So it was 2006 NABShow when I was living in Hollywood my friends and I who were working in the industry said hey let’s go to NAB on a whim. It was my first year attending so it was pretty crazy to see it all(or what I was able to take in a day-and a day wasn’t enough honestly). If you’ve never been to NAB basically every major company supporting Broadcast TV, Film, Radio, spanning more than a million net square feet have booths with all their solutions for our industry on display. In recent years we’ve seen more options on display in booths for indie filmmakers on the show floor ever since the HDSLR revolution I started to see a big shift towards supporting indie filmmakers but back then it was more Broadcast. So I just combed the floors as fast as I could to attempt to soak it all in and ended up running into a companies booth called Chapman/Leonard who supports the biggest productions in the Motion Picture and Television Industry…and for a really long time. Going back to 1945 Nicholes’ Great Grandfather started the company(and her Grandfather picked up where he left off-I believe her great grandfather is no longer with us). Just some of the Filmtools they build and support the industry are Telescoping Camera Cranes, Arms, Bases, Stabilized Remote Camera Systems, Dollies, Pedestals, Sports Sideline Vehicles and more.
So I was greeted by the very lovely Annette Kiatpiriya-Requena. I must have looked like a very young man at the time cause even today people think I’m much younger for my age. I was looking at one of their dollies which she gladly demo’d and she started to ask me what I do. The conversation left me with some info on the possibility of leasing one or the option for rentals. I found that very cool that even though I was still an up and coming filmmaker she treated me just like anyone else. At that time it wasn’t in the cards but after getting a tour yesterday I have to say…I want these filmtools on my productions. Also roaming the booth I met an attractive lady and her equally attractive very young daughter Nichole who caught my attention. She was just a lil girl at the time(and just to let you know…you really don’t see kids ever on the show floor-I think like 15 might be the youngest who can attend but don’t quote me on that)…but I learned she was the granddaughter of one of the owners. I had a great conversation with her. I was impressed not by just a beautiful young girl there’s plenty of eye candy in the booths with demo girls and models sure…I was more impressed with the fact that she was a part of the company. She grew up in this Hollywood La La Land…and her family built these amazing tools. Not that it relates really in any way but I too grew up in my Pops shadow as a photographer so I can identify with being in and around a family business. So we kinda had that connection going on. I ended up following up with her mother via email since her daughter was really too young to get to know at the time about getting a tour I was so impressed with the company and the family. She agreed to give me a tour but unfortunately I ended up moving back up to Portland before that could ever happen. Over the years I’d drop her a line here and there…but never got the tour. Everytime I was back down here I was typically too busy to have time to visit. So a decade later on this trip down for some meetings in Hollywood and also attending Siggraph I reached out to Nichole after realizing she was all grown up and still a part of the company today. I must admit I googled her after meeting her way back because she was telling me about her passion outside of now filmmaking as an Ice Skater(she just completed fer first Doc on it you can learn more on her IMDB). She is Not just the granddaughter hanging out around the shop she’s actually a lot more than that. She’s a photographer, a social media influencer, a marketer for the company, Filmmaker and an overall expert with all the tools they build. I mean like me she literally grew up in this industry(difference being around my Pops who’s a photographer it wasn’t till later in high school I got the film bug taking Video Production-I had 0 ties to the Motion Picture Industry…I had to make all these connections myself over the past couple decades). So after many emails and trying to get our schedules aligned yesterday we finally connected.
Arriving at Chapman/Leonard you’ll drive through what might not seem like the right place. I drove past a lot of industrial buildings almost thinking I’m lost but then I see the beautiful greenery covering the main office. I pull into the first spot and I’m almost instantly greeted by a gentleman who walks up to me and says hi how can I help you with a like your in the wrong spot lol…I was about to pull into Niki’s grandfathers spot. Oops…my bad. He was totally cool about it though. I was a lil early and walked into the machine shop. The gentleman right at the front I asked for Nichole and he said the office was through the door to my right. I walked in and was again greeted by a nice lady behind the desk answering calls. I told he I’m here to see Nichole and that I was early. I’ve been doing nothing but driving it seems and 30 miles equals up to an hour and a half like minimum. So I left like 2 hours early so I wouldn’t be late. The office has a large stack of industry magazines and a pictures on the wall of awards, movies with their equipment on sets. It instantly felt comfortable.
So Niki arrives(this is what her friends and family call her-so hopefully I can get away with referring to her by her nickname throughout this post). At this point I’m having a back and forth convo with a good friend of mine in Texas via text and didn’t notice her till she said Hello Ryan. Wow yup there’s Niki…granted it’s been like a decade she’s all grown up. She greeted me with a big smile. She says ok…you ready…let’s go. I’m like ok cool. She gets us some safety glasses since the Tour was going to start next door in their Machine Shop. If you follow my Instagram you’ll see me refurbishing an old Elemack Spyder dolly and my Pops friend helped me rebuild a missing column. So I’ve been around his friends machine shop. Their machine shop where they design, build, test, and maintain the equipment they build is second to none. More impressive is everything they build…they build it right there in the USA in the Head Quarters in North Hollywood. Omg…I was blown away by the state of the art Machinery. Niki was so knowledgeable with absolutely everything. She literally took me to every building throughout. Showing me how they’ve taken gears and now use newer lighter metals, introducing me everyone behind every phase of the process to the guy assembling the guts of their dollies, to a passing engineer he stops and says hello and we have a brief convo. I get to see the big camera trucks you’ll see on hit Television shows like Bones, the mini dollies custom built that you’ll see on the sideline at the Superbowl, Hydraulic powered Camera Trucks, Massive AirBag suspension to handle the weight but keep the ride smooth, down to the dollies across from their machine shop that house a ton of the dollies you might be familiar seeing behind the scenes of every type of motion picture-just look at the credits as I do and you’ll see Chapman/Leonard on tons of them(as you can see in the photo of Niki and me with Chapman/Leonard in the background. Track wheels, track for days, curved track, straigh track, accessories for anything you can think of they have or as she states…we custom build. Our customers come back to us with Feedback and we respond by making updates to build exactly what they want. Again everything is built under one roof here in NoHo…or should I say many roofs. Their Head Quarters spans are very impressive footprint…She must have taken me through half a dozen buildings.
I have to say probably the most impressive guy I met(or at least I had the most time to talk to who is typically working out in their New Orleans Office so I was lucky he happened to be in Hollywood on my tour)was a Gentleman named David Bullard who works with their Remote Systems and is a Technician/Driver an expert with products like the Hydrascope. The Hydrascope is massive(one was on display for me to checkout)…this thing is the Real Deal. It’s a very impressive Hydraulic Telescoping Crane but it’s unique. One it’s running on batteries(24v DC I believe referencing their latest 2016 Catalog)so you don’t need a 240v hookup for example. It can be operated both on Land and Actually underwater. This is unique to Chapman/Leonard(the ability to have the camera/head be completely submerged underwater with their own specialty configuration). Of course your camera will need to be protected like any underwater camera system but they have a special head that’s waterproof if I understood David correctly(of course you can easily call Chapman/Leonard for exact capabilities and specs)so please refer to them before planning on using any specialty high end equipment like their Hydrascope or any of their other studio equipment offerings.
Finally the last room Niki shows me is housing the really cool MiniScope 5…which gives me hope lol…I mean hopefully I will have this running on the set of my dream film I have in the works. I’ll pray that works out. So what’s unique is it’s small lighter form factor. Till only recently the only cranes where very large and too expensive for the smaller budget indie films or other various tighter budgetrs. Like she states our tools help you achieve shots with such movement and precision just not duplicated compared to all these new filmtools like drones, mini handheld gimbals, micro dollies, and cranes(not saying those are equally valuable but their tools have been tried and true for the Master for Decades…literally Decades-like 7 to be exact. Granted they’ve really supported the mega hit movies and television shows we all watch and love…but for the smaller budgets and indie films this is the next level for your shots. They have two flavors the Microscope 5 and the 7. They happened to have a 5 on the floor when I was on the tour. If your not familiar with their telescoping cranes what makes this one unique is that it’s light and compact(compared to their massive 73′ Hydrascope typically seen on Big Productions), comes ready to use due to it’s simple quick setup, with three adjustments on post to change back lengths by 0″, 5″, 10″. Miniscope can be setup with your choice of Remote Head(up to 50 lbs.)including Chapmans’ CL Head. It can be Electrically or Manually Telescopic. Hand held “Pickle” allows easy control of ramping, speed as well as start and stops. Also built in end stops prevent sudden and adrupt movement so your shots are money. It can be operated by single man/women operation or conventionally. The rear control handle bar allows convenient placement of monitors or remote controls for he head. The Miniscope 5 is Chapmans’ smallest telescoping arm so ideal for an indie filmmaker like myself(but they also have it’s bigger brother the Miniscope 7 for more reach and abilities). It includes a 30 Volt DC Chapman Battery. Also AC/DC Converter included so your have maximum flexibility. Of course it accepts Standard Mitchell Mounts. It’s compact size is ideal for passing through doorways 28″ because of it’s compact design built for small spaces(but it’s Not just for the smaller productions it’s for any production really it’s just in a lighter compact form factor at a lower to employ cost).
Lastly I should mention that Chapman/Leonard is Global and is in all the major markets in the United States so they are not just supporting Hollywood California. You can find them trailblazing in booming markets like Texas both in Austin/Atlanta Goergia, New Orleans Louisiana , Albuquerque New Mexico, oversees in London England, as well as their Studios and Production Center in Orlando Florida where they have 3 State of the Art Sound Stages.
I’ll leave a link to their website below so you can learn all about Chapman/Leonard and feel free to give them a call for all your Studio Equipment needs. It very much felt like a tight family Network over there. All you have to do is look at their Contact Page and you’ll see a lot of familiar last names. For example Annette who I met like a decade ago is still with Chapman…so it was nice to see familiar faces. I can only imagine that warm feeling translates to what pride they take supporting our industry. I have to say it’s extremely rare to see family generation after generation taking a company into the future like Niki now all grown up working with family. There’s nothing better out there…American made…and great people behind the product equals Priceless and so rare to see today…a real honor to get the Vip Tour..!
Thanks for everything Niki and everyone who was so nice and gracious with their time to talk with me yesterday and show me around..!
Equipment Rental Agency · North Hollywood
Address: 12950 Raymer St, North Hollywood, CA 91605
Chapman/Leonard ~ Google
Nichole Huenergardt ~ IMDB