The Day I Helped Film A Western!

Today started out as a difficult day. I had been out with some friends last night, and had “a bit” to drink. While this isn’t normally an issue or a concern in any way, I shouldn’t have stayed up until almost 4:00am when I knew I had to meet at the school at 8:40am. When we all did end up meeting at the school, the weather was horrible. There was 30mph winds, and we actually drove the entire way to Muskegon through snow and tiny hail. It wasn’t looking good for being able to pull off a video taking place in the ol’ west.

Luckily, my body straightened up when we got to the set, and so did the weather a short time after that. I had never truly realized how much fun it was to film a western. I guess I can understand why they created so many of them back in the day… they were entertaining to make!

I was given the important job of DP (Director of Photography) which essentially puts me in charge of the camera, and what the camera sees (and what you potentially end up seeing when viewing it). I took the responsibility head on, because I’m quite confident in my skills to operate the camera, and provide great suggestions for angles, shot selection, and can easily control aspects such as depth of field, proper exposure, lighting, and my favorite… movement (such as panning, tracking, as well as handheld shots). What got me into even more of a mood to do this project (which isn’t actually my class project at all), was the professionalism of the crew.

The Producer had done an exceptional job at organizing the day’s events, planning everything for the film in writing, and also provided food and drink for us all. It was a great experience that ended up going over so smoothly with her there, and with what she had already prepared before hand. She also kept us on task (although that was rarely necessary), and helped the talent (actors and actresses) get ready and in character. Overall, she did a fantastic job.

The Director was likely the best director I have ever worked with in the Grand Valley Program to date. His vision was clear in his head, and he knew exactly what he wanted out of the cast, and out of me. It was actually refreshing having a person who actually takes control of the set, and makes things happen the way he wants them. For starters, the film shoot goes much more fluid and quickly. There isn’t a lot of people standing around, or laughing and wasting time while decisions are made up on the spot. There is no opportunity for that, because the decisions are made already, and with the help of the Producer on set, they are all laid out before him. It was a great experience.

We had a horse for the protagonist (main character) to ride as well, which was a bit challenging. I’ve worked with animals before, and it’s definitely a barrier to overcome. Animals are unpredictable, uncontrollable, and are rather difficult to influence in order to get the shots you want. In the case of this horse, it was difficult to get him to walk where he needed to walk, at the speed that was necessary for the shot. The animal was also a bit cranky at times, and it was obvious that our actor (who was riding the horse) was unable to make the horse do everything he wanted it to do. Moral of that story is, avoid animals if you can!

 

I had a lot of fun today working with this project. I’m not any closer to getting my own done though, which I don’t believe to be too much of a problem at the moment. I just hope the rest of my team feels the same way about me putting my time into another groups project when my responsibilities to my own haven’t yet been completed.

Charlie Pryor

Charlie is a media producer, writer, and a traveler. He grew up in Michigan, all of his life and attended Grand Valley State University for a B.S. in Film and Video Production. He's married to a wonderful woman named Hang, and simply hopes to one day turn himself into a man that many will remember long after he's gone.

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