DePaul/Cinespace rolls out 3-ton custom grip truck

No film school in the country has got what DePaul/Cinespace’s Cinema and Interactive Media program will be rolling out this summer: a custom-built, 3-ton grip and electric truck for student production use.

The $100,000 truck was designed and built by John Corba, Assistant Director of DePaul/Cinespace and DePaul MFA alum, and Joe Lyons, DePaul/Cinespace equipment manager, both with decades of feature crew experience.

Other schools may have inherited or acquired a beat up old truck, Lyons says. “But we have a state-of-the art vehicle that’s beefed up, in terms of being able to handle the payload. It hasn’t been retrofitted. It’s been designed specifically for these needs.”

Built on an Isuzu chassis, the truck extras include customized shelving, lighted jockey boxes and a power inlet.

When completed this summer, the truck will effectively put a self-sufficient production company within the walls of an academic institution.

DePaul in 20,000-sq. ft. at Cinespace

Last April, with a $2.2 million investment from the school, DePaul/Cinespace created a hands-on learning environment within a working studio. It’s considered to be the only one of its kind in the country.

The DePaul/Cinespace 20,000-sq. ft. facility boasts two sets, a sound stage, a scenic shop, a classroom, enough gear to simultaneously equip shoots on location and in the studio and now – it has a grip truck.

Cinema School director Matt Irvine was instrumental in acquiring the vehicle, which will be equipped from DePaul’s existing lighting inventory for student production.

“It’ll have a small tungsten package, a small HMI package, Kino Flos, LED, plenty of grip, lots of large frames, small frames, sandbags, cable, a small 6500 watt generator so that you can power as much as a 4K head with it.”

DePaul’s 3-ton truck would be exactly the same as one used on a small commercial shoot, notes Lyons, a former union lamp operator in LA, where he worked on many Clint Eastwood’s films, and Chicago.

A state-of-the-art professional vehicl

The first phase of the project began last summer when DePaul greenlighted the truck conversion and Corba and Lyons went to work on it. Lyons sought advice from long-time friend and supplier Jules Tomko of Essanay Studio & Lighting. “I told them what I was doing and how I wanted to build something just like their trucks and they sent me to Capital Truck Body in Cicero.”

Truck designer/builders Joe Lyons and John CorbaLyons favored the Isuzu for the chassis and the efficiency of its cab-over design. When the body was completed, Lyons handed the wheel over to Corba, who has had more than a decade of feature film art department experience, to design and build the interior shelving.

“There’s certain things we have to modify to what our equipment needs are,” Corba notes. “The rails. The dolly tracks. We had to kind of build things modular so that we could roll the carts in there.”

The only tasks left are simple matters of protocol: loading the truck and checking its suspension.  Students will have to get school and state approval to drive the truck, then take a written test and obtain a C-class driver’s license.

“They will access to take their storytelling ideas on location,” says Corba, with well-deserved satisfaction.  “They’re going to have all the equipment to help shoot some of the best projects and, hopefully, win festivals.”

Contact Dan Patton at dan@reelchicago.com with your news.

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