I’ve been wondering all my life why Orville Nix was so far from the Presidential motorcade when he captured his crappy footage on 11.22.63. The motorcade route was widely known, having been published in the local papers. Why was Nix so far away from Elm Street, a half-block to the north? Nix just before the big moment: “I can hear the motorcade coming. It’ll be coming down Elm any second now, but I don’t want to get too close. It’ll make for a better shot if I can capture the whole panorama. True, I won’t get a closeup or even a medium shot of the President and Mrs. Kennedy, but the grass and the asphalt road and the trees and the blue sky are just as important, if not more so.”
And what about that gifted cinematographer Abraham Zapruder? He wasn’t aiming his 8mm camera properly, and so most of what he captured was above the JFK limousine. In fact Zapruder almost managed to miss the grisly Kennedy head shot. 85% to 90% of the image is about Dealey Plaza grass — 10% or 15% of the Zapruder image, at most, shows the limousine and its occupants. Zapruder just barely captured what happened. He nearly missed it entirely.
Zapruder and Nix were typical suburbanites with typical photographing skills. Both clearly believed in the importance of touristy wide shots, and had no apparent use for MCUs or close-ups. If only someone with a knack for decent framings had been on the scene. If young Steven Spielberg, 16 or 17 years old at the time and visiting Dallas with his mother for some reason, had been at the base of the grassy knoll and shooting with an 8mm Kodak wind-up, history would have been in his debt.