Hollywood Studio Equipment Pioneer Ed Phillips Dies at 72

Courtesy of Matthews Studio Equipment
Ed Phillips, younger and older

Phillips co-founded Matthews Studio Equipment to become a top supplier to the grip, lighting and camera departments on film and TV sets worldwide.

Ed Phillips, who co-founded Burbank-based Matthews Studio Equipment in 1969 and was president for nearly 50 years, has died. He was 72. 

Phillips, who pioneered the mass production of film and TV set tools worldwide, died "unexpectedly" on June 22, according to a statement from MSE. His son, company president Tyler Phillips, paid tribute to the industry legend. 

"Ed, my dad, dearly loved three things in life: his family, the grip industry and the ocean. It's going to be a quiet building without his laugh. I'll pick up his mantle and tell his stories so we can honor him and fill this place with laughter once again," Phillips said in his own statement.

His father helped launch MSE after pulling cable and operating machines on the Universal Studios lot. At the time, the Hollywood studios made their own grip equipment to meet their film set needs.

So Phillips and Roy Isaia partnered to launch MSE, before teaming with Carlos DeMattos in 1974 to form the wider Matthews Studio Equipment Group.

"When I first joined the company, it was like a little clubhouse," Phillips recalled in a 2016 article in Working Cameraman. "Legendary grips would hang around the shop discussing the different projects they were working on and the tools they needed to accomplish their jobs," he added.

Phillips and MSE developed and mass-produced the C-stand, a grip stand to hold lighting equipment, which today is used on film and TV sets worldwide.

Besides supplying production equipment, MSE helped unify lighting and rigging standards in grip and electric departments to end industry confusion. MSE also developed key industry innovations, such as the cam remote head, the tulip crane that folds up for compact transport, the Vator cranking stands and the Max menace arm.

Phillips is survived by his wife, Norma; daughters Emily, Julie and Jamie; and son Tyler. A memorial service was held June 29 at the Hollywood Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles.