EMPOWERING YOU WITH CONFIDENCE TO CREATE
THEN—there I was pulling cable all over the back lot of Universal. The year was 1966 and the set was Beau Geste. There was no Universal Tour back then and Beau Geste later became Universal City Walk. Grip equipment was built by each of the Major Studios. The gear was heavy, cumbersome and not designed for location work. Companies like Mole Richardson, Morgan Manufacturing, and Hollywood Scene Dock manufactured some grip equipment, but for the most part, the studios built their own.
Across town at Paramount Studios, Roy Isaia was in the canvas room sewing backings, overheads, scrims, and flags. Eventually Isaia moved into production working on shows, gripping for Bonanza, I Spy and others. Grips like Art Brooker, Kenny Adams, the Deats brothers, the Records, the Rez family, Gailan Shultz, and too many others to mention were thinking about lighter, more portable gear. With a little encouragement from his friends, Roy ventured out to start his own company. Thus, studio out-sourcing was born.
I continued on at Universal and then moved over to M.G.M. and Fox, CBS, and Paramount Desilu, working with heavy lights and burdensome lighting stands, still pulling cable. Gaffers like Earl Gilbert, Goldie Garnell, and Buck Cannel, to name only a few, were looking for lighter, more portable lighting instruments. With a little encouragement from my friends I started my company WAYNCO. We specialized in the design and manufacture of the lightweight “Golden Eagle” Arc Light. The Arc (as it was referred to) produced 225 amps of Brute power. Also, Brute was its other nick name and, weighing in at 250 pounds, was indeed a brute to lift. The lightweight version became popular, and in 1971 I sold WAYNCO to Cinemobile Sytems, a Taft Broadcasting Company.
Back across town Roy’s business was beginning to develop - as was his wife Dianna - and with the birth of their first son Matthew, a company name was born. Matthews Studio Equipment, July 1968.
When I joined Matthews, Roy was in the process of expanding the product line to include hardware, and I was still playing rock-n-roll (but that’s a whole other story!). Back then there was no real or defined standard to the equipment. Grip was 1 inch diameter and Electric was 1-1/8″. To complicate things even further, the fact that so many of the major studios built their own gear created even more confusion. Our first stand was the welded base 40″ Century Stand with a 5/8″ male pin and two aluminum (not brass) riser castings. The Combination Stand came next, and people thought: stand to be used by both Grip and Electric? The thought of mixing the two disciplines was controversial at best.
As we progressed, outsourcing for the major studios and rental companies became a one-stop-shop convenience. The spring loaded c-stands grew to be the standard, as did the combo (combination) stand. Roller stands, scissor track, collapsible overhead frames, beefy baby stands, junior and senior stands, Doorway dollies, camera mounts, and other rigs were all being developed and improved upon. Times were good. We were young and aggressive, and we loved the fact that we brought so many new products to the business. We were full of ideas and having a lot of fun making every day an adventure. Isaia saw other opportunities and in 1974 sold Matthews to me and my partner Carlos DeMattos. As Carlos and I continued to grow the company we inspired other new technologies. Cam Remote was the first remote camera control device, other than the one-off used in the making of the picture Grand Prix. Tulip was the first folding portable crane of its type. And, let’s not forget the Vator family: Crank, Low-boy and Super. Today the industry enjoys a large selection of remote camera systems and even more crane options to choose from.
The art of grip equipment evolved into a comprehensive range of tools serving the film industry, and now we were really having fun. Just ask anyone who hung out with us! We were honored with two awards for technical achievement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and one from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
It is said that the highest form of flattery is to be copied. Well, over the many years Matthews has been in the business of pioneering grip technology, we have been repeatedly flattered. Just look around.
In 1989 we were having so much fun we took the company public: MATT on the NASDAC. By 1998 the fun had stopped for me; I was no longer having a good time and I purchased my company back by spinning it out from the public arena.
Today, a half century later, Matthews is 100% independently owned and operated by my family. No more partners and no more shareholders. We sell into over 100 different countries. We service the film, television, theatrical, social media, educational, and still photographic industries with high-quality equipment manufactured in Burbank, California.
As I reflect on my over fifty years in this crazy industry, and especially my forty-six years with Matthews, I think about all of the many relationships with crew people, our employees, and those who supported the company with creative ideas for new products; as well as the customers, studios, rental houses, and technicians who choose to do business with Matthews. I am very appreciative and extremely thankful. We look forward to our future and wish all good luck and good health.
NOW…Matthew is living in Southern California. Carlos is with his own company. Unfortunately, Roy Isaia passed away in early 2015. Me…. I am still at Matthews, designing and making widgets, working with my son Tyler, and loving every minute of it all.
Thank you, and my sincere best wishes to everyone. What a journey!