Camera house’s reverse angle

Because helping filmmakers has always been his credo, Man-Sung Son will give his clientele a worthwhile gift in celebration of SMS Productions’ 25th anniversary.

The gift: A discount on equipment rentals, indefinitely, “until we see a marked improvement in the film business,” said his wife, Helena Son, a partner in SMS.

Among those discounted rental items are mini-DV, mini-HD, HD, Super 16, camera support, lighting and jibs. Discounted brands include Panasonic, JVC, Manfredo tripods, Tiffin filters, Century optics, Chrosziel follow focus, Portajib and ReflecMedia’s new portable green screen and more.

The discounts have been welcomed by Jerry Vasilotas, one of the many indie filmmakers who comprise a loyal sector of SMS’ business.

“SMS is so accommodating and willing to work with indie filmmakers like me, with whatever regular or limited budgets we have to get our projects off the ground,” he said.

Man-Sung’s willingness to help others has been the cornerstone of his lengthy film career that began in 1966, when he worked for Jack Behrend’s now-defunct rental company. He was also the designated cinematographer when Behrend clients required one.

When Behrend’s closed in 1983, the Sons started SMS as a camera service and repair business. “We started with one desk, one phone and one workbench. It was so tiny we had trouble opening the door,” Son recalls.

Then as now, “Man-Sung was known as the go-to person if you had a camera problem,” she said, and the business grew considerably beyond service.

“Cinematographers who rented equipment elsewhere would ask us to check it out before they shot. Then they wished we had rentals and sales. They kept asking for more and more, and we obliged.”

“Man-Sung is a trouper,” said Fletcher Camera rental manager Stan Glapa, noting SMS’ longevity in a competitive business in an ever-evolving market. “He’s hung in there and outlasted many other equipment companies. He’s stays small and fast.”

Lars Ullberg, IPA president and producer, has known and done business with Man-Sung for many years. “He’s an outstanding community development activist for wanting to share knowledge by hosting expos and seminars,” he said.

“One of his greatest qualities is his willingness to share his knowledge with everyone, beginners and seasoned pros alike.”

Fifteen years ago, Man-Sung and other professionals founded the on-going, non-profit, low-cost National Academy of the Moving Image.

“Man-Sung has given a lot of people their start in the business,” Glapa commented. “By putting professional cameras in the hands of film students, he has trained them as well.”

Calling himself a filmmaker first ? he’s also produced features and educational videos – Man-Sung earned degrees in film and drama from Joong-Ang University in Seoul, Korea, mass communications from Columbia College and worked on a masters at IIT. His specialty as a cinematographer is high-speed film photography.

Continuing with his community activism, SMS Productions is partnering with The Korea Times in sponsoring a networking session with filmmaking pros and those looking to get involved in the business.

It takes place Nov. 1 at the Foster Bank, 5225 N. Kedzie, 2-5 p.m. No charge, of course.

SMS Productions is located at 1229 N. North Branch; phone 312/440-8963.