From ND to Hollywood: Dale Myrand works behind the scenesDickinson native Dale Myrand brings time travel, gunplay and explosions to the screen through the lenses of his camera
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
Dickinson native Dale Myrand brings time travel, gunplay and explosions to the screen through the lenses of his camera.
Myrand recently talked about his job as a camera operator for the film, “Looper” while he was visiting friends in the Dickinson area.
“‘Looper’ was a blast — one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” he said.
Myrand has worked on more than 40 movies as either the assistant camera operator or camera operator. Since 2010 when “Looper” was completed, the list includes “Besties,” “Imogene,” “Don Jon’s Addiction,” “Hours” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” that will be released in 2013.
Other movies of note include “Phenomenon,” “Se7en,” “S.W.A.T.,” “Jerry Maguire” and the 2009 release of “Star Trek.”
“The first ‘Star Trek’ was a blast and the same crew worked on the second one as the first one,” he said.
“Looper” was released Sept. 28 in theaters around the world. In the movie, time travel is invented by the year 2074. It’s used by criminal organizations to send those they want killed into the past where they are killed by “loopers,” assassins paid with silver bars strapped to their targets. Joe, a looper, encounters himself when his older self is sent back in time to be killed. The cast includes leading stars Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the old and young looper, Emily Blunt and Paul Dano.
Part of a team
Myrand worked with Steve Yedlin, director of photography, and Rian Johnson, writer/director on “Looper.”
“It was the first time we’ve worked on a movie together,” Johnson said. “Dale is part of a collaborative effort between Steve and myself. While we’re setting a scene, Dale will start moving the camera — he’s a big part of the process. He’s actually the one looking through the camera.”
Johnson compared Myrand’s work to giving a performance.
“Lots of instances, an actor will move where we didn’t anticipate, and Dale adjusts to it,” he said. “Another thing he brings to the set is being such a gentleman and with such a good attitude. It’s important the actors around the camera feel good — Dale makes everyone feel comfortable.”
Yedlin added, “While Rian and I collaborate to design a scene, Dale and I work to achieve that scene — Dale and I are very hands-on with the technical aspect.”
He described “Looper” as not too heavy on the science fiction.
“It’s a lot more about the story and characters, but there’s also a lot of excitement,” he said.
Growing up in Dickinson
Myrand grew up in Dickinson, the son of the late Jennie and Bob Myrand. He graduated from Dickinson High School in 1976.
“I really enjoyed growing up here with my buddy Chuck Andrus,” he said. “His parents had a boat and we’d take it out to Patterson Lake where we went skiing. I worked at the Coke plant for the Herauf family. Lots of old friends are still here.”
Andrus and Myrand have been friends since junior high.
“He’s witty, intelligent and obviously very creative,” Andrus said. “Mark Twain said ‘make your vacation your vocation and you’ve got it made.’ Dale is one of those who did it.”
Andrus described Myrand as a down-to-earth North Dakotan.
“The biggest thing I admire is when he walks in to a room with 50 strangers, he’ll walk out two hours later with 50 friends,” Andrus said.
Myrand worked as the school’s photographer for the newspaper and yearbook.
“It was fun using different lenses and being able to develop and process the prints myself,” he said.
After graduating, Myrand considered a career in marketing.
“Certainly living in Dickinson, I never thought I’d go to Hollywood and get into the movie industry,” he said.
He enrolled at the University of North Dakota as a marketing major, then transferred to Arizona State University.
Realizing that marketing wasn’t for him, he considered becoming a video camera man. However, he was turned down for the job by the local TV station.
Instead, he enrolled in Columbia College in Hollywood, graduating with a four-year degree in film. He also worked at a rental house that leased the cameras used by film crews.
“I learned all the equipment and met all the guys using it,” he said.
With a degree in hand, he went freelance as a camera assistant in 1986. He worked non-union until the union opened up six years later. His first film credit as a camera assistant was “Casual Sex?” in 1988.
A private contractor
“Every single person is a private contractor,” he said. “If you get a job, it’s done through network. When your buddies get a job, they’ll hire you — it’s all about reputation.”
Myrand’s movie credits as a camera operator are posted on the IMDb website.
“Every single person in Hollywood uses this website — resumes are a thing of the past,” he said.
He said work is project-oriented and very sporadic.
“When it rains, it pours — that’s the way it is,” he said.
Myrand and his wife, Kim, live in the Los Angeles community of Silver Lake. He calls it home while he works on locations around the world.
“Looper” was shot in 11 weeks in Louisiana. One week was spent in Shanghai. The film was completed by April 2010. To find a buyer, the movie trailer was shown at the Con Film Festival in France.
“On the basis of the stars, trailer, script and Rian’s reputation, it was sold in two days to Sony TriStar,” he said.
It was produced for $30 million. Since its release date, “Looper” has taken in $140 million in box offices worldwide, Myrand said.
He said a typical work day is 12 hours.
“They only get longer, they don’t get shorter,” he said.
It’s a five-day work week, depending on the actors’ schedules. A typical movie set includes 200 people, from the directors and cameramen to the caterers and transportation crew.
“For Star Trek, oh my goodness, we had 600 to 800 people, I believe,” he said.
Working for numerous directors, Myrand appreciates a leader who knows what he’s doing, and yet input as a camera operator is valued.
“At the end of the day and everything works, there’s a sense of pride and accomplishments,” he said.
Myrand described his job as a thousand layers thick.
“It’s part physical and part political,” he said. “The physical part is the composition. The director is in charge, but the actors have their concerns as to how they look and the camera angle. With the camera operator, everything is subjective — you’re looking at the image yet have none of the power to say whether it’s right or wrong.”
Myrand tries to leave his professional side at home when he goes to the movies.
“If I sit there and pick the movie apart, I’m not enjoying it,” he said. “If it’s a great movie and I’m getting into it, I’m not paying attention to details.”
Myrand offered a word of advice to those thinking of a career in the movie industry.
“You can totally do it — it’s not easy, but nothing in life is,” he said. “If that’s what you want to do, go for it. Especially around here, go to film school. At least you’ll get an education and you’ll get a core group of people who aspire to help each other.”