Steadicam operator Marina Cabrera steps in to replace Tyler, a male operator, for a tracking shot on a film set. He is furious over being replaced, but Marina aces the shot.

The photo shows real-life Steadicam operator Jessica Lopez, whom I interviewed for my filmmaker site ten years ago.

Enjoy the story. Comments welcome. And if you would like to suggest a story prompt that I might use, please drop a comment.

Marina’s First Oner

Bob Gillen

Marina Cabrera propped her Steadicam rig up against a storage shed wall on the outdoor set for a television show based in post Civil War Colorado. 

Confident her rig was secure, Marina moved to the Craft Services area, grabbed a turkey sandwich and a Coke, and looked for someplace to sit. Rodney the sound mixer waved her over as he and his assistant Terrell finished their lunches.

“Join us, girl,” Rodney said. Marina sat and dug into her sandwich.

“How was your morning?” Rodney asked.

“Good. I got more b-roll than the editors could ever use.”

“Be careful with that,” Rodney said, waving a finger in her direction. “You don’t want to piss off the editors, or they’ll never put any of your footage in the show.”

“Not to worry. I got shots of the schoolhouse, the steam locomotive, the town streets. All good stuff.”

As Marina wolfed down her lunch, the director called forTyler, the principle Steadicam operator, to strap on his rig for the rehearsal of the next scene. A tracking scene.

Rodney said to Marina, “You get a chance to do any tracking shots since I saw you last?”

Marina shook her head. “My dream is still the Dunkirk beach scene from Atonement. A five and a half minute tracking shot. A thousand extras. Incredible orchestration and rehearsal.” 

She waved her thumb toward Tyler. “I could dance around him with my eyes closed and still get a better shot. I hear about how some of these guys couldn’t do a decent tracking shot. Like their brains couldn’t tell their body how to move around.”

Rodney smiled. 

They watched from their table as the director began rehearsal for the one-shot. A production assistant, his hand against Tyler’s back, guided him through the shot. 

The director called “Background.” Several extras crisscrossed the street. A horse and rider rode by behind the camera. The director called “Action.” As the horse passed behind Tyler and the PA, it let loose an enormous stream of piss followed by a pile of horse apples. The PA stepped on a horse apple, slipped and stumbled, but stayed upright. Tyler also stumbled, fell on his butt in the middle of the horse droppings. He cursed a blue streak as he rolled off the mess and stood up. His rig was not damaged but he himself was covered in horse droppings and pee.

The director yelled “Cut.” She told Tyler to leave the set and get cleaned up. She waved Marina over.

“Take over the shot for Tyler. And hurry. We need to rehearse before we lose the light.”

Marina strapped herself into her rig as Rodney gave her a thumbs up.

The tracking shot would follow a couple as they exited a town building, walked down the street to the train station, where the man would board the train. 

While the director filled in Marina on the shot, crew moved in to remove the horse droppings and shovel dirt over the pee.

Tyler approached the director. “This is my shot. You can’t give it to a girl. She won’t have the stamina for the whole shot.”

Marina said, “Oh. Because I’m a woman, I can’t carry a rig, I can’t be that good?”

“You’re out of here,” the director told Tyler. “You smell like shit. Clean up. There’s plenty of work tomorrow.”

Tyler stormed off. 

Now stationed at his sound cart, Rodney bit down on a finger to keep from laughing out loud.

The director walked Marina and the PA through the tracking shot. 

The director said to Marina, “I’m going for the pain of separation in this shot. Keep the two actors in frame.”

Marina nodded. “Got it.”

As the director called “Background,” then “Action,” Marina followed the two actors as they exited the building. She was able to whip pan to the townspeople for a brief moment. She then kept the two in frame as they walked to the station. 

The director yelled, Cut.” She pointed to a horse tied to a hitching rail.” Someone quiet that horse.”

The horse was chewing loudly on a wooden hitching rail. Rodney got up, approached the horse. He stroked its nose gently, whispered to it. The horse calmed down.

“Thanks, Rodney,” the director called out. “Okay, from the beginning.”

Marina and the PA positioned themselves in front of the town building. “And action.”

They moved through the shot, following the couple down the street and up to the rail station.

Once at the station Marina whip panned to the steam locomotive, then back to the two actors. The PA guided her onto the passenger car, followed the male actor as he took a seat by the window, waving at his tearful woman companion on the platform. 

The train began to move out of the station. Marina kept the woman in frame until the director called, “Cut.”

From the video village, the collection of camera monitors, the director called out. “That’s a wrap. Good work, Marina.” Several of the crew applauded Marina’s work.

The director moved on to setting up the next shot.

Marina crossed to the audio cart as Rodney moved it to the next scene. “My first oner!”

“Be proud, girl.”

Marina unstrapped her rig as a huge smile broke across her face. “Wait till you see that shot, Tyler!”