Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In Defense of Aquaman...

Emily is going as Supergirl for Halloween this year. Anyone who knows me would naturally assume this was a result of much coaxing on my part, but believe it or not, she actually came to me with this idea herself.

This seems to indicate at least a temporary reprieve from the years-long "Princess" phase. Though when she found out that Wonder Woman was both a princess and a superhero, I think she mentally checked that off for next year's Halloween costume. But enough about the heroines, this is a story about Aquaman…

Emily's newfound love of all things superheroic has had a dramatic impact on her television viewing habits. Pretty much all we watch these days are Superman The Animated Series, Legion of Superheroes, and The Batman. She loves Teen Titans too, she's seen every episode at least a dozen times. However, as cool as the Teen Titans are, this is a story about Aquaman…

Emily's been home sick the last couple of days with what I like to call "vomit-itis". This translates to extensive television viewing (between the bouts of vomiting). In no time at all we burned through every episode of The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians DVDs that we picked up at Target on Saturday. Since she was feeling better today, we headed over to Borders at lunch to score us some new Superfriends DVDs. After much debate, but we settled on buying Super Friends, Volume Two. I really wanted to get Challenge of the Super Friends because I knew it featured the Legion of Doom, but Emily was completely captivated by the image of Superman in a cage surrounded by robot cowboys on the back of the Volume Two box.

How can I argue with that logic?

Aquaman is of course, a member of the Superfriends. I don't think I need to recap the grief the poor Sea King has endured the last few years. Needless to say, he's been the subject of much ridicule in the popular media. It makes a lot of folks, myself included, wonder why this character had or continues to have any appeal whatsoever.

Until today…

So, here we are, one or two episodes into Disc 1 of the Superfriends Volume Two. Classic stuff. The specific episode we're watching is entitled "Battle at the Earth's Core".
Summary (from tv.com): Jayna and Zan disappear while on a trip out to sea. When the Superfriends go to find them, they are pulled into a whirlpool and are taken to a strange subterranean land at the Earth's core. There they must battle dinosaurs and tar creatures in order to save the Wonder Twins.

About halfway into the episode Batman and Robin find themselves deep below the surface of the Earth in the Bat-Motorcraft (or something like that) near an underground river. Of course, since they are near water, Aquaman is conveniently with them.

Aquaman: This river's unlike any I've ever seen. The water's florescent.

Robin: That's not all, Aquaman. Look. The river's flowing uphill.

Batman: It seems that gravity works a bit differently under the Earth.

(Um, sure, different gravity…whatever you say, Caped Crusader.)

Suddenly, a giant jellyfish attacks them. Luckily, Aquaman is there. He uses his aquatic telepathy to call some other bizarre sea creatures to fight the giant jellyfish. For some strange reason (probably the gravity), Aquaman's aquatic telepathy works in reverse and the sea creatures attack him instead of the jellyfish. Always the quick thinker, Aquaman uses his extraordinary underwater mobility to dodge the sea creatures causing them to slam into the Bat-craft, thus freeing it from the monstrous jellyfish. The Superfriends live to fight another day.

At this point Emily turns to me with a look of absolute wonder and says, "Dad, that was soooo cool!"

As my geek heart fills with warmth, all I can say through my smile is, "Yep, Aquaman is pretty cool."

I can't neglect Nate, so in case you were wondering, Emily decided he is going to be Man of Steel for Halloween.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tim Robbins Peed on my Camera (Shelter Run Days 3 and 4)

We didn't have to be at the Bowling Green Warren County Human Society until 11AM on Saturday so all of us got to enjoy sleeping in. Add on the fact that we were in central time and I think that was the latest I've slept in years. Good thing too, because we were all going to need that energy for the trip back that night.

The BG shelter was largest and best maintained shelter that we visited. It was nice to be able to get some footage of dogs in kennels that wasn't sad looking. The animals had a lot of open space outdoors to exercise in as well. Spent the first part of the visit getting the now standard b-roll shots of the shelter. I also picked up some good shots of the Rogers' crew with some of the animals we were taking back to PA with us, including the animals that some of my traveling companions would be fostering. A lot of happy faces on Day 3.

This shelter was also the busiest that we had encountered so far. Lot of animals were brought in just during the time we were there, including a stray dog that was found on the side of the road that had to be one of the saddest animals I've ever seen, emaciated to the point of starvation.

The rest of the visit included a quality interview with Deana Wehr, the shelter's assistant director and filming the Rogers' crew as they prepared to transport dogs back to PA. Lots of crates to assemble, paperwork to double-check, and animals to crate up. Once we got all of the animals on the vehicle it was time to hit the road. We left BG around 3:30PM central time.

At this point we were running about an hour behind schedule, which was bad because we needed to get back to the other KY shelters before they closed to pick up some more animals. Luckily, Donna from the Anderson shelter was able to pick up the animals from the Mercer shelter and meet us off the highway which helped us get back the time we lost. She also gave us a ton of cookies for the road.

Now we had the long drive ahead of us. Up until this point, I'd been riding in the crew van with four other people, but I really needed to get some footage of the actual transport van so I switched over to ride with Jen in the van with all the animals. Wasn't nearly as stinky as I had been led to believe and the animals were amazingly well behaved. A little whining here and there, but no barking. I road with Jen and the dogs until just before midnight when we rolled into Clay County, West Virginia for our final pickup. At this point we were running a little early so we had to wait for the shelter we were meeting to arrive. Just after midnight we got our last couple of animals and got back on the road. Jen was done at this point so I took over the driving duties on the transport van for the next four hours. By 4AM on Day 4 I was too tired to drive and everyone needed a pit stop so Marianne took the wheel of the transport van and I grabbed a couple of hours of sleep in the passenger van. Woke up at about 6AM somewhere in MD at our next pit stop.

Finally we arrived at the Stabler drop-off point in PA around 7:30 AM on Sunday morning, an hour ahead of schedule. This was the same drop off that Andy and I had filmed a few weeks back, but this time we were on the delivering end of the process instead of the receiving. Time to uncrate as many dogs as we could and let them run and relieve themselves. I was so exhausted at this point that I shot hand held for the drop-off. Luckily, we'd been able to let most of the rescues that were meeting us know that we were running early so people soon started to arrive to claim the dogs and take them to their foster families.

Marianne was taking two dogs back to her house to foster, and since she drives a mini-Cooper we needed more room. Her husband, Layne had come up to the meeting spot to get one of the dogs, that Marianne had dubbed "Tim Robbins" to go with the other foster she was taking, Susan Sarandon. We were still waiting for the final rescue to arrive to claim the last dog, so I hitched a ride back to Marianne's house with Layne and Tim Robbins. About five minutes out from Marianne's place, Timmy decided to relieve himself in the car. Mostly on the floor, but also on my camera bag. Fortunately, I'd foreseen this possibility and covered the bag with my jacket so he only got a bit on the strap. The jacket didn't fare as well. Figures, four days surrounded by dogs and I finally get hit in the last five minutes of the trip. Of well, I guess it goes with the territory.

Packed up my gear, except for reflector I'd left in Marianne's mini (I'll get it back some other day) and head back to Jersey. Got back into town around 10AM and stopped at Small World for a couple of cups of coffee since I knew we didn't have any at home. Emily came running out to meet me as soon as I opened the garage. A good welcome home. Exhausted at this point, I unload the gear and immediately took a shower because... I really stank. It was good to be home, but I think the lack of sleep and a sore body made me pretty cranky for most of the day.

All in all, it was a great experience and I think I got some great stuff for the film. I'm really happy that the Rogers' crew let me be part of the trip (not to mention covering my expenses). I shot over 6 hours of footage over 4 days. Need to get those backbone interviews on the schedule soon. I think I'm also going to try and find some time to interview some of the ladies from the trip one-on-one and also film some of the dogs in the foster environment. Will probably try to start logging a few tapes a week for the next month or so with the goal of beginning the editing process in November. I'll try to post some choice video clips once I get going.

I know there's Rogers' blog of the trip out there somewhere as well as some Flickr page. I'll try to get those links up here too.

(Update 2010-01-21 - Here's the link the Flickr photostream from the trip. Thanks Claire!)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Shelter Run Day 2

Day two on the Shelter Run shoot was a lot less driving with a lot more shooting. We started off the day in Paris, KY. where we met up with some people from the Paris Animal Welfare Society for breakfast at a little diner called Louie's. Then it was off to the shelter.

Once we arrived, the gang from Rogers' got down to the business of animal rescue diplomacy while I worked on filming everthing. Trying to do a good job of picking up establishing shots of the building, little b-roll things, etc. so that the footage from this trip doesn't just end of being all dogs in cages. I also had some really great interviews with some of the volunteers at the PAWS rescue.

From Paris we went on to two more shelters, Anderson County and Mercer County. Pretty much the same story there, though these shelters seemed to be a little more on the remote side than Paris (which is near Lexington). Had a great interview at Anderson with the shelter director. Anderson was also the first time I got to go into a animal "control" center. Very different than the humane societies and animal shelters. Animal control is pretty much dog jail. I was only able to bring my Canon pocket HDV in there, but I got a few shots. It ain't pretty. Some of the dogs were pretty bad off.

I didn't do that much taping at the Mercer shelter which was the smallest we've seen so far. It was definitely the neediest shelter and just didn't seem to be as well off as the others. It was here that I learned that some shelters use inmates as workers to clean and manage the animals. The inmates came out and unloaded all the supplies the Rogers' gang was bringing to donate to the shelter.

Then we drove on down to Bowling Green, KY, our final stop on the trip. I didn't know BG was on Central time until we got here. Anyway, we checked in about 8pm last night and grabbed some steaks and beers at the restaurant next door, a throw peanuts on the floor, bucket of beer joint. I miss those, they don't have many in NJ.

As I'm writing this, it's actually the start of day three. Day 3 is going to be the most taping (and driving) yet. But I think it's also going to be the best footage because we will actually being doing rescues and transports today. I'm supposed to meet the gang downstairs for breakfast in a half hour. Then it's off to the BG shelter where apparently we'll be spending a few hours (and donating a washing machine and other supplies). Then it's time to load up some dogs that are going back to PA and into the rescue/foster/adopt process. We're planning to back track the entire route, stopping at most of the shelters we've visited to pick up more dogs for rescue. Then it will be the all night drive back to where we started. Should be back in PA by 9AM on Sunday, back in Jersey by 11:00.

Anyway, hungry, gotta finish packing and go eat. The next time I blog, I'll probably be back in Jersey with a lot of footage to log and sort.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Canine Rescue Doc Update 6: Shelter Run Day 1 (and the Transport Shoot)

(Update 1/12/2009: If you're looking for the sneak peak of the film that includes footage related to this post, click here.)

Well, I'm on the Shelter Run with the gang from Rogers' Rescues. It's been a long day and I'm really tired so this will probably be a short post. Left the house at 5:30AM on Thursday so I could meet Marianne by 6:00. Then we drove up to Bethlehem, PA to meet the rest of the Shelter Run crew which consists of Marianne, Nancy, Lynn, Dee, Claire, and Jen (I hope I got those all right). We've got 2 big vans full of stuff to give to all of the animal shelters we'll be visiting over the next three days, including a washing machine.

From Bethlehem, we departed for a really long drive to Parkersburg, WV. On the ride I tried to pick up some footage just to document the trip and I was also able to interview some of the gang about their rescue experiences. We rolled into the Parkersburg shelter around 4PM, about 90 minutes later than we had planned so I had to scramble to get setup for shooting. A little tougher this time because I'm operating solo. In the shelter, the director gave us a tour and I was able to get some really good b-roll of dogs in the shelter, something the film desperately needed.

By far, the high point of the shoot was getting to interview Summer Wyatt, the current Miss WV who was there doing an autographing event to promote awareness about animal cruelty and family violence. She was great on camera, really well spoken and said some fantastic things that I'm sure are going to make it into the film. I also did an interview with a well-known rescue volunteer, Debbie Hines, who everyone calls "Mama Hines". She was so passionate and was the first person to cry on-camera while being interviewed (so far). It was great stuff.

After the shoot wrapped around 6PM, we got back on the road for the 4 hour drive to Paris, KY where we are going to be visiting the PAWS (Paris Animal Welfare Society) in the morning. Tomorrow is going to be super busy, because we'll be hitting two more shelters after that. Then we'll be making the long drive to Bowling Green (Kentucky, not my alma mater in Ohio) to visit another shelter and pick up some dogs to bring back to the rescue. On the 12+ hour drive home we'll be stopping and picking up dogs on the way.

This has been the best shoot of the film so far. Hoping I can get some more one one time with each of the rescue volunteers I'm travelling with tomorrow. I really want to get their personal stories on film. I watched some of the footage on the ride to KY and it looks pretty decent. It's hard to manage all the details when you're trying to interview, run camera and do sound. Thankfully Marianne is always eager to help out with the interviews and the boom if I need it. The only bummer part of the trip so far is that I apparently have lost my driver's license. Don't know when, don't know where. Last time I remember seeing it was over a week ago. Hopefully it will be easily found when I get back to Jersey.

I'll try to post another blog tomorrow night. Someone from Roger's is also keeping a blog of the trip and has pictures. I'll post the link to that on my blog when I find out what it is.

I guess that wasn't a short post after all.

PS. I know I never blogged the transport shoot. Here's the short version: Andy I followed a big van of from PA to MD. In MD we picked up a bunch of dogs from a whole bunch of different shelters and took them back to PA. Then a bunch of rescue people came and got the dogs. We filmed it all. Got some great interviews. It was all very covert and underground railroad-ish. Good stuff. I ower Andy big time for helping and doing all the driving. Here's a picture of Layne, Andy and Marianne at the pickup spot in MD. I have more photos from the shoot in My Pics. Apologies for the quality. My old Kodak DC290 seems to be on the fritz. Eventually, I'll get around to posting some of the 10 hours of footage I've shot for this film.