Behind the scenes at Matthews Studio Equipment

Is there anyone in this business that hasn’t heard of or used Matthews grip gear?  Doubtful.  As part of our original content series, KOAT had a look behind the scenes at MSE’s Burbank manufacturing facility and got a hint of what they’re working on for the future.

Making original content is hard.  Maybe one in ten of your cold calls to people is met with any kind of positive response.  Generally it’s a PR brushoff and a form letter.  That’s why it was refreshing to meet Tyler Phillips from MSE Grip.  Tyler is 4th generation in the film business, and has huge enthusiasm about what his company makes and does.  He is a busy guy, but managed to carve out some time to show me around their 50,000 square foot facility.  Our interview was un-chaperoned by any “optics” managers: he said what he thinks and gave straightforward answers.  Refreshing.

The story delves briefly into the company’s history, but it’s worth noting that in a lot of ways, Matthews invented modern grip standards and equipment.  The company sent over a little boilerplate history:

Matthews was borne by Roy Isaia in 1968, working in his mother’s garage sewing scrims, flags and overheads for the studios. This was the first time the studios began to outsource what they were otherwise making themselves on the lot. As a matter of fact, Roy was working days in the Canvas room at Paramount and nights in his mother’s garage. In 1971 Ed Phillips left the studios and partnered up with Roy to begin the design of stands and hardware to supplement the textiles. This too was a first as the studios generally built their own grip and none of it was interchangeable, nor was there any standardization. Grip was all 1” in diameter and electric was all 1-1/8” – and this was intentional to cause total separation of the two disciplines, Grip and Lighting. Ed worked with the Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers (SMPTE) for several years to develop the current standard for male and female mounts which are all now mostly interchangeable. As a side note even still today all receivers on Crab Dollies built in this country are 1” – that is a throwback to the early days. At about that time. In the early 1970’s Roy’s wife gave birth to their first child, a boy, whom they named Matthew…and hence the name of the company was born and incorporated as Matthews Studio Equipment, Inc. Together Roy and Ed continued to invent the first folding C-Stand, the first spring loaded C-stand, the Doorway Dolly, the Hi Hi Roller stand and pretty much the way most all stands fold today. The list of firsts is extensive and too much to lay out here and now. The company has been honored with two awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Roy sold his share of the company to Ed and another Matthews employee in the early 1980’s and Ed bought the entire company in 1998. Ed now enjoys a partner as well as a Father /Son relationship with Tyler and the rest is still history in the making.