Making a film is an amazing experience. Sometimes I feel like I won the lottery. To learn something new at my age is exhilarating and exhausting in a good way. This past year has been a tremendous opportunity to test myself, make mistakes, correct them and feel a great sense of accomplishment.
I just got back last night from Arizona where we filmed the Sun City Poms, a rather famous cheerleading group, all between 55-85 years of age. It was a long trip with a major flight delay getting out of Philly, but we made it in time to get some sleep and wake up early for our first interview of the day. Actually a rooster woke us all up at 4 am, but that’s another story!
Traveling with an experienced crew is awesome. I travel with a Director of Photography, a Second Camera person, a Sound Mixer and a Production Manager. Each plays an integral role in the filming of the subjects and uses multiple pieces of equipment to ensure we get exactly what we need. I can’t begin to describe the amount of equipment that goes into a film shoot like ours. I wish I had taken a picture of it all gathered together in the many shipping containers, special cases, etc. Hours are spent packing, unpacking, building and dismantling cameras and other equipment. It is a major process for each crew member.
Zac, one of the owners of Expressway Productions, is our Director of Photography, or DP. He has been with me since the beginning of the project and truly understands what I am looking for when interviewing the women. He manages the rest of the crew to ensure lighting, sound and alternative film shots are capturing all possibilities. Aside from that he is the “King of B-Roll.” That stands for background footage. No matter where we are, or who we are shooting, there is ample time set aside to capture film footage related to the subject we are covering. A most recent example: picture me driving a 12-Passenger van/bus (the kind that almost needs a ladder to enter) slowly through the streets of Sun City, AZ with a huge camera set on a tripod, touching my right shoulder and completely blocking my view to the right. The lens is pointed out the front windshield and is capturing the neighborhoods, the orange trees and the senior citizens on golf carts. This goes on for an hour or two until Zac feels we have enough footage. On occasion he asks me to stop and he hops out, grabs another camera for a close up shot of a sign he likes. Little pieces of this footage will make it into the film. I love waiting to see what catches his eye.
Zac is a perfectionist. He does not quit until he gets the lighting just right or the shot framed exactly as he wants it. I watch him. He’s watching the light fade to night and he is springing into action to go outside and secure a light panel against a picture window. That amount of light coming in through the blinds keeps the lighting consistent and we go on. By the end of the filming, forgetting about the panel, I am tricked into thinking it is still light outside.
We ended our second day of filming in AZ with the Wickenburg Rodeo Days Parade. Two and a half miles. Zac, Ian and Sean walked, jogged and ran the distance getting shots of the Sun City Poms from every possible angle. Sometimes they wore harnesses that held their heavy equipment, sometimes not. They kept up with the 80 year old baton twirler and the rest of the Poms, with an average age of 74, performing to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart. It was quite a sight. I don’t know who amazed me more, the Poms or our camera crew.
I have no doubt that when I begin editing the many hours of footage from Sun City it will all be good and once again I will have trouble choosing what to use in the segment. Stay tuned!
Thanks Zac, for being a great partner and a truly exceptional DP.
Have a great day!