Bob Gillen

the magic of storytelling

Category: filmmaking (page 1 of 2)

Using the Steadicam in Camera Work

In my new novel Off-Road teen Tessa Warren has a mentor in her filmmaking. Kelsey Graf was a friend and classmate of Tessa’s deceased brother Ryder. Together they made it through film school at NYU, and were about to start off on film careers when Ryder died in a tragic accident a few months after graduation.

Kelsey has promised to take Tessa under her wing in Ryder’s absence. Kelsey herself has been working in Los Angeles on several film shoots. Her primary function is PA (production assistant). She is also exploring learning to use the Steadicam rig in the hope of becoming a camera operator. Someone on set has been willing to mentor Kelsey. We’ll see down the road if she continues on this path.

The Steadicam rig can best be described as a camera stabilizer mount for motion picture cameras. The Steadicam was invented by Garrett Brown in 1975. The rig allows for an operator to maintain a smooth shot over all sorts of surfaces and terrain.

One of the most well-known Steadicam shots is a full five-minute continuous shot in the film Atonement, when the soldiers arrive at Dunkirk beach during an evacuation of Allied forces. The shot is a Steadicam operator’s dream. It requires physical strength, coordination, choreography, and much rehearsal.

I have been fortunate to interview two Steadicam operators in recent years for my filmmaking website. One was Will Demeritt. Here’s a link to the interview: https://www.thefilmmakerlifestyle.com/conversations-with-filmmakers/will-demerritt/

Steadicam operator Will Demeritt

A year later I interviewed Jessica Lopez. Here’s her link: https://www.thefilmmakerlifestyle.com/conversations-with-filmmakers/jessica-lopez/

Steadicam operator Jessica Lopez

The Red VW in “Off-Road”

Hey. How are you? It’s been another long gap in posting. Caregiving is falling into a routine now, and I’ve dealt with a minor health issue of my own. So…I’m back. My goal is to post weekly from here on out.

My new book, Off-Road, is ready for publication. I will be putting it up on Amazon Kindle next month. The story starts out with three teens – Tessa Warren, Eric Pyne, Lyndie Reed – the Film Crew. They’re filming an off-road race in the Mojave Desert. In September. Yup…blazing sun, heat, dirt, dust. And adventure. Lots of obstacles to them getting their film made. Some of them man-made.

Red VW desert racer from "Off-Road"
Red VW desert racer

A red VW beetle, modified for off-road racing, features in the race. It belongs to driver Jimmy Hassett, a friend of Eric Pyne’s father. Eric and Jimmy mount two GoPro action cameras on the VW to capture the race.

Interior of off-road VW racer

The VW racer features an interior reinforced with roll bars. A light bar across the roof – not needed in this particular race, which is a daytime event. Glass only in the front windshield. Spare tire mounted in the rear window shelf. Skid plates to protect the underbody.

My First Car

The red VW reminds me of my first car, a blue VW with a canvas sun roof. That was a fun car. I learned to drive stick on it. Along with one of my friends, I drove it from New York to Montreal on Christmas break one year. Parked it in Montreal the first night. It froze solid overnight. I had to have it towed and thawed out all day in a garage.

VW with canvas sunroof

My VW was a dream to maintain. Battery inside under the rear seat. I replaced a muffler. Put on new shocks. And me not a mechanic by any means. I still miss it.

Driving home from Montreal a few nights later, we drove south on the New York State Thruway. Lots of snow and slush. Huge trucks, most of them passing us. Cold. The heater barely worked. But the VW never quit.

I will alert you as soon as Off-Road is up on Amazon. And I would appreciate you sharing the info with others. Every mention helps. 

Thanks. See you next week.

Film Crew Shorts

Re-thinking the Story

Six months since my last post. Life has a way of throwing up obstacles as I plan my next book. Further illness in the family set me back for a while more. Things are getting better again, but it’s a slow process.

Last September I participated in an online writing course offered by the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. What I valued most was the feedback from other course participants. It went deeper than “Nice job, Bob.” The comments were insightful, constructive, sometimes direction-changing. I learned much about my own writing, and came to appreciate how helpful criticism can be from other writers. 

The course made me re-think some of my story and my characters. I’m now busy re-writing parts of the book. It should be done later this month. The characters most affected are Tessa and Lyndie. I hope to deepen their friendship and the way they deal with the challenges they face.

New Book Cover

Here’s a preview of the book’s cover. Off-Road will be the first in a series I call “Film Crew Shorts.” Each book will be a short read. A fun adventure that I hope will spark enthusiasm for reading among young people. Inspiration for this model comes in part from author James Patterson’s BookShots series. Easy reads to spark interest in books.

New book cover for Off-Road, a Film Crew Short book.

Talk soon.

Don’t Wait for Anyone

“Don’t wait for anyone. Life doesn’t wait. Don’t become what you most fear. A wasted soul. Leap for the rope and swing towards the stars.”

John Patrick Shanley

 

It’s been a long time since I last posted here. A family illness, now resolving itself, absorbed time and attention. I’m working my way back.

My next book, Off-Road, is close to completion. The time away from working on it gave me a new perspective, and I am re-structuring the story. Publication date will likely be September. I’ll keep you informed.

One of the most fun aspects of writing this story has been creating and developing the characters. One of them, Lyndie Reed, is a high school junior. She’s always on the move. An avid runner, she logs many miles every day. Lyndie is inspired by one of my nieces, who recently ran the Boston Marathon twice – in the same day! She started early, ran the course backwards, and arrived at the official starting line in time to run the prescribed course with all the other runners. Fifty-two point four miles. Amazing.

Lyndie is Tessa Warren’s best friend. It’s a new friendship. Tessa has spent the last two years mourning for her brother, killed in a car crash a few months after he graduated from film school. She’s now “leaping for the rope,” beginning to step into her brother’s film shoes.

I look forward to introducing the Film Crew to you. And, with luck, the book will become a series. Talk soon.

Off-Road

Off-Road

Movies to Help Kids Fall in Love with Cinematography

Cinematography is more than stunning visuals

“Raindance is dedicated to fostering and promoting independent film around the world. Based in the heart of London, Raindance combines Raindance Film Festival, training courses — which are offered throughout the year at our 10 international hubs — and the British Independent Film Awards.”

In discussing how films can influence young people’s love for film, Raindance says, “…cinematography is more than stunning visuals, and movie-loving kids have plenty of opportunities to understand the power of storytelling, acting and between-the-lines messages.”

Los Angeles - USA - October 31, 2015: Replica of the Back to the Future DeLorean during Comikaze Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Los Angeles – USA – October 31, 2015: Replica of the Back to the Future DeLorean during Comikaze Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

They go on to say, “It is not that hard to get children interested in films, but now that your little cinema buff caught the taste for it, it’s time to feed his passion with well-selected titles. Once they fall in love with cinema, this feeling will burn bright in their hearts forever, but the first steps into this world of wonder are essential to keep that fire going.”

Their recommended films are:

  • The Harry Potter Series
  • Jumanji
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Frozen
  • Mary Poppins
  • Peter Pan
  • The Lion King
  • Coraline
  • Back to the Future I
  • Inside Out

Here’s the link to Raindance’s article: “10 Movies that Will Make Any Kid Fall in Love with Cinematography.”

Enjoy these films, or share them with young people you know.

 

What inspires me to write for young adults

Teaching High School Media Production

When my wife and I taught our Media Production class to high school seniors, on day one of the semester-long course we screened the introductory podcast of film director Baz Luhrmann’s Set to Screen series. The series, created by Apple, follows Luhrmann behind the scenes as he directs the 2008 film Australia.

We watched the students’ faces as they viewed the podcast. Rapt attention. Even awe at times.

Then we told them, you can do the same thing. Of course, you don’t have the budget, the equipment, the production company that Luhrmann had for Australia. But yes, on your own terms, with your equipment and imagination, you can do the same thing in this class. Make movies.

And that’s exactly what they did.

The girls in our class found their voice. It was often lighthearted. Parodies, music videos, fun video stories. But it was theirs. Theirs from conception to final screening. They owned it. They told stories rooted in their imaginations, their own lives.

Here are a couple of screen captures from their productions. One features a western movie, shot on location at the historic  Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, California. One student played all the parts. The students composed original music for their film on Garageband.

 

Media production class on set

Media production class on set

Paramount Ranch location

Paramount Ranch location

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another student project features a black and white  music video based on Marky Mark’s Good Vibrations.

The screen capture on the left is the original Marky Mark video. The one on the right was done by our class.

 

Marky Mark's Good Vibrations

Marky Mark’s Good Vibrations

Student version of Good Vibrations

Student version of Good Vibrations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helping young people find their voice is what my writing is all about. I have a YA book series coming soon about teens who use film and media to find their way in this world. I’ll let you know a soon as it’s available.

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