Receiving an Academy Technical Achievement Award at the Beverly Hills Hotel Sci-Tech event on Feb 9, Richard Mall (above) said, “As a key grip for 36 years, if I see a camera in front of me, I’m in the wrong place!”
Host Zoe Saldana (above, center) then thanked Richard “for making it possible for us actors to be on the right side of the camera.”
Key Grip Richard Mall was honored for his creation of Matthews Studio Equipment’s Max Menace Arm.
The award was announced: “To Richard Mall, for the design and development of the Matthews MAX Menace Arm, is highly sophisticated and well-engineered, MAX Menace Arm is a safe and adjustable device that allows rapid, precise positioning of lighting fixtures, cameras or accessories. On-set or on location, this compact and highly portable structure is often used where access is limited due to restrictions on attaching equipment to existing surfaces.”
“I’m not supposed to be up here in front of all this technology,” Mall said as accepted the award. “I’m emotional, because as a key grip for 36 years, if I see a camera in front of me, I’m in the wrong place!” Cut to huge applause from audience.
“I had an idea, but if it wasn’t for Matthews, it would still be sitting on my truck. I’d like to thank Bob Kulesh, Tyler Phillips and most important, Ed Phillips, a multiple award-winner himself, for his vision. He saw what I created and brought it to fruition. MAX is sold in 40 different countries and has been on over 300 different films. I’m proud of that. It is going to live on a lot longer than I am.”
The Sci-Tech award was the summit of a 10-year journey that began on the set of The Majestic (Cinematographer: David Tattersall ASC, BSC). The location was the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Location had warned them that nothing could touch or be hung on the walls. But Tattersall needed his key grip Richard Mall to rig a backlight in a certain spot. The traditional approach would have been to jury-rig an arm on the set from a variety of pieces on the truck. “Doable – but certainly time consuming, not that safe, and still not close enough to the wall to hang a backlight in place,” recalls Mall. “So I came up with a temporary thing that had two legs and one arm out.”
Mall kept thinking about that shot and his jury-rigged arm. He sat in his shop and looked at the piece, then started prowling around for materials. Soon he had MAX, a freestanding menace arm that was meant for one thing – an arm for camera and lighting. It got it’s first test on a commercial in 2003 and then joined the ranks of solid support on Shopgirl, when cinematographer Peter Suschitzsky, ASC, BSC needed a rig for a sequence where the room would spin out of control around the lead character, without taking the ceiling apart. “MAX solved the problem quickly and in a way which nothing else, no other equipment, would have helped,” Suschitzky said.
Not much later, Mall hitched a trailer onto his BMW and pulled MAX into the parking lot at Matthews Studio Equipment. Their first collaboration was the Link Stand, and Mall believed they could bring MAX to the industry. “Richard is one of the finest and most in-demand Key Grips in the business,” said Ed Phillips President/CEO of Matthews. “He’s a big guy in stature and builds wrist watches in his spare time. And he’s a thinker. He sees a void in the industry and thinks his way through it. So, when I saw this ‘thing’ on his truck – I knew he had something.”
MSE agreed to develop and produce MAX. And this safe, self-contained, and easy to use camera/lighting support soon became a hit all over the world. MAX has solved placement problems for top DPs on major features from the Spiderman series to Star Trek, Inception, There Will Be Blood, Batman, the Ironman series, Gangster Squad and more.
MAX’s first “client,” David Tattersall ASC, BSC, sums up what every DP, Gaffer and Key Grip has learned. “The beauty of the design is in its simplicity and its impressive reach. It can comfortably support a substantial weight, making it easy to throw in a backlight or reach way over the frame to flag that impossible setting sun flare. On Next we hung 18Ks beyond the handrail of a ten story parking structure to continue the light quality of a sunny afternoon well after the real sunset. In the difficult shooting environment of Hawaii’s rain forest on Journey II we used MAX daily, reaching over streams and undergrowth to support HMI Pars, Polly bounce boards, nets, grid cloth frames and even rain covers. I simply won’t do a movie without MAX anymore. Richard really created something special for this industry.”
“There’s nothing that MAX can’t do,” said Ed Phillips. “I am so excited that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has chosen to honor Richard with this very prestigious award.”