Cameraman gives back to Georgia film industry

Retired motion-picture cameraman Clyde E Bryan works with camera and lighting equipment at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville. He came out of retirement to work with the Georgia Film Academy teaching students about his craft. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

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Retired motion-picture cameraman Clyde E Bryan works with camera and lighting equipment at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville. He came out of retirement to work with the Georgia Film Academy teaching students about his craft. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Even as a child growing up in Ellijay, Clyde E. Bryan knew he wanted to make movies.

He never dreamt of seeing his name in lights or of being the next Robert Redford.

“I wanted to be a cameraman,” Bryan said. “I wanted to be the one that took Robert’s picture.”

Forty-plus years and 129 on-screen credits later, Bryan is still passionate about the childhood dream that turned into a lucrative career. And he’s come out of retirement to give back.

“The motion picture industry was good to me, and I feel a certain obligation to make sure that quality technicians come into the business to carry on the phenomenal work that has come before,” he said.

Bryan is one of about 50 current and former members of the motion picture and television industries who are working with the Georgia Film Academy. Their goal: develop a talent pool so deep and permanent that Georgia’s television and motion picture industries need never go elsewhere for on-screen or behind-the-scenes expertise.

Currently, Bryan teaches the basics of his craft to students at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville (the town where he and wife Maureen have lived since 2006).

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Retired motion-picture cameraman Clyde E. Bryan works with camera and lighting equipment at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville. He came out of retirement to work with the Georgia Film Academy teaching students about his craft. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Retired motion-picture cameraman Clyde E. Bryan works with camera and lighting equipment at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville. He came out of retirement to work with the Georgia Film Academy teaching students about his craft. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

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Retired motion-picture cameraman Clyde E. Bryan works with camera and lighting equipment at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville. He came out of retirement to work with the Georgia Film Academy teaching students about his craft. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

“We are making his knowledge, skills, experience, and, frankly, his passion, available to students,” said Jeffrey Stepakoff, a veteran writer, producer, author, and the Georgia Film Academy’s first executive director.

Since 2007, Georgia’s film industry has rocketed from a $25-million-a-year business to a $4 billion industry. And the Georgia Film Academy, which started in 2016 with 193 students at three partnering schools, has registered more than 10,000 students at 20 of the state’s technical colleges, colleges, and universities, Stepakoff said.

“There’s no story anywhere in the world like this,” he said.

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Retired motion-picture cameraman Clyde E Bryan works with camera & lighting equipment at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville. He came out of retirement to work with the Georgia Film Academy teaching students about his craft. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Retired motion-picture cameraman Clyde E Bryan works with camera & lighting equipment at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville. He came out of retirement to work with the Georgia Film Academy teaching students about his craft. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

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Retired motion-picture cameraman Clyde E Bryan works with camera & lighting equipment at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville. He came out of retirement to work with the Georgia Film Academy teaching students about his craft. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Bryan’s credentials are impressive: “Back to the Future,” “American Beauty,” “Sea Biscuit, “Meet the Fockers,” “Apollo 13,” “Indiana Jones,” the hit TV series “Ozark,” and more. One of his proudest works is 2002′s “Road to Perdition,” with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig, one Academy Award win, and four nominations.

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Bryan (left) and cinematographer David Dunlap on location outside the High Museum of Art in Atlanta during the filming of “Insurgent.” (Photo courtesy of Clyde E. Bryan.)

Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgia Film Academy

Bryan (left) and cinematographer David Dunlap on location outside the High Museum of Art in Atlanta during the filming of “Insurgent.” (Photo courtesy of Clyde E. Bryan.)

Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgia Film Academy

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Bryan (left) and cinematographer David Dunlap on location outside the High Museum of Art in Atlanta during the filming of “Insurgent.” (Photo courtesy of Clyde E. Bryan.)

Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgia Film Academy

Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgia Film Academy

Bryan was set on a career in moving-making by 7th grade and was shooting lower-than-low-budget 8-millimeter movies and casting his high school classmates as actors.

Still, family members – particularly his father – were skeptical. And that was only reinforced by a guidance counselor in the small Alabama town where Bryan attended high school. The counselor told Bryan’s parents he “didn’t have his feet firmly planted on the ground,” wanted a career that “was not attainable” and “needed to get a grasp on reality,” Bryan recalled.

He had the last laugh. Probably several. In 2007, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Camera Operators. The presenter was his friend and Hollywood head-turner Annette Benning, with whom he’d worked on five movies.

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Clyde Bryan (far left) on set of “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” a wartime movie directed by Ang Lee and starring Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Vin Diesel and Chris Tucker. Principal photography for the film began in 2015 in Locust Grove, near Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Clyde E. Bryan.

Credit: Photo courtesy of the Georgia Film Academy

Clyde Bryan (far left) on set of “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” a wartime movie directed by Ang Lee and starring Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Vin Diesel and Chris Tucker. Principal photography for
the film began in 2015 in Locust Grove, near Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Clyde E. Bryan.

Credit: Photo courtesy of the Georgia Film Academy

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Clyde Bryan (far left) on set of “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” a wartime movie directed by Ang Lee and starring Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Vin Diesel and Chris Tucker. Principal photography for the film began in 2015 in Locust Grove, near Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Clyde E. Bryan.

Credit: Photo courtesy of the Georgia Film Academy

Credit: Photo courtesy of the Georgia Film Academy

But getting to that point took true grit and was hardly glamorous. He tried college for a couple of years, then worked as a portrait photographer before heading to Hollywood in the mid-1970s. He slept on friends’ couches, lived on a shoestring budget, and jumped when a stroke of unexpected luck came his way.

A movie was being made in Los Angeles. Extras were needed on the set, and “I needed $50,” Bryan recalled. “Someone in the camera department made a mistake, a pretty radical mistake, and was fired on the spot.”

The lead cameraman in his anger wanted to know if anyone on set knew how to load film.

“I was standing 10 feet away from him. I said: ‘I do.’” Bryan said. “And I ended up on the rest of the movie [the not-so-memorable ‘Jet Set Disco’ with 1960s teen idol Fabian].”

His second break came when he was able to show off his skills in Roger Corman’s “Piranha” and in “Rock ‘n Roll High School” with Dean Cundey. Cundey and Bryan went on to do more than 30 films together.

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Clyde E. Bryan prepping for a shot high atop a ladder while filming “The Hunger Games” at OFS Studios in Norcross. Bryan retired after spending nearly 45 years in the film industry. He is currently a Georgia Film Academy professor. Photo courtesy of Clyde E. Bryan.

Credit: Photos courtesy Georgia Film Academy

Clyde E. Bryan prepping for a shot high atop a ladder while filming “The Hunger Games” at OFS Studios in
Norcross. Bryan retired after spending nearly 45 years in the film industry. He is currently a Georgia Film Academy professor. Photo courtesy of Clyde E. Bryan.

Credit: Photos courtesy Georgia Film Academy

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Clyde E. Bryan prepping for a shot high atop a ladder while filming “The Hunger Games” at OFS Studios in Norcross. Bryan retired after spending nearly 45 years in the film industry. He is currently a Georgia Film Academy professor. Photo courtesy of Clyde E. Bryan.

Credit: Photos courtesy Georgia Film Academy

Credit: Photos courtesy Georgia Film Academy

Bryan and his family moved to Milledgeville in Middle Georgia to realize their goal of having a lakefront home, while he continued to work mostly in Hollywood. A year later, the state passed a tax break for the film industry, and there was enough work in Georgia that Bryan rarely had to leave home.

“I retired in 2017 because I had done this for 42 years,” he said. “And I didn’t have anything else to prove.”