Bob Gillen

the magic of storytelling

Author: Bob Gillen (page 2 of 3)

Visiting a Movie or TV Production Set

Observing how movie and television productions are shot is an awesome learning experience for an aspiring filmmaker. You can check out your own city or state film commission. They usually announce where and when a production may be working in your area.

Observers are often welcome on a set, especially an outdoor location. Here are generally accepted rules for visitors to a production set. Follow them and you’ll be accepted as an observer.

Outdoor shooting location

Outdoor shooting location

When you arrive at the location, ask for the first or second AD (Assistant Director). This is usually the person who yells “Rolling” or quiets the set just before the camera rolls. Tell him or her you are an aspiring filmmaker and you’d like to observe.


Movie/TV set etiquette rules:

  • Stay out of the shot (watch where the camera is pointed)
  • Be silent when the AD calls “cameras rolling”
  • Turn off cell phones
  • Don’t take photos or video when the cameras are rolling
  • Don’t talk to the crew and actors unless they speak to you first
  • And please, if you recognize an actor, do not ask for an autograph. That’s just not cool! If you are polite and work to stay out of the way, cast or crew may approach you on their own to thank you for taking an interest in their work.
Directions to shooting location

Directions to shooting location

When you’re trying to find the actual location, look for “coded” signs on lampposts or trees. They’re usually printed both right-side up and upside down. These are used to direct cast and crew to the location without advertising to everyone else what’s going on.

Off-Road Desert Racer

Here’s a picture of a desert race vehicle, a class-11 VW, similar to the one featured in the upcoming “Off-Road: A Film Crew SHORT.” A rugged piece of machinery, with speeds maxing out at 75mph.

Caution Tortoise Xing

The desert tortoise features as a character and a premise in my upcoming YA short “Off-Road.” Here’s a bit of information on the tortoise. Enjoy.

The tortoise is the state reptile of both California and Nevada. It is a threatened, not endangered, species.

Defenders of Wildlife estimate, “In some areas, the number of desert tortoises has decreased by 90% due primarily to human activity. Desert tortoise declines appear to have been most severe and widespread in the Western Mojave Desert.”

The National Park Service says, “Since the reproduction rate of the desert tortoise is low, the survival of every individual tortoise is important to the continuation of the species. Many of the threats to adult desert tortoises are related to or are the direct result of human activities; please be aware of how your actions can affect tortoises.”

Here are several links to sites where you can learn more about the desert tortoise:

Defenders of Wildlife

National Park Service

California Turtle and Tortoise Club

Caution Tortoise Xing; Mojave Desert Tortoise

Mojave Desert Tortoise

The Moon, Mars, and Alpha Centauri

Four years ago I wrote a post in my Creating Story blog about seeing Ray Bradbury at a 2009 book signing in a local bookstore.

Bradbury had arrived in a wheelchair, a rumpled man with a huge shock of white hair. He filled the room with excitement.

After speaking  for a few moments, he had fielded questions from his fans. Someone asked him what he thought the future held for our young generation. He sat up tall in his wheelchair, his eyes sparkling, and almost cried out, “We should go back to the moon! Go on to Mars, with the moon as a base camp. Then go on to Alpha Centauri.”

the moon, Mars, and Alpha CentauriHere was a master storyteller who spent a lifetime exploring this world and the entire universe in his imagination. His voice quivered with excitement when he told us of his own recent visit to the Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena, California. The JPL scientists guided him as he drove the Mars Rover on the surface of the same planet he had visited in his imagination since The Martian Chronicles. This from a man who never had a driver’s license in all of his then almost 90 years,

This is the power of story.  Travel back to the moon. Probe the vast universe.

Shooting the Off-Road Desert Race

I’m working on creating an exciting cover for the first book, “Off-Road,” in the YA series. In the meantime, here’s a picture of the camera Tessa uses in shooting the off-road desert race, the fictional Cactus 100.

She inherited the camera from her brother Ryder. He used it in his years at NYU’s film school. It’s a Panasonic HVX. The earlier version of this camera, the DVX,  was popular with indie filmmakers before the explosion of digital camera choices now available.

shooting the off-road desert race with a Panasonic HVX camera

Panasonic AG-HVX200

High School Journalists Report the Truth

Using investigative skills, high school journalists report the truth. The teens attend Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, Kansas. What started as an assignment to do a profile on their newly-hired principal led to a thorough investigation which in turn led to the principal resigning.

teen journalist report the truth

Teen journalists Credit: Emily Smith, Pittsburg HS

According to The New York Times, “Maddie Baden, a 17-year-old junior and a staff member of the student-run newspaper The Booster Redux, set out to write a profile. Emily Smith, a teacher and adviser to The Redux, said… that she had not expected the reporting to lead to questions about [the principal’s] credentials.”

As the teens dug deeper into the story, they found enough information to question the truth of the principal’s alleged educational credentials.

Here’s an example of teens pursuing the truth, not taking statements at face value, and working with school officials to resolve issues. Nicely done, Gina Mathew, Kali Poenitske, Maddie Baden, Trina Paul, Connor Balthazor and Patrick Sullivan. You make us proud.

Read the full story here.


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