A quiet man with a very calm demeanor, Mason Hersey is one of the many substitute teachers that comes in and out of Palo Alto High School. When he was young, photography became a fond interest of his. Starting in Germany and then on to Hollywood, he’s worked as a camera man on many feature films and countless commercials. He now spends his time subbing at Paly or hiking with his wife in Los Altos Hills.
VERDE: WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR INTERESTS/PASSIONS WHILE GROWING UP?
Mason Hersey: I kayaked a lot, a lot of kayaking. Photography from about 14 on. I skated a lot growing up, played hockey every afternoon. That pretty much filled it up.
V: I KNOW YOU DID SOME CAMERA WORK WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER?
MH: Yes, for about 35 years. Yeah, mostly movies, very few television shows and a lot of commercials. Thousands of commercials.
V: CAN YOU DESCIRBE YOUR JOURNEY INTO CAMERA WORK? YOU WORKED WITH CELEBRITIES?
MH: Well, yes, working on feature films you get to work with well known actors. It kind of came out of photography, you know, the same idea. I had a fascination with the framing and exposure. But when you work on a feature film or commercial you tend to be a small cog in a much bigger machine. Whereas in photography you do most of it yourself. In film you’re a part of it.
V: ANY HORROR STORIES OF CELEBRITIES OR DIRECTORS?
MH: You know, people often ask me that but I’ve been very lucky because most of the directors I’ve worked with have been pretty decent. There were some smaller, lesser known directors who have been more difficult but the big guys have always been great.
V: DO YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE BESIDES SUBBING OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL?
MH: These days I pretty much just sub. I travel a lot with my wife when she gets the opportunity. But subbing and camera work actually work really well together because what was happening was I’d have one or two weeks down [from camera work] so I started substitute teaching and it really works well because you take jobs one day at a time and if a film job comes up then I could grab that. So I could kind of flop back and forth between the two.
V: DO YOU MISS CAMERA WORK?
MH: Um, honestly, no. I did it for long enough. I really enjoy what I’m doing now. I sometimes think of going back and I got a call last week for a job which I turned down. It is really a young man’s job. I hate to say it but there’s many long hours. Its a hard job and it keeps you away from the family.
V: AND DID YOU LOVE IT?
MH: Yeah, it’s a great job. Just because you’re always problem solving. You’re always jumping from one problem to another. It’s always interesting.