This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sort of Like Howard Hawks

            Yesterday morning I got together with videographer Chip Scheuer and retired Watsonville Police Chief Terry Medina to shoot a video trailer for my second Quill Gordon mystery, Wash Her Guilt Away. Along the way, photographer Tarmo Hannula of the Register-Pajaronian, who I’ve known for years, showed up to take a picture.
            And somewhere in the process I got to thinking, this must be what Howard Hawks felt like when he shot a western with John Wayne. Let’s get together with some friends, head for the great outdoors, and have some fun making a movie.
            Of course Hawks was paid handsomely to make his movies, whereas I’m paying out-of-pocket for mine and doing it on a budget. I have to because a You Tube video trailer is considered essential to book marketing in the digital age. I will say this for making a video, though. It’s a lot more fun than applying for an ISBN number for the book.

Shooting in the Great Indoors

            Actually, this video was shot in the great indoors, which if you’re talking about Howard Hawks/John Wayne movies calls to mind Rio Bravo. What we were trying to do this morning was recreate the interior of a hunting and fishing lodge in an isolated mountain area of Northern California, which is the setting for the book.
            Had I but funding enough and time, I would have taken a weeklong trip to the mountains to scout for appropriate locations, rented a place for the day, and brought everybody up there to shoot it properly. In the real world, I was reduced to doing it on the cheap near where I live.
            I considered a few places to serve as the background for the interior of the lodge, but it turned out the right place was literally under my nose. My Rotary Club meets each week at the Watsonville Elks Lodge, which has a huge fireplace, with the head of a mammoth elk mounted over it. The bar and its furniture are of the late fifties, early sixties vintage that the lodge in my book contains. We figured we could make it work by shooting carefully and atmospherically.
            Ideally, we would have had a rainy day, like the ones in the book, but no such luck. It was bright and sunny, but Chip got around that by framing shots tightly and focusing on the fireplace and building artifacts.

One-Take Terry Does His Scene

            Having stood up at numerous press conferences as police chief, Terry is a pro when it comes to being filmed. He also did video training for city employees and earned the nickname “One-Take Terry,” because when he stepped in front of a camera, he generally got it right the first time.
            We did more than one take this time in order to provide different options, camera angles and inflections when the film was edited, then Terry was sent on his way. Then we shot the rest of the scenes and some footage to go with voice-over, and we were finished in three hours.
            When Hawks and Wayne made the classic Red River in 1947, they found themselves sitting on their hands for days because of heavy unseasonable rains. My video has the opposite problem. We’re going to be sitting on our hands until Chip can get out and shoot some rainy-day footage to complete the project. In this year of California’s major drought, that’s a stresser, but the Weather Channel is saying there’s a good chance of rain next Tuesday and Wednesday. I certainly hope so; the show must go on.