It’s a Family Affair!
It didn’t start out to be father and son doing the same job at two different schools – it just ended up that way. After retiring from 42 years in the industry (30 of them in Set Lighting at Disney), Herb Hughes was interested in exploring the “life” part of his “life”. That is, until a call from an unknown person who informed him that he had been HIGHLY recommended by a working gaffer who was a friend of his. There was a position at the Cinema School at USC. Would he be interested in an interview? “It was 1993, and my first meeting was over a two-hour lunch and a tour of the Cinema School with Woody Omens ASC (the unknown person) and Richard Martin, the then Facilities Manager,” Herb Hughes recalls. That led to a grueling 4.5 hours in front of the Eleven Person Faculty/Staff committee. “I got the job – 15 years ago, April 1st. April Fools Day of all things!”
Watching his father’s happiness at USC appealed to Frank Hughes. But he didn’t set out on the same path. It just ended up that way! “In 2008, John Syrjamaki, who was once Head of Production at USC (he actually hired Herb Hughes in the 1990s), and is now head of Production at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television-(SFTV) started looking around for a ‘Herb Hughes’ type, Frank Hughes recalls. “John called me and I recommended Frank, without letting on that he was my son,” interjects Herb Hughes.
“It was perfect timing,” Frank Hughes (a 23 year member of local 728-set lighting) picks up. “My wife and I owned a small rehearsal studio in North Hollywood (Screenland Studios) and we were looking to sell. I wanted to go in a different direction. I went in for the interview and got the job. By August of 2008, both LMU and USC employed father and son in basically the same positions!” Two Hughes’ with different and similar styles. And very different facilities. USC brings in 600 new students at the Cinematic Arts School. “Some are in Critical Studies,” Herb Hughes explains. “Several enter the Writing Track. A few try out to be a Director, or a Camera Person (aka Cinematographer!)” Frank Hughes, at LMU, wrangles over 600 students as well. “And, this year I also manage 25 student workers and five departments: Sound Stages, Lighting and Grip, Set Construction, Property, and Safety,” Frank Hughes explains.
Do they have similar styles of “teaching”? Probably. What they do have in common, of course, is their passion for quality equipment to support their work. “That’s Matthews Studio Equipment, of course,” they say – almost in unison. “Your production is only as good as your crew and the equipment used,” says Frank Hughes. “It’s easy to find a good crew or replace the ones that are ‘not working out’, but your equipment has to have true longevity. With good equipment in place, like what we get from MSE of course, there’s less of a chance you’ll have to replace the gear that is ‘not working out’.”
“When I began here 15 years ago, I asked John this question,” interjects Herb Hughes. “’What do the students do with one ‘C’ stand?’ His answer was that ‘they can hang their coats on it!’ A big location order then would fit in a Toyota car! Now we load out five-ton trucks! We have in excess of 300 C-stands. The IATSE Unions do watch us on our shoots as we look like full-on Union Productions on Local Locations! We’ve had to make up signs that say ‘Student Shoot’!”
For Herb Hughes it’s not just his relationship with Ed Phillips (the two met when both were working at Paramount in the “really old days”) – it’s because the “equipment speaks for itself,” Herb Hughes says. “Just open the Matthews catalog, chances are we have most of the items listed there. The MSE equipment is well marked. As we have most of our ‘C’ stands, that sort of set themselves by twisting the main shaft, the students like that! Never does a day pass that Matthews’ equipment gets loaded onto our trucks or is in use on our stages – since we are 100% Matthews.”
“We’re constantly adding MSE equipment to our inventory,” adds Frank Hughes. “I always attend NAB and LDI, as do many of the film school professors. Last year, I saw FloatCam’s DC-Slider for the first time. When I got back to L.A., several of the LMU teachers approached me about it. I was happy to be able to tell them that I had ALREADY placed my order, right there on the showroom floor! We also have the new motion control, a car mount, the Ed Dolly, and the new Skyscraper stands!”
“If Matthews makes it – we have it,” the two add in tandem.
Both father and son love to hear from the MSE crew – about the new equipment that will serve their students and about what’s happening in their world. They are anxiously waiting for the next great thing from Matthews – but they have one burning question to ask. “What’s taking so long to get into that new building?”
Okay. They aren’t the only ones to ask. They are just the most vocal. It’s for the good of their relationship, their equipment – and, of course, their students!
For more information on LMU School of Film and Television visit them online at sftv.lmu.edu
For more information on USC School of Cinematic Arts visit them online at cinema.usc.edu