During the course of a production, I usually don’t have time to record some of the strange and wonderful things that occur along the way. This blog entry is dedicated to putting some of these encounters down on the record.
Over the years, I have been asked to participate in some pretty unusual experiences that to the normal everyday person would seem ridiculous, foolish or even stupid! At the time I haven’t really been able to blog about them because it would potentially offend my Client, Agency or Others involved in that project. While I’m recalling them here, I would like to make a special note to those who recognise the situations, I don’t want to offend you, even now, however I’m sure you will agree that their is a funny side to these situations.
“Mr Bean … Mr Karl …”
Many years ago, while working as DOP on a Japanese TVC, I was asked to sit down with the Director and discuss the shots. He produced an A4 sheet of white paper with nothing on it. I looked at him with curiosity as he proceeded to draw a line down the centre of the page. Via a translator, he told me that the left side of the page was his main objective. He then drew 3 boxes representing the shot sizes and framing. The shots didn’t look hard. In fact they looked identical to each other, just the action was different in each. Again via the Translator, he told me “This is Most Important! Make this look like Mr Bean!”. He then proceeded to write “Mr Bean” at the head of the column. I nodded in understanding as he moved to the next column. Their he drew scores of little boxes all the way down the page. I watched as he then wrote “Mr Karl” at the head of the column. Via the Translator, he told me “This is Mr Karl. Make it your own. You come up with the detail in each of the boxes!” Slightly confused, I asked the Translator to clarify this a bit further. The Director turned a warmer shade of red as he increased the level of his voice. “You make the TVC your own way” as he pointed to all the empty boxes!
“Should you choose to accept …”
Often I receive phone calls at odd hours of the day. This particular occasion, I received a cryptic text message “R U interested in a TVC for Saudi Arabia?” Off course I responded “Love to see a script”. Minutes later I was reading a fun script involving some cool animation. I texted back saying “Love to do it”. A series of text messages later, and a few emails, I was asked can I be on a flight to Bangkok Thailand in the next couple of days? I responded again by text “Sure”. Several days later, I was on a Singapore Airlines flight to Bangkok, meeting a person I had never met before. This isn’t necessarily unusual, it’s just that all communications had been instructions via Text Messages that made it more unusual. On arrival, I received a text message again saying “A driver would meet me at a particular Gate & would transport me to my hotel”. I responded “OK” and met with the driver. On route to the hotel, another text message arrived “Check in and meet me in the foyer by 10PM”. I started to feel like some sort of Character from a Mystery/Action Movie. I responded “No problem”. An hour later, through Bangkok’s thick evening traffic, I arrived at the hotel. Checking into the hotel, I quickly performed a tidy up on myself, and rushed down stairs to the foyer. Another text message arrived “I’m sitting at the bar”. There at the Bar, I finally met my employer and the job went very smoothly.
“We want to do what …?”
Several times in my career I have been asked to perform an act that takes me out of my comfort zone. This year has been no exception. I received a call from a Producer in Melbourne, who told me that he would like me to participate in a project where they wanted to throw a Car out the back of an Aeroplane! Forever the curious, I wanted to know more. As it turned out, it was for a Radio competition, where the winner would get to toss their car out the back of a plane. If they hit a target on the ground, 14,000ft below, they would win a new car + a cash prize! By now you probably recognise which job this was! OK so this one isn’t going to be kept a secret – It was for “Drop the Bomb” with Hamish & Andy for CUB Australia. What was so unusual about this job was that due to weight constraints in the aircraft and legal reasons, I had to learn how to Skydive! Having participated on many Australian Defence Force Commercials, I have faced all sorts of interesting situations in the past. However I have never been asked to actually leave a perfectly good aircraft mid flight! So together with the Producer in Melbourne, Jason Byrne, I learnt how to fall from a plane in a controlled manner! On the day of the Shoot in Queensland, I performed my duties onboard the flight as we dropped a car from 14,000ft! The Winner was successful and hit the target. I looked at Andy, who was in the aircraft with me, and I asked him whether he wanted to cover anything else before I left? We compared notes and agreed that there wasn’t much else. So I put down the Camera, strapped on a Tandem Master and walked off the end of the aircraft into the abyss below!
“Trouble in France ..”
On another job, I was required to travel to the Eurocopter Factory in Marseilles France. The Agency Art Director & Writer accompanied me for a two week shoot. It took six months of high level negotiations from Ministers, Our Client and a top level security clearance by ours and their Secret Services, before we were given the go ahead with this project. Finally, landing in Marseilles, we proceeded to make our base at the prescribed hotel. When we got there, we discovered that our keys opened other hotel rooms and on the outside, gangs of youths had set fire to cars, turned them upside down etc. Generally speaking, it looked more like a scene of a city besieged by war! We didn’t feel that this was adequate security for our equipment and moved into the centre of Axon Provence. In the days that followed, we met with officials from the factory, and were given the tour of the facility by a person who appeared to be some sort of arms dealer rather then a media liaison. Much was made about the importance of security of what we were supposed to film. Finally the day arrived, and our Client had also joined us from Australia. We drove out to the Factory and were shown a location just outside of the Base, where we could film our TVC. After the top secret aircraft was dragged beyond the boundaries of the Factory precinct, along with a power cart to power it up, the French Official handed me the keys and said “Call me when your done” and left! For the next five hours or so, we filmed with this aircraft totally in our control!
There are so many of these instances where the unusual has occurred, it would take a book to compile them all. I have been privileged to work with so many interesting people, amazing places and incredible situations that I’m sure I will talk about them for the rest of my life. The film industry does provide for some incredible situations that defy normal everyday existence and to use an often used term, “Challenges you to step out of your comfort zone”. I hope to write up some more of these strange encounters in the future.