Jean-Marie Lavalou passed away on July 15 at the age of 76.
Adam Samuelson, Managing Director of LOUMA UK, called—choked up, asking if I was sitting down. We were incredulous. It was not long ago that the three of us were having a wonderful conversation here in New York.
Jean-Marie Lavalou was the co-creator of the first remote control camera system for the motion picture industry, the LOUMA.
Jean-Marie was born into the family of La Fromagerie Lavalou in Le Bourg-Saint-Léonard, Normandy, France. With a passion for film from an early age, he went to Paris to attend the prestigious film school École nationale supérieure Louis-Lumière (ENS Louis-Lumière), graduating in 1968.
During his national service in the French navy film department, Jean-Marie’s journey changed forever when he met his inventor partner Alain Masseron. Together, they created previously unseen camera movements while making a film inside a submarine by attaching the camera to the end of a wooden pole and tracking through the narrow vessel.
The young inventors subsequently brought their invention to camera rental house SamAlga-Paris (Samuelson Alga Panavision). Chief engineer Albert Vigier, immediately recognizing its potential, introduced them to David Samuelson of Samuelson Film Service in London. There was a eureka moment when the teams of engineers combined the device with the new video assist system that Joe Dunton was developing at Samuelsons—and the LOUMA was born.
Jean-Marie brought many talented engineers together to make his and Alain’s dream possible. Many would say he was obsessive—and he was. The LOUMA and the magic of cinema was his passion and he relentlessly pursued it. He lived his dream by supplying, with his partners at Loumasystems, major productions (1941, Hugo, Murder on the Orient-Express, L’Oréal commercials, etc.) Jean-Marie always enjoyed discussing how his latest equipment could help Directors and Cinematographers achieve interesting sequences.
The story of the LOUMA is well documented. In addition to Jean-Marie’s passion for filmmaking, he was also passionate about writing. He called frequently, often after a long day on location, to discuss the latest projects. He was an excellent writer and his articles in FDTimes were always fascinating.
Jean-Marie received the Sci-Tech Academy Award of Merit in 2005 with his co-inventors. This was surely a career highlight, but he probably got the most pleasure thanking the people he had worked with along the way.
Next, with Nicolas Pollacchi and his partners at Loumasystems, Jean-Marie developed the Louma 2 telescopic crane with its innovative point and plane capability. He was also responsible for bringing the Spydercam system to France and designed the stadium roof fittings and pulleys on which the wires are attached. He was a mentor and friend to many crew members around the word who have heard the sad news and are reminiscing about the times with Jean-Marie.
When not at his desk or on location, Jean-Marie liked walking with friends in the Pyrenees and spending holidays with his family in Brittany. On Sundays he could be found in the library at the La cité des sciences et de l’industrie, Paris’s Museum of Science and Industry.
Jean-Marie leaves behind his two families—his sisters, nieces and nephews as well as his film industry family of colleagues, crews and friends from around the world who will continue to work with the equipment he invented and continue his legacy.
This notice comes from famille Lavalou, Loumasystems, Louma UK and FDTimes.