CV Tech graduate gets a ‘grip’ on movie-making industry

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Tristan Chisolm

Modern movie making has long dispatched with traditional director’s cue words “lights, camera, action” in favor of a lengthier pre-action checklist.

Nevertheless, set lighting remains critical, as does camera rigging or placement, said recent Canadian Valley Technology Center graduate Tristan Chisolm.

Chisolm, 19, of Piedmont, was first attracted to movie making as a student in CV Tech’s Digital Media Technology program. Just months after graduating high school, Chisolm has already worked on a couple movie sets.

Midway down the lengthy movie end-credits list, past the producers and directors, cast, supporting cast, editors and visual effects, comes acknowledgement for grips. That’s is the job Chisolm most enjoys.

A lot of people don’t know how many people it takes to make a movie,” Chisolm said. “Grips are sort of the handy person on a set. They diffuse lights to make them look better on the skin of an actor. And in any car scene, a grip would have rigged something on the car for the camera to be mounted.”

Chisolm’s regular day job is with NGP, an audio-visual equipment rental service company in Oklahoma City. It helps pay the bills, but it’s his side gig that really gets his blood pumping.
“I have worked on the sets of two films, both filmed entirely in Oklahoma,” he said. “Both are finished filming and are now in post-production.”

Full Out 2 is a Netflix sequel to an inspirational gymnastics movie, Chisolm said. Filming on the project took place primarily at the University of Oklahoma and at other locations in Norman. It is based on the true story of the top-ranked OU women’s gymnastics team, coming off its third national title in four seasons.

The movie centers on the challenges faced by the athletic group when their all-star gymnast leaves the team just as they are on the cusp of securing a championship.

Chisolm also recently worked on the set of the motion picture, 13 Minutes, which is a disaster drama set in small-town America. It stars renowned country music artist/actor Trace Adkins, Thora Birch, who is currently a cast member on The Walking Dead, Anne Heche (Donnie Brasco, Six Days, Seven Nights and Return to Paradise), and Paz Vega, who was most recently seen in Rambo: Last Blood.

The script begins with residents who start an ordinary day until confronted with Mother Nature’s fury. Town inhabitants have just 13 minutes to seek shelter before the largest tornado on record ravages the town and leaving them struggling to shelter loved ones. Filming included the city of El Reno.

Ironically, Chisolm attended classes at CV Tech’s El Reno Campus, which sustained some of the worst damage during a 2013 tornado that ripped through Canadian County. The school relocated temporarily to a nearby vacant car dealership before re-opening at the original campus site in January 2017.

Chisolm said CV Tech’s Digital Media program sparked his interest immediately.

“When I got to CV Tech as a video student, we had a guest speaker who worked at a film rental company that told us about films,” he said. “I first interned at NGP, where we rent equipment for movie making. I have made connections there.

“As for now, I want to continue working at NGP and on movie sets. The film community in Oklahoma is growing. More films are coming in than usual.”

He encourages those who want to work in the movie industry to consider CV Tech’s Digital Media program and then to check out Oklahoma City Community College’s film program, which includes script writing, grip work and camera operation.

“I loved Digital Media and CV Tech,” he said. “I think it’s an awesome thing that students can do to have a trade when they graduate high school. It’s decent money, and I have made tons of friends from there that I still hang out with today.”