Mall Awarded Technical Oscar for Max Menace Arm

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Wed, 02/27/2013 - 19:00 -- Nick Dager

Key Grip Richard Mall received a Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences Technical Achievement Award for his creation of Matthews Studio Equipment’s Max Menace Arm. The letter to Mall said it all: “To Richard Mall for the design and development of the Matthews Max Menace Arm is highly sophisticated and well-engineered Max Menace Arm is a safe and adjustable device that allows rapid precise positioning of lighting fixtures cameras or accessories. On-set or on location this compact and highly portable structure is often used where access is limited due to restrictions on attaching equipment to existing surfaces.” “I’m not supposed to be up here in front of all this technology ” Mall said to a packed crowd at the awards ceremony in the Crystal Ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel. “I’m emotional because as a key grip for 36 years if I see a camera in front of me I’m in the wrong place.” For Mall this was a special moment. He’d realized every other technology honored at this event had multiple winners. Yet he stood on the stage alone. He was quick to acknowledge those that made his vision a reality. “I had an idea but if it wasn’t for Matthews it would still be sitting on my truck. I’d like to thank Bob Kulesh Tyler Phillips and most important Ed Phillips a multiple award-winner himself for his vision. He saw what I created and brought it to fruition. Max is sold in 40 different countries and has been on over 300 different films. I’m proud of that. It is going to live on a lot longer than I am.” The evening was a culmination of a 10-year trip which began on the set of The Majestic with cinematographer David Tattersall. The location was the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Location had warned them that nothing could touch or be hung on the walls. Yet Tattersall needed his key grip Mall to give him a backlight in a certain spot. The traditional approach would have been to jury-rig an arm on the set from a variety of pieces on the truck. “Doable – but certainly time consuming not that safe and still not close enough to the wall to hang a backlight in place ” recalled Mall. “So I came up with a temporary thing that had two legs and one arm out.” Mall kept thinking about that shot and his jury-rigged arm. He sat in his shop and looked at the piece then started prowling around for materials. Soon he had Max a freestanding menace arm that was meant for one thing – an arm for camera and lighting. It got it’s first test on a commercial in 2003 and then joined the ranks of solid support on Shopgirl when cinematographer Peter Suschitzsky needed to rig a sequence where the room would spin out of control around the lead character without taking the ceiling apart. “Max solved the problem quickly and in a way which nothing else no other equipment would have helped ” Suschitzky said. Not too long after that Mall hitched his trailer onto his BMW and pulled Max into the parking lot at Matthews Studio Equipment. The company had developed and provides their first collaboration Link Stand and Mall believed they could bring Max to the industry. “Richard is one of the finest and most in-demand Key Grips in the business ” said Ed Phillips president/CEO of Matthews. “He’s a big guy in stature and builds wrist watches in his spare time with mitts the size of a Gorilla (that’s his sensitive side). And he’s a thinker. He sees a void in the industry and thinks his way through it. So when I saw this ‘thing’ on his truck – I knew he had something.” MSE agreed to develop and produce Max. And this safe self-contained and easy to use camera/lighting support soon became a hit all over the world. Max has solved placement problems for top DPs on major features from the Spideman series to Star Trek Inception There Will Be Blood Batman the Ironman series Gangster Squad and more. “There’s nothing that Max can’t do ” said proud co-Papa Ed Phillips. “I am so excited that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has chosen to honor Richard with this very prestigious award.”