching these, as well:
Mike also brought in his metal pipe cutting tools (a sentence that, itself, is quite metal), so I could measure the T-shaped handle to size. Those are chair foot stoppers on each ending:
The one exception to Mike’s design ownership over the dolly is this: as pictured here, the pipe screws straight down into the flange. But for this mirror shot, I knew that Lilly (who pulled every dolly shot in both of our films that month), would show up in the mirror if it was attached like that. We were already using a half of a couch, tilted at an unnatural angle, to hide the plywood/myself/the C200:
So. I don’t have pictures of this, but I bought both 45º and 90º elbow attachments for the pipe. This let the entire T-handle extend either at an angle, or completely parallel to the track and floor. That’s what we did for the mirror shot: I was sitting on the dolly, Lilly was crouched on the ground pulling the handle straight back, and 1st AC Colin Wyka was hovering along in between us, watching the IKAN monitor closely and wirelessly pulling focus. We have fun!