Florham alum zooms in on camera work at Panavision

By Kenna Caprio

On any given weekday, Christopher Konash, BA’04, might drive up to Boston to consult on the movie set of Ted 2, or navigate afternoon traffic in New York City on his way to television’s “Blue Bloods,” which airs on CBS, or NBC’s “The Blacklist.”

“Movies keep me traveling, TV shows are set in their locations. Both keep me busy,” says the Florham Campus alum. Right now, Panavision — a leading camera and lens manufacturer and supplier — has equipment out to 14 television shows and six movies. Konash, director of technical services for the company, is the one responsible for the training, consultation and trouble-shooting on those cameras and lenses.

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Florham alumnus Chris Konash, BA'04, makes adjustments to a Panavision camera in his office. (Photo courtesy of Konash)

“I’ve always been a technical person, never interested in being in front of the camera or directing. I’m more about what makes up the craft, and the technology behind the film business,” says Konash. “I just kind of gravitated toward it.”

As a junior at Mahwah High School, Konash got his first hands-on filmmaking experience after pitching a weekly, televised news program to the school superintendent. The administrator liked the idea so much that he purchased the necessary film equipment for production. Students filmed their broadcasts at Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J. The 30-minute show aired in each school in the district, and on the township’s local cable channel.

Around that time, with “the advent of the digital age, new technology was growing so fast and rapidly surpassing film in quality,” says Konash. “I wanted to be prepared for that. Fairleigh Dickinson University was one of the first to really have a more electronic film program.”

Konash learned how to light, shoot and edit productions at FDU, while also maintaining a regular gig as the Friday night disc jockey at the Bottle Hill Room and Pub, spinning at fraternity and sorority events, and, off campus, providing sound and lighting for concerts. Up until his thesis project, Konash mostly filmed and executed other people’s visions and stories, preferring to concentrate on developing his production skills.

Following graduation, Konash worked as a freelance steadicam operator for a few years, contributing to MSNBC and FOX News broadcasts. He operated the steadicam on “Favorite Son,” an independent film by Howard Libov, chair of the visual and performing arts department and film professor.

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Holding up the steadicam, Konash is hard at work on "Favorite Son," an independent feature by FDU film Professor Howard Libov. (Photo courtesy of Konash)

“After that, I started worked for Panavision, supporting shows the day I started,” he says. “Damages,” which aired on FX and DirectTV, was one of his first Panavision assignments. As a technical manager for the company, he managed the high-definition service department, overseeing and establishing service procedures and standards.

Early in 2014, Konash transitioned to the position he holds now. “Being involved with new technology on a constant basis is very intriguing,” he says. These days, he “makes sure clients renting the gear are completely comfortable and equipped and trained to shoot the material they need to shoot.”

A big part of Konash’s job is visiting sets to trouble-shoot equipment, or provide a “confidence” boost, so that the film crew knows they can count on support from Panavision if need be. His knowledge and expertise allows him to perform lens checks, like one on a recent trip to the Ted 2 set in Boston, to ensure that the flange focal depth, a “critical depth, between where the lens mounts and the sensor itself” is correct, so that all the focus markers line up. Other jobs may require him to do software modifications, license upgrades or custom color corrections to the cameras.

“Because of my technical knowledge, I can identify a problem quickly, and with a certain amount of tools and equipment figure it out. It’s pretty rewarding when a crew of 200 people are looking at you because a camera doesn’t work, and then you’re able to get it up and running,” he says. “The ultimate goal is to never have them have a problem (on set) where they have to stop shooting.”

Funny thing about the constant travel and tweaking and training on set? It leaves little time for Konash to actually watch and enjoy the movies and TV shows he’s supporting.

“I don’t have a DVD player at home; I don’t have time to watch!” he exclaims. When he can squeeze it in, Konash likes “The Blacklist,” and he and his wife watch NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU” together, too. “I was there for the wrap of the original ‘Law and Order,’” he says.

Ultimately though, Konash bases his entertainment preferences not so much on the content of a movie or television show, but on the crew he worked with. And the Panavision equipment, of course.