Sunday, January 20, 2008

Wheels of Fury!

Production on the self defense sequence began at 2:00 PM on January 19th. Jenny, a friend and collaborator, assisted with sound, using a brand new Marantz field audio recorder and shotgun mic. The recorder was fresh out of the box as of yesterday morning, so Jenny stopped by (prior to the shoot) to familiarize herself with the equipment, lovingly named "Wilhelm".

At 1:00, Sue and Tanja arrived and followed me out to my father's house to pick up an extension ladder. He's in the roofing business, so I was fairly sure he'd be the person to go to for all of our ladder needs.

At 2:00, the crew met at the Utah Aikikai Dojo. Kristina, our lighting technician set to work attaching lighting to the support beams that crisscross the dojo's ceiling. Jeff, our producer and videographer began assembling the jib arm, steadicam and shoulder mount. Erik and his training partner, Bob, arrived shortly thereafter to warm up and prepare for the self defense scenarios. Erik is a T4-5 Paraplegic, second degree black belt.

Because the dojo is a very sacred place for its members and owners, we took extra precautions. For example, no shoes are allowed on the canvas floor, so all crew members had to work in socks or bare feet. The same held true for the wheelies: Erik and I. All wheels had to be completely cleaned before rolling onto the dojo mat. In addition, any piece of weight-bearing equipment had to be placed on plywood boards, with bubble wrap padding and sheets underneath. We could not leave any mark on the cream-colored canvas. This was imperative.

Lighting setup took a bit longer than expected, due to the delicate nature of the process and the fact that everyone was being extremely careful, not to damage the flooring. But once the lighting was in place, the room looked fantastic. Kristina nailed it! The lighting looked perfect.

At 6:15, we began to shoot. Steadicam sequences first, then jib arm, then hand-held. All shots had been storyboarded in advance, to help move the shoot along. The most difficult aspect of shooting was making sure that the action remained true to life. Both Erik and Bob were adamant about keeping the sequence 100% real. This meant that every take had to involve full contact between the talent. Every block, every tackle and every strike was performed over and over again, at the same intensity level, for the purposes of matching the action from many different angles.

Both Erik and Bob were a real pleasure to work with. If they weren't happy with the way a sequence turned out, we would re-shoot. It was important that everyone be on the same page, as far as content quality was concerned. After shooting Jeff would review the footage with crew and talent. It was an efficient way of ensuring satisfaction.

The shoot ended at 1:10 AM. A long shoot. Much longer than I had anticipated or wanted. But everyone hung in and kept a high energy level for the entire shoot. Bob and Erik put in a lot of hard work and I can't even begin to imagine how sore they must have been the morning after. God bless Ibuprofen!

Our last shot was a board break and once that was done, we spent the next hour and a half taking down equipment and cleaning the studio. We had to make sure that we left no trace of our production behind.

One final note: the crew, talent and I are extremely grateful to Sensei Rick Berardini and Utah Aikikai's instructors and students for letting us use their amazing dojo. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful location.
I also want to thank Erik and Bob for giving it their all. We joked about the concept of being "confined" to a wheelchair and the ever-present stereotypes that exist regarding disability. Last night we witnessed firsthand that having a spinal cord injury in no way confines anyone to anything. Thanks you guys! This has been one of the most enjoyable shoots yet!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Wheelin' Jazz

Here are some cell phone photos I took from tonight's practice. Next Tuesday, we film the team in action.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy New Year!

My primary new year's resolution for 2008 is to finish this project. We've been working on it for nearly six years now, which is a little frustrating, given the fact that we've only shot six activities thus far. Fear not though, for the production will come to an end this year.


This Saturday, we will shoot our "Self Defense" sequence. I've called it "Martial Arts", but I think "Self Defense" is a more appropriate title. Erik Kondo and his sparring partner, Bob, are flying into town this Thursday. On Friday they will be giving a demonstration for the TRAILS program, an event that was set up in conjunction with our shoot.

Here are two additional clips of Erik in action.



Tomorrow, I'm meeting with Kristina, our lighting technician, to discuss last-minute details. This will be the most equipment intensive of all the shoots, so everything has to be carefully coordinated. I really think the end result will be interesting. I hope it is.

On the 22nd, we're gearing up for our basketball shoot. That will be a technically difficult shoot from a filming standpoint. I'm currently working on ideas for camera placement as well as coordinating with our local wheelchair basketball team. We have a few locations narrowed down, but nothing finalized. One location is the Marv Jensen Athletic Center in South Jordan. It's a small court, but it has decent lighting.

I've been focusing a lot of energy and time on the "Self Defense" sequence and now I'm diverting all of my focus into our "Basketball" shoot.

There's a lot to be done between now and the 22nd, so back to work.