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.

Photo: Michael Ansara of Star Trek


Michael Ansara on stage with his wife

 

One of my favorite characters of all time on Star Trek was Kang, played by Michael Ansara.  He brought nobility and pride to the Klingons, which clearly influenced later development of the aliens.  So when he was on the guest list for Farpoint in 1997, I jumped at the chance.

The photo is of him and his wife.  This was the first appearance he ever made at a con, and I believe he only did two.  (Sorry the photo is blurry.  The lighting was really bad, and these were the best I was able to get).

He was astounded at the crowds, at the number of people who came to see him.  If we hadn’t run out of time, we would have kept him on stage with questions!

But there was one that I still remember….

George Takei and James Doohan were both blasting William Shatner at the time.  So, naturally, “What was it like to work with William Shatner?” came up.  I imagine some expected him to dish up dirt.

And Michael Ansara stayed professional.  He said William Shatner was great to work with.

Contrast that to another guest at the same con, Mark Goddard.  He worked on Lost in Space for producer Irwin Allen.  Because he was in a TV series, he was horribly typecast and landed in soaps so he could work.  But then, soaps were the thing you took because you couldn’t get work and looked down on.  So he was very bitter and ranted on stage about Irwin Allen, though it wasn’t the producer’s fault.  Mark Goddard had accepted the role, and the culture that comes with popular series is that it can be hard to get roles afterwards.

I was shocked when I heard Mark Goddard, because that is going to turn some fans off.  Some come from a long ways to see actors.  That’s what they’re getting?

Anyway, after Michael Ansara got off stage, he went out to the lobby to sign autographs.  I got in line, which was quite long.  I was looking forward to actually meeting him.  But the crowds had worn him out, and the con shut down the line before I got there.

Sometimes the stories are best about photos!

 

Photo: John Crawford and Cat


John Crawford sits on sofa and plays with his cat.

Another blast from the past.  This was taken in the 1980s.  This is John Crawford, who was in both Star Trek and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

This photo was taken at his house in Studio City, California.  Some fans of “The Big Four” (all four of Irwin Allen’s TV shows) came to L.A. and were visiting the actors.  They were getting interviews for fan magazines about their rules.

We all sat down to chat in his living room.  This was the first time I had been in an actor’s house (and actually the only time), so I was terrified I was going to screw up and say something stupid.  The cat jumped up on the sofa and climbed all over him.  Clearly a case of “Pay attention to me!  These other humans aren’t important!”).

No veteran experience that I could find online, but he was at the right age to be a World War II vet.  He passed away in 2010.

Harlan Ellison RIP


Science Fiction writer Harlan Ellison passed away earlier this week.

I’ve never met him personally.  I know him more through the stories I read growing up.  One of his books, a fat one of short stories was in my library.  When I first got hooked on Star Trek as the fandom snowballed, I started picking up books from the science fiction section.  Harlan’s, Robert Silverberg, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, Robert Heinlein (it was the children’s section, so I got his juveniles).

And there were stories about Harlan Ellison:

  1. The most famous is the disagreement with Gene Roddenberry over the Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever.  He didn’t agree with the changes Gene made to the script…but it’s still one of the most memorable episodes of all time.
  2. And one of those disagreements showed up on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  He did do a script for the show; it was under the pen name of Cordwainer Bird.  As it goes, an executive suggested a change to the script, and Harlan pushed him.  Executive fell back and was injured.
  3. The final one was a con that I was attending.  Harlan Ellison was scheduled to attend the con.  But he demanded 1st class seating on the flight–for both him and his wife.  The con said they would do it for him, but they couldn’t afford to pay for his wife.  He refused, so they cancelled his appearance.

You know people are going to die off, but it’s still hard seeing it.  Writers, at least, can live on through their works.

Photo: Eddie Albert and 2 Military Connections


Eddie Albert smiles and shakes hands with the crowds

This photo is of actor Eddie Albert.  He’s well-known for his starring role in the TV series Green Acres.  But he was also in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea pilot episode “Eleven Days to Zero.”  His character described Captain Crane (David Hedison) as being “unimaginative,” which the other character found quite insulting.

But Eddie Albert was also in the Navy and was in World War II.  He had a harrowing experience in the Battle of Tarawa.  Military History of the Upper Lakes gives a detailed description of what went on, so drop on over for a bit of military history.

So that was how the second military connection shows up.  This photo was taken at the Naval Museum in Washington, DC.  Somewhere between 1996 and 1998, the Navy built a fountain out front (I tried to look up when, but I couldn’t find it).  It was likely on an important Navy anniversary because the military had a holiday for it that year.

The fountain was being turned off for the first time.  The Navy brought it water from all the seven seas.  Eddie Albert poured it into the fountain as it came on.

After that, he went around and shook everyone’s hands, including mine.  I exchanged a brief conversation with him and I remember that he did not seem to be all there.  He passed away in 2005 and had Alzheimer’s then, so I may have seen that.

I’m glad I had the chance to meet him!

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.