The Shaky Camera


Woman holding a clapper board
Lights, camera, shake!

Every now and then I run into a show where the director used the “shaky camera” filming technique.  It’s where the camera is hand held or simulates hand held.  The camera might be focused on one actor, and it jiggles and moves around.

It probably originated from The Blair Witch Project.  According to stories at the time, the camera was so shaky that people got ill from motion sickness.

I think some directors use it because it creates a sense of urgency.  You get all this camera jiggling–pay attention!  Pay attention!

It also evokes a sense of realism.  If you film a home movie, it’s going to have the same shaky effect.

For me, I don’t like it, except maybe very sparingly.  I could see it in a big action scene where things are moving fast because it fits there.  One of the things producer Irwin Allen did was what was called The Seaview Rock and Roll.  He banged a metal bucket, the camera would tilt, and the actors would all lurch to the left, or even fall to the deck.  It was a very effective special effect.

The shaky camera works here because it’s only a few minutes, and then goes back to the normal stable camera shots.

As an entire episode or movie?  No.

One of the problems with the shaky camera is that if used in excess, it constantly disrupts the suspension of disbelief and reminds us that is a film.  I know that the new version of Battlestar Galactica is highly praised, and I’ve been able to watch it.  Just a few minutes in of shaky camera and I was paying more attention to the camera movement than the story.

Sometimes less is better.

Fall Library Sale Spoils and Con News


Floppy eared dog carrying a trick or treat pumpkin basket
Dog treats please.

This week, we went from hot, humid and uncomfortable to cold and windy.  We got the very edges of Hurricane Michael, which meant lots of rain.  I was in my car, waiting for the light to change.  Rain started to come down so hard that I thought it was hailing!

We didn’t get any damage, though we always have a problem with flooding.  There are a lot of streams in the area, including one that marks the boundary of George Washington’s property.  I might take a short hop over to that one and see how bad it is.  But it really is cold enough to be uncomfortable, and my heat is not yet turned on.

But I did manage a trip to the county library sale this week.

I like looking for research books rather than fiction.  I also try for writing craft books, but I appear to have exhausted the supply (I suspect the ones I got two years ago have been waiting for a home for a long time).  I look for:

  • Hollywood (TV and 1940s)
  • Space
  • Ocean

The last two are generally hard to find.  There are books, but not necessarily ones that will be useful for me.

In no particular order, this is what I got:

  • The Andy Griffith Show by Richard Kelly (I can’t seem to help it after going to Nostalgia Con. I just want to find out more).
  • Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach (an interesting find in the science section)
  • Glued to the Set: The 60 Television Series and Events that Made Us Who We Were, by Steven D. Stark (and somewhat dated by current events; Cosby Show is listed, but it’s likely the show will never been seen again).
  • Ethel Merman by Brian Kellow
  • The Star Trek Compendium by Allan Asherman
  • Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony’s Long Romance with the Left by Ronald Radosh and Allis Radosh
  • Warner Presents: The Most Exciting Years–From The Jazz Singer to White Heat, by Ted Sennett

And some other news.  I mentioned that I was appearing as a panelist at Chessiecon.  I now have the panel names!

  • How Not to Get Published
  • Real Life Military vs SF/F
  • The Effect of Catastrophic Events on Literature
  • Time Management for the Overachieving Creator
  • Put a Pretty Face on It – Cover Design in the Age of Digital Art
  • From Wesley to Wheaton: Celebrities Who Broke Type
  • How and Why People Create Self-Publishing Communities
  • When did Sci Fi Become so Political?

Gender Swapping in Films


I’m not a fan of these shows where they do a reboot and change the gender of the character (usually a woman).  Like the suggestion here to do James Bond as a woman.

(Shudder.)

But first things first: I’m all for having great roles for women characters in films, TV, and books–and a range of ages.  The Wonder Woman movie was huge because it was an iconic character and they did it right.  Some TV shows on now that work:

  1.  The Orville.  Huge cast with a lot of women.  They’ve dressed all the women in the same uniform as the men (Star Trek: The Next Generation, I’m looking at you!).  And the roles are good for all the actors.
  2. The Good Place.  I don’t want to say too much about this one because if you haven’t seen it, it’s way too easy to give the story away.  Again, the whole cast–men and women–have good roles.

Onto my issues with the gender-swapping…

Characters are not interchangeable. 

If a reboot switches out a character with another type of character, it’s going to change the story in fundamental ways and, likely break something that people liked about the original.

Some roles don’t fit the opposite gender

And I know there’s a group of writers out there who think the genders are interchangeable.  But there are some roles where if they were flipped, it would not look good on that gender.  I’d like to do a story about a woman lone gun like Jack Reacher, and I’m having to really think about how to do it properly so people enjoy the story, not hate the character.

It disrespects the old show or movie. 

It’s like saying, “It wasn’t good enough because it didn’t have this type of character.”  There’s been a lot of that conceit from all these reboots, where it’s obvious the studios only saw the title as a moneymaker and made no effort to understand why audiences liked the original.  I still remember discussion about the Fantasy Island reboot where the studios said they wanted to “improve” it by making it darker.  They entirely missed the point of the original show, and it got cancelled pretty fast.

Finally…

Why can’t they create new original works?!! 

Seriously.  We don’t need gender swapping in reboots or ongoing franchises.  Create new stories with the characters they want and make new films and shows that might be one day be loved the same way.

 

The End of Filming on Location


During the filming of Star Trek, the special effects people used miniatures for the spaceships.  This is a photo I took of the miniature on display at the Air and Space Museum.

Front view of enterprise
Warp Six!

With the new technology, a lot of science fiction shows and movies went to digital instead of building miniatures because there were so expensive.  And you can generally tell the difference.  There’s a flatness to the images that the miniatures don’t have.

Now there’s talk that movies might be headed for filming in a studio against a blue screen and adding the location in:

I watched a TV show recently where they added rain via special effects.  It didn’t look real…it was kind of like it was raining in front of the actors, not on the actors.

Yes, you can build an island paradise with computers, but it’s not the same as going to the real place and shooting there.  There are some things you can’t and shouldn’t create out of thin air.

Caving for Star Trek


When I returned home to California in 1997, my father said, “Do you want to see the Batcave?”

Batcave?  He was referring to the cave used in the opening credits of the Batman TV series.

Dog in hand (she wanted the ride), we drove up to the cave, which is called Bronson Cave.  It’s located in Griffith Park.  When we arrived, some construction was going on.  A big wooden frame was being built around the cave, and there was a man inside, pumping some water out.

So we walked over and asked.  They told us it was for the coming Star Trek film.  Pretty cool just walking around and finding a Star Trek set.

I had to look it up again–couldn’t remember the name–for my book Golden Lies.  This is an article on it (he says in the video it’s the 4th film; it’s actually the 6th film).

Patrick Stewart Casting News


Patrick Stewart is going to play Bosley in the next Charlie’s Angels reboot.

I have to really think about that.  A long time.  I like Patrick Stewart…but Charlie’s Angels…

I saw the show in the original run.  I think everybody did because it was pretty popular.  Aaron Spelling produced, so David Hedison showed up twice on the show (first season and one of the later seasons).  It was new and different–remember this was the era when women were just getting into West Point.

The original angels were Farrah Fawcett-Majors (who passed away a few years back), Jaclyn Smith (doing a K-Mart brand of clothes), and Kate Jackson (seen her show up on TV in a few places).  David Doyle played Bosley, who gave them their cases and did other legwork (he passed away relatively young).  John Forsythe rounded up the group by being the mysterious Charlie that no one had ever seen (he was doing double duty on Dynasty).   While the costuming is tame by today’s standards, Spelling put the ladies in skimpy clothing that led to the media using the term “jiggle shows.”

And Charlie’s Angels does its own nod to the Airport movies.  Given Aaron Spelling produced, they also crossed shows with The Love Boat.  That was a weird combination, and much later in the series when they were going through Angels.

Charlie’s Angels showed up on MeTV, so I tuned in.  The original show has not aged well.  The stories are surprisingly not well-written, and the thing that drew audiences too it then are standard for films and  TV now.

I’m not sure if Patrick Stewart’s presence can improve the show.  Without the era and changes going on at the time, it’s a very standard private eye movie.  Doesn’t have anything special to it.

Crusing Nostalgia Con


Last Thursday, I drove to Maryland and went to Nostalgia Con.  That’s a convention for movie and TV buffs.  Major guest stars were Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers.  Ricou Browning was also there.

It’s been quite a few years since I went to a media con, and things have changed and stayed the same.  I would have liked to do a drive by and get photos of Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers (who looks awesome at her age.  Very trim and fit).  But the layout of the tables only allowed people to stand in line to get an autograph.   Photos from those two stars were $40, and if you wanted a shot with them, $60.  I might have stood in line for $20-$25, but $40 was out of my price range.

So a few of the celebrities I did get:

First up is me and the Green Guy.

Me with a mannequin of Frankenstein in the background

Ed Begley Jr…

Ed Begley Jr. signing autographs

This is Ricou Browning.  He’s the guy seated at the table.  If you don’t recognize the face, that’s probably not surprising.  He’s the man who was in the creature suit for the underwater sequences in The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  He did those shots holding his breath for four minutes!

He also was on Sea Hunt, Flipper, and did an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.0

Ricou Browing seated at autograph table as fans line up.

And the creature himself.  The post-it is the price.  It was $$$$.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon stand up display

The closest I got to Barbara Eden.  She was supposed to make an appearance, but cancelled (along with Loni Anderson) due to the hurricane.  We just got clouds and some rain.

Dealer's table with I Dream of Jean doll

I stayed only for the day.  In that past, I would have cruised the dealer’s room and gotten autographs and photos from as many stars as I could.  This time I went to the seminars on films.  One that was really good was on The Andy Griffith Show.  The presenter  was very knowledgeable–they were down to trying to identify two people who were in the background.  None of the stars remembered who they were, and they apparently didn’t do anything more than be background players.

Trivia: The Mayberry set was used twice for Star Trek, once in Miri and once in City on the Edge of Forever.  Floyd’s Barbershop can be clearly seen in one of the scenes.

Because of what I saw here, I’m starting to watch the Andy Griffith Show again.

And one final picture.  This was out in front of the hotel.

Three horses made from plants and metal frames. Two are grazing and the third is looking up.

Losing Track and Finding it Again


It’s hard to believe that when I grew up, I typed a novel on my mother’s manual typewriter.  It was one of those Royal typewriters that you see commonly associated with writers.  I went from that to an electric, to a Heathkit H-89 to a Commodore 64.

This week I’ve been tackling a big project: the paper copies of the stories and non-fiction I wrote.

It’s part of that black hole of my closet that I’m cleaning up.  They’ve been long stuffed into plastic boxes, out of sight in the box, but the box itself always in view.  So it’s a form of clutter.

I pulled everything out and started going through it.  What did I already have in digital form…yeah, somehow I had printed versions of the stories and digital versions.  In some cases, I had multiple copies of revisions printed and stored.  And for some stories, they were either before Microsoft Word or, for whatever, reason, I only have the paper version.

It was just easy to lose track of what I had because it was in a file folder.   There’s a long history of everyone struggling with forms of the data, for as long as we’ve had data.

My grandmother was in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.  The film was shot out where she lived in Northern California.  Assuming her memory is correct for the title, this is likely the film.  She would have been two at the time.  She tried to find the film in later years, but it no longer exists.  A lot of those films were done on nitrate, and then put into storage once the studio went onto the next release.  By the time places like UCLA got in there to transfer to safety film, the reels had disintegrated.  Or caught fire, since nitrate film was pretty flammable.

Then there’s Motown.  When I was doing temp work in Los Angeles—my Google-fu tells me it was probably 1983 or 1984—I got a job documenting inventory for Motown. They were being sold, so we had to inventory all their music.  They gave us stacks of music reels, which were about the size of pizzas.  We would open the boxes up see what was written on the reels, and then type that on the inventory.  Massive inventory, and they had no idea what they had.

But what I’m doing now is kind of fun and nostalgic to look it.  It’s my life at the time, and where I was at as writer.  It’s also some of the things I liked. There’s an article I write—might post it here if anyone is interested—on meeting William Windom in 1997.  It was for an anthology call that never happened.  But I enjoyed writing it, and I enjoyed meeting him.  I have photos, but those are in another box I haven’t cracked open yet.

It was at Starcon, which was the big gathering of actors at that time. I believe it was over 100.  Most notably, it was the only gathering of most of the actors from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (Allan Hunt, Del Monroe, and Terry Becker.  Bob Dowdell turned it down, and David Hedison was unavailable.  Richard Basehart had passed away).

It was early in the day, and I was just roaming the aisles to see who was there.  He flagged me over, and guess what we chatted about?

We were both veterans!

Very cool.