MATRIX: What do you do for ‘The Matrix’?
KATHERINE: I am the assistant production coordinator.
MATRIX: What does that encompass?
KATHERINE: I hire equipment, book additional crew and handle all the freight.
MATRIX: I know there is no such thing, but what is your typical day?
KATHERINE: Recently it has reduced, but usually the five telephone lines into my office are occupied all day. Every phone call is a bit of drama, which means a lot of rushing around and last minute changes that need to be addressed. Last minute changes have been going on all the way through the film, but yesterday for example they pulled in a third camera, which means that you have to find another camera operator and focus puller.
MATRIX: Because originally it was only going to be a two camera rig?
KATHERINE: Yes, which is not a problem because one of our clapper loaders is able to do focus pulling, and then we just bring in another clapper loader. Or when it is just two cameras and we have an experienced clapper loader, Bill Pope will operate one camera and the other operator will operate the other one, the same clapper loader can work with both. But when they use three cameras we need to find another camera operator, another focus puller and another clapper loader. So finding them half way through the day was difficult, especially when it was not an easy focus pull; we needed someone who was quite skilled.
MATRIX: Do you know which shot it was for?
KATHERINE: It was for when Keanu Reeves pops out of the sewer line.
MATRIX: Do you have much interaction with the actors?
KATHERINE: Not so much, because I am trapped with this whole organizing thing. When I get on to the set it is to talk to people, for people to tell me what is going on and what they need done. I have had a couple of brief conversations with most of the actors, which has been good.
MATRIX: Do you hire much of the crew?
KATHERINE: No, Carol Hughes does. I just hire additional crew on the day if someone is sick, if they are over worked or if something changes. At the beginning of the film when we were doing a lot of filming in the city, there were changes every day. From one roof top onto another roof top. For that we needed a lot of casual labor to move the gear and, of course, the electrics; it is the biggest electrics film that has been done in Australia, so we were under prepared with the amount of crew necessary for that.
MATRIX: I would have thought that you would know from the beginning it was going to be a big electrics film.
KATHERINE: Sort of. I started two weeks into shooting. I got dumped in the deep end without any pre-production. The person who was doing my job before me couldn’t handle it, freaked and left, so I didn’t really have any idea of what I was walking into.
MATRIX: Was it the sheer scope of it?
KATHERINE: Yes, it is high pressure, it has been high pressure all the way.
MATRIX: Have you been assistant production coordinator many times in the past?
KATHERINE: No, never before, this is the first time.
MATRIX: Really? What is your background?
KATHERINE: I am usually on the crew. I have done lots of things, special effects, stand by props, sound; I have only worked in the production office once before for two months. But I have a management background and have studied film as well. I’ve made my own film, so I have an understanding of it all and am really interested in camera and camera assisting, on 16mm not 35mm.
MATRIX: That has to be doubly interesting when you are dumped into one of the largest productions to ever hit Australia.
KATHERINE: It has been an incredible challenge. I am wearing out now, but the crew is great.
MATRIX: Are you going to be finished when the set is dismantled on Tuesday?
KATHERINE: No, I have to do all the cleaning up and all the freight returns. There is not going to be much crew around, so you can imagine all the de-rigging that has to go on which will take at least a week. All the lighting has to be dismantled and I have to make sure everyone gets their hires back and worry about all the lost and damaged equipment.
MATRIX: Will that be another couple of weeks?
KATHERINE: Hopefully only two more weeks, but it will be back to normal hours so it won’t be so bad. And I won’t have the pressure of the phone ringing all the time. When I first read the script, I thought that the writer/directors were television babies. They grew up in the same time period I grew up. I could see all these different things, a bit of ‘Barbarella’ and a bit of ‘Lost in Space’. Americans didn’t have ‘Doctor Who’, but there is a little bit of that in there too. I get that whole sort of ’60’s television feeling coming through… ‘2001, A Space Odyssey’, I like it.
MATRIX: Do you plan on doing this particular job again?
KATHERINE: I would be stupid not to do it again because of what I have learnt. I would just not take on all those three things. I would just do equipment or one of the other areas. If we had more on set management, it would have been better for me.
MATRIX: So right now you are doing more than is typical?
MATRIX: I didn’t realize that. What are the three roles you had to handle?
KATHERINE: Freight, camera and electrics. To give you an idea: on a film this size, the painters have their own coordinator, as does construction. The art department, as well as its own coordinator, has two art directors and assistant art directors for the organizational side of things. There should really be just one coordinator for electrics and grips. Camera takes up a lot of time as well because we are always juggling, trying to share cameras, so it can be a bit tricky.
MATRIX: Was it a gradually growing job for you when you got here?
KATHERINE: It was big from the start. From the beginning I would start at 6.30am and work through till midnight, you don’t have a break in that time. I would spend the weekends trying to catch up. It took me about three weeks before I could even read the script because I had been trying to get through the schedule, which was changing daily. So I was trying to juggle a lot of specialized camera gear and lighting with other bookings in the city, which was pretty phenomenal. Everybody wanted the same gear, it was a competition to get all the gear and all the crew.
MATRIX: You were saying that the lighting was particularly difficult to maintain.
KATHERINE: Just because it was the biggest set up that we have ever had to deal with. They have never really had a pre-rigging electrics crew before, it was invented on this job. There is a rigging department and an electrics rigging department, pre-rigging doesn’t usually need to have their own team. We ended up having 8 in their crew, though we started off with 3. They set up the sets before the film crew arrived. And usually, when the film crew got there they would have to spend at least a day changing things around to suit. The government lobby set was the biggest lighting set up they had to do. There were a couple of nervous break downs doing that one. It was really stressful for the rigging guys because of the changes. They think they know what they are setting up and then it changes a number of times. Often they have to pull things down and then put them up again.
MATRIX: The government lobby is a really big rig to have to change.
KATHERINE: And that got changed quite a bit. All the scaffolding from behind, once they had set up the lights, got moved forward, so that had to be done again. And they don’t get much time to do it because they are setting up other sets as well. So as soon as they finish that they have to move on to the next set. It is not like a normal film where you set up the lights on the day or a couple of days before, because it is all specialized lighting, which has really paid off because it looks so special.
MATRIX: What is your take on ‘The Matrix’?
KATHERINE: I think it is a great script and have really enjoyed what I have seen. I think it is going to come together really well, I have a lot of enthusiasm for it. It has a really polished look to it. I like the slickness of the photography, the lighting is incredible and the directors are doing great work.
MATRIX: Thanks Katherine.
Interview by Spencer Lamm