Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Interview with John Plaster

Friday was the big day. I woke up too early. It's hard to sleep the night before an interview, I have found. I get so worked up about it, that I can hardly rest. Remember what it was like to wait for Santa to come? How can you sleep when you know what excitement will come in the morning!?

Because I was using my cell phone as a watch, I almost showed up for the interview an hour early. Thankfully I remembered that my phone was still on EST, but managed to still show up 10 minutes too early. I was used to leaving 20 minutes early to get anywhere, and forgot how conveniently close the Inn was to our film location.

It was, again, an important lesson. When a Special Forces guy tells you a meeting time, they keep their word. Ironically enough, I had been watching the Military Channel the previous day while working. A show about training for the Marines was on, and one of the exercises was about detonating explosives at a specific time. They were four minutes late. And got into some serious trouble because they didn't follow directions. Mistakes like that lead to casualties in the field. It's important to know you can rely on that soldier to do what is asked of him (or her), like detonating or showing up on time.

So, needless to say, I felt pretty terrible about showing up 10 minutes early. And since the filming location was a quiet little area, I couldn't very well sit in the car and look like a stalker waiting for those 10 minutes to pass. By the time I got out of the car, the door opened and they were there to greet me. And did so with a smile, I might add.

Setting Up
About half an hour later, we were set up for the interview. Actually, I could have been a full hour. I am very meticulous in framing the shot now, and have no misgivings about making the world stop until I have it set up the way I want it to look. It's taken me a while to get there, but I finally make no excuses for taking my time to do it as great as I possibly can. Hopefully that will pay off in the end.

Finally, we sat and turned on the camera. John began to answer my first question, and as I listened with the headphones on I realized that I missed a connection. The wireless mic wasn't being picked up by the receiver. No, wait, the receiver was picking it up because I had a green light. Aha, I had missed a very important cable--the one that connects the wireless mic receiver to the camera itself. We paused to look for it.

It was nowhere to be found.

I looked inside every piece of luggage. Inside every pocket, every corner, every place I had touched since I walked into the room. It was nowhere. Nowhere!

I flashed back to the moments at RDU, fumbling to shift the weight of my luggage around so that I could check my bags. Had it fallen out then? I always look over my shoulder as I walk away to make sure nothing fell. Nope, didn't remember seeing it there when I looked back. Was it resting comfortably in the camera bag I left in Raleigh to make the suit case lighter? Nope, I had checked that twice before leaving.

If there's one thing I had done, it was pack and repack and then check everything again. When you leave your house, you'd better have everything you need for that shoot. Otherwise, you'll miss your flight or later waste precious time trying to buy the thing you've forgotten. I still couldn't find it. And by this time, I was starting to break a sweat, angry at myself for letting something so silly as a connection cable like that waste my precious interviewing time.

Oh, my kingdom for a cable!

I surrendered. And took off the wool sweater that was helping me turn red with anger over such a silly missed detail. We sat down to start again, and John was ever so patient with me. We started rolling the tape.

The Interview
Having read his books, I was prepared for our interview. But, I confess, reading the stories and hearing them in person quite different. I found myself struggling to restrain against sitting back to listen with undivided attention. Like a kid at story time, I wanted to sit with my legs crossed and my chin resting on my knuckles and stare in fascination at what would be shared next.

Acting as the director and interviewer, though, I did my best to listen, zoom out when he used his hands, and still be prepared with my next questions so the transition from one answer to another would be logical and seamless for him.

It's been really interesting to compare each interviewee against one another. Some of them are slow to answer, others are very succinct and eloquent, and most of them are well versed in giving interviews. I feel so lucky to be speaking with them, and appreciative of their patience with a new filmmaker.

In two short hours, we wrapped the interview. My legs were restless, but I could have sat and listened to him talk for the rest of the afternoon. We stopped the tape, and he left me to strike what had become our set as he prepared our lunch.

John and Gail served me one of the best roast beef sandwhiches I have ever tasted (or probably will ever taste). John had made them, and--wow--was it delicious. I learned that John was a cook at age 17. I can hardly remember what I was doing at 17. Perhaps life guarding? I was very impressed, needless to say.

The rest of the afternoon we spent looking through photographs and scanning in the ones we thought would be most helpful. I came home with a striking collection, and really look forward to using them in the film.

What a relief it is to start collecting visuals! I have been quite anxious about how to collect these, knowing that I would need them, but not able to focus on that effort just yet. While in the midst of filming, it is tough to start working on post-production efforts like collecting images. I recognize that now we have wrapped filming, and collecting those has become quite easier with the help from many key folks (more on that later).

After we wrapped those efforts, we took my equipment back to the Inn and headed to The Flying Eagle for a fish fry. It was delightful! We stepped out of the vehicle into the frigid air, and the view of such a clear starry night sky was unforgettable. I have not seen stars like that since I lived in my hometown in Eastern N.C. Not a cloud in the sky, just a big blanket of twinkling stars above.

In short, the entire day was one dream come true after the next. The interview, scanning the images and the delicious food made for one amazing day. This, my friends, is the type of thing you only see in movies because it's almost too good to be true!

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