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An interview with Camera Assistant - Didier Schokkaert

An interview with Camera Assistant - Didier Schokkaert

Can you tell us a little about yourself, who you are and what you do in your daily life?

I have been working as a Focus Puller or First Camera Assistant for 20 years. I work on film sets where we make full-length films, series and commercials. My role is to keep the image sharp. This is done by constantly adjusting the distance indicated on the lens by means of remote control (for example a WCU4).

On the remote control, there is a large rotary wheel with the same distances that can be found on the camera lens. When I turn the wheel, the wireless system follows the rotation of the wheel and is attached to a motor which adjusts the depth of the lens. With this, I can focus the camera remotely.

For example, to keep a moving actor, a moving camera or both in focus, I need to estimate the distance between the camera and the actor. For the more difficult shots, I use a monitor so that I can watch the image live and keep the shot sharp. It’s a very important job, like all jobs on a film set, because if the filming is blurry, it can’t be used.

What type of person are you when you are at work? Do you need to be organized and a perfectionist?

My job requires me to be organised. As a Camera Assistant I’m entirely responsible for all the packing which is a truck full of equipment including cameras, lenses, tripods, heads, filters, monitors etc.

My All Terrain ZÜCA has certainly found its place amongst everything that we use. On set, my ZÜCA has become central to my job and is like my personal assistant.

Why did you choose the ZÜCA All-Terrain and not another product or brand?

I have seen the Script Supervisors using ZÜCA for some time now. I didn’t think that it would be practical for me use due to the small wheels, that was until I discovered the All-Terrain products. We run everywhere on set, over all types of surfaces including grass, snow, sand, mud etc. Thanks to the large wheels my All-Terrain ZÜCA can follow me everywhere.

Before I discovered the ZÜCA range, my monitor was mounted on a tripod and I carried my equipment in a bag (or sometimes two bags). We need to move for every shot, which meant carrying a heavy bag and the tripod all day long. I was looking for the best solution to make this easier.

After a very long shoot of more than 80 days, my elbow started hurting because I was moving the heavy tripod at least 40 to 50 times a day. A lot of this shoot was in the Moroccan Desert, which made it even more difficult.

This is why I chose ZÜCA, I no longer need a tripod, my bag has now been replaced by my ZÜCA and I can pull or push it easily.

We see that you have adapted the All-Terrain to suit your work. What adjustments have you made and why?

I have attached my monitor to the handle. Since it is telescopic, I can easily adjust the height of my monitor, like on a tripod. This means that I can work standing or sitting on my ZÜCA.

To keep my equipment organised, I have made a small rack so that I can get to my tools quickly and efficiently.

Because the handle is hollow in the middle, I can attach an umbrella to it to keep me, the monitor and my ZÜCA dry when it rains or shaded when the sun is shining brightly.

We also film at night sometimes, so I have adapted an LED garland to fit my All-Terrain ZÜCA. One part lights up the inside of my ZÜCA and I have attached another to the bottom. When I am on the move, the LEDs light the way and they also make my ZÜCA look beautiful in the dark.

What tips do you have for your ZÜCA loving colleagues?

My biggest tip would be to go and buy an All-Terrain ZÜCA because it’s perfect for our job and it can be adapted to meet all of our needs.

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