Lights, Camera, Action!

Part-time Payson couple videotape the stars


How does a couple relax after videotaping on location in the Valley for John McCain, Charles Schwab or daredevil Evel Knivel, or after videotaping burning autos at the Phoenix Fire Academy or would-be candidates for TV's "Survivor" series?

For Betsy and John Gruber, owners of On-Site Video in Tempe, they retreat to the friendly people of Payson.

"I wish we could conduct most of our business here in Payson," John said. After more than 30 years of frequent visits to the Rim country, the Grubers decided in 1992 to buy a second home in Payson. John said the first time they stayed overnight in their Payson home, he pinched himself to be sure their dream had come true. Both agree that, from concerts in the park to great neighbors, they enjoy everything about life in Payson.

Both say the people they meet and the experiences they have are the most satisfying aspects of their business.

While the Grubers have done work for famous personalities, they also prepare marketing, training and event videos for small businesses to help them grow and succeed.

The Grubers shoot on location, and with editing, graphics and music added in their studio, the result is a professional presentation with a genuine personal touch.

The couple is a team in every aspect of their business, and John is quick to point out Betsy's qualifications to any customer who might look askance at a woman wielding a video camera. He speaks proudly of the fact that his wife has a bachelor's degree in English and radio and TV and a master's in audio-visual arts. John has a bachelor's in English and a master's in secondary education. They met while they were both teaching at Tempe High, eventually leaving the teaching profession to form On-Site Video in 1979.

Betsy cited an example of success involving a dental lab owner who uses a video that shows his lab, personnel and equipment to market himself throughout the country. His business has grown beyond a limited local market and tripled his bottom line.

"Many small businesses do quality work but they have to find a way to let the rest of the world know how good they are," Betsey said, "and video does that for them."

Variety abounds in the Gruber's business.

"We did a video for Chuck Cecil's (then with the Phoenix Cardinals) defense," Betsy said, "after he was accused by the NFL of making an illegal tackle of an opposing player. We had the footage that Cecil's agent made of the hit, and we still-framed it in slow motion to show that his hit was not illegal. But Paul Tagliabue, commissioner of the NFL, ruled against him anyway."

John told of a social event at which Mel Blanc was a guest. They filed his inimitable "That's all folks," and, with Blanc's permission, used it as the finale of their video.

Betsy recalled another event attended by Star Wars Producer Frank Marshall, and by focusing on him, they helped him pull a prank. Marshall, a former stunt man, announced to the gathering that he had received an antique guitar from a friend in Spain, and he removed the guitar from an elaborate package, walked forward with it, tripped, fell and smashed the instrument.

"The audience was aghast," John said.

Betsy recalled filming a copper smelter in Globe where the temperatures were so high they had to wear thick-soled shoes, and another time they went to the prison in Florence for a video deposition of a convicted murderer who was a witness to another crime.

Last year, On-Site Video was hired to produce a video for the Convention of High School Student Council Leaders from all over the state. And Payson High was there.

"I made certain the students from Payson were on the video," John said.

By utilizing family photographs, the Grubers preserve people's memories for the celebrations of birthdays, anniversaries and graduations. Sometimes this is done for funerals. "I did it for my own mom," John said.

Betsy said, "I felt I knew her much better after creating the video collage."

"It's a celebration of someone's life," John said. "It creates a happy moment at an otherwise somber event."

The Arizona Historical Society is a frequent customer.

"They trust us that nothing will happen to their one-of-a-kind film," John said, and we treat every customer's movies the same way. We know that their 8mm home movies are equally important to them.

With five full-time employees and four regular part-time employees, the Grubers said they transfer an average of 10,000 feet of movie film per week.

Creating video products for Payson businesses and residents, along with those of the Valley, would be the best of all worlds, the two agreed.

For more information, call (800) 826-5062.

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