“The directors (Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos) were initially somewhat coy about the nature of the project” says Curtis Waltz, owner of commercial aerial photography firm Aerialscapes Inc. and aerial photographer for the gripping Netflix series Making a Murderer that takes place in Manitowoc, WI. “Eventually it was clear it was a documentary about the Avery case. At one point after a flight I asked if it might be on PBS, thinking that’s where big documentaries go. They laughed a bit and said ‘oh no, much bigger than that.’ I had no idea it would be a 10-part Netflix documentary until the news became public in December.”
Aerial footage was captured via helicopter in October 2013, March 2014, and September 2014 chartering from Lakeshore Helicopters (Kenosha, WI) and MF Helicopters (East Troy, WI) and regular pilots Jeff Klatt, Kandace Rawling, and Joel Olsen. The Canon C300 digital cinema camera was secured to Curt’s gyro-stabilized mounting system and filming was out the side of the helicopter with a door removed. “You make sure you and everything else is strapped in tight” according to Curt. “Much of the flying was routine but much was tricky, too, requiring significant pilot skill – the ‘forward flight’ shots, like those over the courthouse and some of the jail footage, are actually captured while flying sideways along a precise path while accounting for winds, then tilting the ship down as we passed over the top.”
By far the most memorable flight, if misery creates memories, was the March 2014 flight. Choice of dates was limited since the rest of the film crew would be returning to California soon. The temperature was no more than 10 degrees on the ground and less than that in the air. Add an extreme wind-chill factor thanks to the missing door and nearly complete numbness was an eventuality. “It wasn’t pleasant” admits Curt. “You know you’re going to get cold, you get cold, and you work through it trying to not let it distract you from your job. I’ve flown in near-zero temperatures before but usually in an airplane and usually in a situation where you can close the window or door when done shooting. Not this time. We flew for 2 hours that day.”
While aerial video is an exciting component of Curt’s business, most activity involves capturing stills throughout the Chicago / Milwaukee region in support of commercial real estate clients. But this can be exciting too. “We go where and when the client needs us” says Curt. “Many flights are routine and over suburbs, however just as many are not, whether deep and low in and around the canyons of downtown Chicago, up high at 10,000 feet, working carefully with ATC near and literally over O’Hare, or at night.”
Has the prominent credit in Making a Murderer and inclusion in IMDb changed anything for Curt? “Not really, although it’s been fun hearing randomly from friends, clients, and colleagues locally and around the country who excitedly reach out to say they saw your name at the end of an episode and ask you about the experience – the vast majority of my work is seen solely by my clients and not the general public and even then, such as in an ad or on a web site, certainly not credited.”
Curtis Waltz has been a leading provider of commercial aerial photography services throughout Chicago and Milwaukee via his firm, Aerialscapes Inc., since 2002. For more information and samples of his work please visit www.aerialscapes.com. Curt can be reached at 262.538.1176 (office), 262.617.2081 (cell), or email@example.com.
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