New Mexico-based 1st AC Gabriel Pfeiffer started his career at Panavision, in Dallas, TX. He transitioned to the freelance world and worked his way through various camera department classifications, on projects such as Briarpatch, Stargirl, Messiah, Daybreak, Hostiles, and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. He met his wife, Jennifer, a makeup artist, on set. The two, along with their daughter, Harlow, are staying happy, healthy, and “mostly sane” in their house in the Rio Grande River Valley, in the little town of Bernalillo, NM.
Has connecting with friends and/or family in distant locations via Zoom revealed new aspects to those relationships?
GP: Zoom has been instrumental in maintaining a close, personal, and visual relationship with some of my closest family and friends. I am usually in a Zoom meeting at least once a day, and sometimes it’s two or three times a day. While these meetings have been very helpful, they are certainly no replacement for being with loved ones.
Any examples of being inventive to keep those isolating with you (or yourself) engaged and active?
Isolation has certainly turned into the mother of all invention. I’m lucky enough to be able to shelter in place with two people that I am madly in love with – my wife and daughter. Some of the things that have brought us closer together and kept the three of us happy and mostly sane are board games, turning our driveway and sidewalks into giant canvases for chalk art, coming up with new ways to play different backyard games, and turning our garage into a bike and scooter maintenance shop.
What hobbies or skills have you resurrected?
One of the most exciting and rewarding hobbies I have been able to rekindle is cross-country running. I live very close to an elaborate trail system that runs along the Rio Grande River. What started as simple family walks in the morning has turned into consistent five to six-mile runs almost every day. My current best distant record is just over seven and a half miles, which, for me, is an outstanding achievement.
Any old film classics on the TV? Favorites for cinematography?
Thanks to Amazon, my wife Jennifer has been able to introduce Harlow and me to her favorite series that she shared with her father, Columbo. Another adventure we have undertaken is watching movies shot by cinematographers that I grew up watching, like ASC members Allen Daviau, Vittorio Storaro, Michael Chapman, John Alcott, Roger Pratt, and countless others. They all have helped shape the way I envision my own project and, to be honest, the world around me.
What charities have you become involved with and how do you choose?
I am a part of an organization that uses Zoom to reach out to the elderly and immunocompromised people who have been stuck at home for far too long. It has been extremely rewarding to have this opportunity to be of service. I’m not always certain that the people I chat with are better off, but they sure have helped me change my perspective on life. If there’s one thing I always walk away with it is gratitude.
How many books have you read and who are your favorite authors?
Alan Furst, Alan Furst, and more Alan Furst novels. [Laughs.] His historical fiction set in Europe, usually in the run-up to World War Two, are out of this world. I can’t recommend his books, starting with The Polish Officer, enough.
Once restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you want to do?
As soon as the restrictions are lifted and it’s truly safe to mingle in close quarters, I plan on hugging everyone I haven’t been able to see. So just a warning to all my friends and family out there: Get ready for an uncomfortably long hug from me. [Laughs.]
What is the one thing you miss most about being on a film or TV set?
To be honest, at first, I was terrified by the shutdown, but then I began to enjoy the forced hiatus. Being able to spend all of my free time with my wife and daughter has been a huge win for all three of us. That said, as the shutdown continues, I have begun to miss the camaraderie and fellowship that one can only find on a film set. Plus, I miss the collective creativity and the sense that everyone is working for one common goal, an artistic expression that evokes emotions or a different perspective from an audience.
How has the Union been able to help you through this crisis?
Local 600 has been incredibly supportive. Within the first week of the shutdown, I received several calls and texts from [L.A.-based Business Representative] Patrick Delaney, making sure that my family and I were safe and healthy. He provided information that reassured us on many levels. I have been amazed at how quickly our union leaped into action to assist its members and ensure our government didn’t forget we exist.
How do you think your outlook on life will change post-COVID?
My perspective and appreciation for life have already changed because of COVID–19. Being sheltered at home for the last couple of months has encouraged a shift in perspective that I did not realize I needed. Gratitude seems to come to mind a lot. I am much more grateful for everything in my life today – including the shutdown, which has fostered newfound respect for life itself and the revelation that this moment, right here, right now, must be enjoyed no matter what.