Bob Gillen

the magic of storytelling

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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.

Touring the Mojave Desert

The Mojave Desert features large in my upcoming YA story “Off-Road.” Here’s a fun article from the Los Angeles Times about a tour of the Mojave. Enjoy the read.

“In the Mojave Desert, a winding route reveals the weird and the wonderful”

Nippon in the Mojave Credit: Mel Melson, LA Times

Nippon in the Mojave
Credit: Mel Melson, LA Times


Build a DIY Clamp for an Action Camera

This is an easy and inexpensive DIY clamp to build for your action (GoPro) camera. Check it out here.

DIY clamp: credit DustFilms

DIY clamp: credit DustFilms

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

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