aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Lights, camera, action!

A start-up nonprofit funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is developing materials (through videos and social media) for ninth graders who are bored or struggling in school. And they asked me to appear as an expert on writing and solving mysteries.

Me! I have no idea why they picked me, but I certainly wasn’t going to say no.

A film crew of four spent 10 hours at my house on Friday. It was an amazing - and exhausting - experience.

They interviewed me about my books, how I write, my high school years, how to plant clues and how to create suspense.  They filmed me walking, running, practicing self defense and sparring with my Kajukenbo instructor, reading a challenge while wearing my sparring gear, opening various doors, and driving.  (A lot of this was B-roll - the footage they run to make what you are hearing about interesting, so it’s not always just a talking head on screen.)

Do you know how hard it is to assume a normal expression when someone is holding a camera four inches from your face and you are supposed to be acting like you are alone in the car?  

The running part nearly wore me out. Because we were running (little pun) low on time, I would jog to the end of the block, wait for the cameraman to give the signal, and then run toward the camera. Only once I looked at the camera. And once a car came by. And once I thought he meant I should go but he was telling me to wait. And they wanted a couple of good shots to choose from. And of course I wanted to look fast on camera, so I ran like a gazelle. And then when the camera was off, huffed and puffed back to the end of the block.

And then they filmed just my feet. For one shot, the cameraman crouched down and ran sideways without ever looking at the street.  He was basically running blind. He also held his breath the whole way so it wouldn’t get picked up by the mike.

I changed clothes twice so it didn’t look like it was all done on the same day. When they asked me to change into a third outfit, I kind of drew a blank. What did I have that was clean, unwrinkled, attractive and ideally made me look thin and hip? (Answer: not a lot.)

I had to say some things numerous times, to clarify a point or to redo a segment when the rumble of a garbage truck intruded. At the end, when I issued the challenge to students, I probably read it 20 times (“Now try it a little more slowly.” “Now try it putting pauses between the three paragraphs.” “Now try to draw out the word ‘suspense.’”) before they were satisfied.

I just got an email from the director, and he asked me not to cut my hair in case they need to come back to town this week and film for a few more hours.

What’s amazing is that all this footage will be condensed to less than 15 minutes of finished product.

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