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Monday, July 21, 2008

Shooting begins!

Well, today was the day and we finally started shooting! (Mind you I have not even started the fund raising part, but due to the upcoming Olympics, there are just certain things that have to be done because of time!) We shot one of Catherine's training runs today at Valley Forge National Historical Park. I put a lot of preparation into this day, complete with shot list, story board, even down to camera angles and where I wanted the camera to be facing for each shot. Ha! Best laid plans! One of the other runners (John Itati) had taken me through the course that Catherine and some of the other distance runners run when they do their long run, or endurance run. I had excellent notes, videos, photos, everything to be sure I had the route down to the letter in order to be able to capture the shots needed. This was a live run, nothing staged, no "do overs" as she is in her Olympic training and extremely focused and there is no room for any additional running of any kind; she must stick to her regiment religiously. I promised that we would not get in her way, would not interrupt in any way or cause her to lose focus or concentration so I had to plan very carefully. Fortunately, on Thursday after Catherine did her track work, I drove her through the park to be sure I had the correct route so as not to miss her. It is a good thing I did! It turns out, she was not scheduled to do an endurance run today, she was scheduled for a "short run". HA! Short? Well, I guess for a marathoner it was short but believe me, it was far from short! I took notes and revised the second part of the shot schedule to the revised route. It was great for me that it was a "short run" because that meant that for the last leg of her run, she would be running along the road on a bike path and we would be able to film her and track her easily. Or so I thought!

It was a beautiful, sunny day, there was still fog over the low-lying grassy areas from the overnight storms but the sky was clear and we were on our way to another 90+ degree day. But at this time of the morning it was still not too hot yet. The crew met me in the park at 6am: My DP, an additional cameraman and my sister, Lisa who is Catherine's manager and was the perfect person to help and drive the second camera operator from shot to shot.
Catherine called me when she was leaving the house for her run at 6:30am. From the time she left the house, she estimated it would be approximately 40 minutes until she hit the first "shot" location. I drove Mark (DP) with Lisa following to show them the revised route. We had 2 way radios to keep in contact with each other and after we drove the course we went to our first shot locations. I left Mark to set up his first shot and took Mike (B cam) to his location. This location was a bit into the route, past the RR tracks and up a hill. It was a beautiful place to shoot and I changed my mind on where i wanted the camera positioned after Mike pointed out a lovely shot through the trees with the light shining through and still a hint of fog behind it. Before he could even get his sticks in the ground i heard the 2 way crackle and Lisa voice "she just passed us"! It was not even 40 minutes yet! Mike got his camera set up extra quickly and was just able to hit "record" when we saw Catherine fly past us with Jane (another runner) in tow. It was a split second and fortunately he got a really nice shot! Now the race was on! I knew we were going to be pressed to get to our next location and since I was riding with Mark but Lisa was back with him at their first location, I sent the two of them to set up at Mark's next location and Mike and I made our way back to the truck. We caught up to them at shot #2 and sent Lisa and Mike on their way to their next shot. Within a few seconds we saw Catherine emerge from the treeline. We could not believe how quickly she had gotten to that point and when we saw the angle she came out and knew where her path would be, Mark scrambled and was just able to get into position to get his shot! We hopped in the van and Mark got in the passenger seat and with the van door opened we followed Catherine down the road alongside of the bicycle path where she was running. It was now rush hour and the traffic was extremely heavy and I needed to make a left turn for our next shot but Catherine was about to cross the street. If I turned I risked blocking the shot Mike was set up for so I opted to go straight and we missed turning to our next shot. I was worried that we would miss the next shot (which is one of my favorites) because there was a steady stream of oncoming traffic so I took a bold step, put my hand up and made a U-turn right there amid the traffic and we headed to our next shot which was along a major, heavily traveled, winding rush hour road but it runs along a creek and on the other side of that creek is the path where Catherine would next be seen. It is a gorgeous location and very quickly I let Mark know that she was approaching. I radioed to Lisa and Mike to get ready; she was almost there once again! This leap frogging went on at a furious pace for the next hour! When we lost Catherine again in to the trees we had to make it to the other side of the park before she did or we would lose her for the remainder of the run. We made it to the other side just in time to see her coming towards us.

Now at this point we pulled in to a parking lot. We knew the next part would be tricky as we would attempt to track her by driving along side her as long as possible while she ran on the bicycle path next to the road. The problem was, I had my hazard lights flashing to alert cars behind me that we were going slowly. Next thing I know it I see flashing lights behind me! The park ranger, who was sitting in the parking lot we had just left, had pulled me over. He requested to see my permit and in my flustered state I had to fumble for it. At that point Catherine was slipping farther and farther away. I pleaded with the ranger to let me finish the shot first or we would miss it forever but he would not let me leave until I produced that permit. Fortunately, I remembered I had taken it out of my briefcase and put it on the dashboard. I handed the permit to him and he told us we could drive on while he checked it out. I was warned that we were not allowed to be holding up traffic and could not pull on to the grass at any time (I had pulled over as far as possible to allow cars to go past me). Needless to say, I was more than flustered at this point and just grateful that he let us move on and finish the shot! As Catherine approached the end of the park part of her run, we followed and passed by Lisa and I had to call and warn her that the ranger would not be happy with where she was stopped. Sure enough, he pulled up to her and told her she couldn't stay where she was. Fortunately, byh that point we were finished. We all met back at the Welcome Center but there was still work to be done. Lisa took Mark (DP) with her and drove out to Norristown to catch the end of Catherine's routine where she cools down and stretches out! I took Mike and he got some B-roll footage (even the over populated deer!) When we all reconvened back at the Welcome Center again I was able to view some of the footage and it looks like the two camera men got some good, usable footage! I am excited to see all the footage but will have to wait for it to be converted into Quicktime format for me to view on my PC.

It was quite the adventure and I learned a lot. The main lesson was that no matter how much you plan, you're always going to end up just rolling with the punches! The next shoot was supposed to be on the 30th but I learned today that I may be going to Manhattan to shoot a Q&A/Autograph session that Catherine is scheduled to be at before the NYC Half Marathon this weekend!

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