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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A day in the life.....Wed. July 30, 2008

Wednesdays are both hectic and relief for Catherine and the other athletes that live in Norristown and train in Valley Forge. They train in the mornings but instead of being able to relax and rest up for their evening training session, they go for a session of a different type. They go to Advanced Health and Performance Center which is a Sports Medicine and Chiropractic center that specializes in the care of athletes. It is a 45 minute ride from where the athletes live so Lisa picked everyone up and drove everyone there. Right now there are 5 Kenyan athletes in town:
from right to left) Catherine, Hosea Kiprop Rotich, Irene Limika, Caroline Chepkorir and Jane Murage,
then there was El-Mostafa Nechchadi, Catherine's coach and our crew! We filmed in the van as well as at Advanced Health. It is there that the athletes get adjustments and also work on preventative exercises to keep their bodies and muscles in top shape!

(Dr. Dan-Advanced Health and Performance Center)
Catherine also gets a deep tissue massage which is extremely important in helping her muscles in between training runs. Now when I say deep tissue, she gets a deep tissue massage that not many others would even consider a massage! Some would even call it torture! According to the founder of the practice, Dr. Johnny King-Marino, Catherine's pain tolerance is like that of no one he has ever seen! While observing Catherine's massage, I noticed the therapist putting all of his might into her muscles and she did not even flinch! You could actually see this man manipulating the muscles in her legs. I found it quite fascinating however, the sound guy didn't exactly feel the same way! He got a bit queasy watching this! (We got to film some of the massage).

After the visit to Advanced Health, the next stop on Wednesdays is to Costco. A few of the girls got very excited when we talked about Costco because they love the food samples! (And here I thought it was just me and my kids that loved that!) We had permission to film there so we followed on their weekly shopping trip as they stocked up on eggs and milk and other items. It was a very long day and everyone was very patient as it did take more time than their usual trip because we had to set up for the interviews. I am very grateful to all of the athletes and Mostafa and Lisa as well for bearing with us while we captured this "day in the life". We got back to Norristown a bit after 6pm and everyone was exhausted.

Back at their house, the athletes had some tea and a short time to relax before heading out for their evening runs!

It is getting very close to Olympic time so there is not much time left for filming here! We have two shooting days next week and then it will be time to put the business plan together and start raising the money for this project!

Friday, July 25, 2008

NYC-Friday July 25th, 2008

Friday July 25th.
This was a last minute shoot that I decided to throw in when Lisa mentioned to me while filming at the Park on Monday that Catherine was scheduled for a Q&A/autograph session at Niketown on Friday as part of the race weekend leading up to the NYC Half Marathon presented by NIKE. I immediately started making calls and sending emails when I got back to the office on Monday. By Wednesday I had permissions to film at the event, as well as to follow Catherine while she did her shopping at Niketown. I should mention that Catherine LOVES to shop.

The weather on Friday was amazingly beautiful! I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day to trek around NYC! I got to Niketown and met the crew there. When I walked in to the store I was amazed! It is absolutely huge and gorgeous! It was 5 floors of retail with the center open and you can see all the way up. Each floor wraps around the center so you can also see down to the first floor from every other floor. There is also a basketball player suspended in mid-air as if making a jump shot. Each floor has it's specialty whether it be running, basketball, etc. We went directly to the third floor which was the running gear floor. The place was absolutely packed which was a bit surprising given that it was 11am, but then again, it was a race weekend so there were people in town from many places and a lot of tourists as well. Among the many people I obtained releases from (because they appeared on camera) were a woman from Tennessee, a woman from Georgia and a couple from Israel.

Catherine and Lisa arrived around 11:20 and we began filming as they shopped like two schoolgirls! They conferred on almost everything and I even had to ask Lisa to back away a little and be mindful of the camera because they are so used to shopping together and stayed so close that it was difficult sometimes to see Catherine! It didn't take long for people to get curious about the camera and audio and Catherine did not have her peace for very long. People we coming up and putting their arms around her shoulder and taking photos and making a commotion. Catherine was so gracious and let everyone take a photo with her. Some of the people knew who she was and some only knew after asking but all seemed excited to see her! She continued to shop moving from floor to floor, stopping on some and not on others. She shopped for herself, for her daughter, her husband, and even for one of the other runners who had arrived the day before. She is under contract to NIKE and therefore is given a certain amount of Nike credit to spend in the store and she is such a generous person that she gave both Lisa (her manager) and Mostafa (her coach) a portion of her credit for them to purchase something for themselves!

Filming in Niketown was a bit trying. As nice as the store is, it is a producer's nightmare because there is music constantly playing. Not only was it very loud, but it is also all very recognizable music and if I want to use any of the sound from there I would need to clear the music licenses and that is not only a pain but can be extremely expensive! Catherine ran in to Benita Johnson, an Olympic contender from Australia and they chatted for a bit. I asked Benita if she would say a few words on camera which she did with pleasure. My fear is, however, that I will not be able to use that footage because of the music in the background.

Anyway, it was almost 1:30 and we all had to be somewhere by 3 so it was time to wrap up and feed Mike (camera) and Juan (audio) and myself so we walked over near our next destination and grabbed lunch. At 3pm we reconvened with Catherine and Lisa and met up with Mostafa and Hosea (who is another Kenyan runner who had just arrived the day before so he could race on Sunday). We also met up with members of the NYRR (New York Road Runners club) and some of the other elite competitors (namely Benita Johnson and Hendrick Ramaala from South Africa) and we walked down to NASDAQ. These elite runners and members of NYRR were going to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ! It was very exciting as I have been to the floor of the NYSE but had never been to NASDAQ. I was not sure if I would be allowed to bring my film crew in but once we arrived we got the permission! After going through security and scanning our bags we were ushered in to the room where the bell is. There was a very small gallery for an audience and the Sr VP of NASDAQ gave an opening speech. Then the guests were called up and the President of NYRR, Mary Wittenberg, said a few words. Benita Johnson followed and then Catherine. Then, the organizer of the closing event asked everyone to start clapping. So we clapped...and we clapped...and we clapped....and she was hooting and hollering and making a lot of noise to cheer everything along....mind you this is all being broadcast live on the big screen in Times Square! Finally, with ten seconds to go before closing, giant numbers appeared on the background screen just like it was New Year's Eve and we all counted down....10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1.... and then Catherine "rang the bell" and everyone was cheering and whooping it up. I have to say it was all very exciting! And, we got it all on camera! After the closing, we were all ushered out to Times Square and a photo was taken of the athletes. Then we were ushered back in and we each got our photos taken individually and the pictures were printed out instantly superimposing each of us on the big screen in Times Square. So we each left with a photo of ourself in a little NASDAQ photo frame. That just topped off the experience! (you can see more photos here:

By this time it was almost 4:30 and we needed to set up for the next location which would be back near Niketown but out in the atrium attached. We decided to take a taxi so the guys wouldn't have to lug their equipment again. Catherine and Lisa joined us because Catherine was very tired; she had trained in the morning and it was non-stop ever since!

We got back to Niketown and the guys set up for the Q&A/autograph session scheduled to begin at 5pm. The session featured Catherine and Dathan Ritzenheim who is a cross country champion who will be competing in the men's marathon at the Olympics this year for the US. The emcee for the event was from NYRR, Sam, and he fielded questions from a nice little crowd that had gathered for the event. After half an hour the floor was opened up and the spectators were allowed to come up and take photos with the athletes and get autographed cards. There were two other athletes whose photos were on the cards, Colleen DeReuck (US) and Felix Limo (Ken) and those two would be hosting the same type of session on Saturday afternoon.

We finished shooting around 6:15pm and we were all exhausted. Lisa and Catherine headed back to their hotel and had arranged an invite for me to stay for the NYRR dinner. I waited for the crew to pack up and walked them to their parking lot and then I went to the hotel to meet up with Lisa and Catherine. They were relaxing in the room and I quickly joined in although cautiously because I was afraid if I got too comfy that I would not want to move again and I was traveling back to Philly that night! (They offered me to stay on the floor but I turned them down)

We had dinner across the street at the Hilton and it was nice to relax and just get to know Catherine a bit more in a different setting. She was sharing childhood stories with me and someone else and I saw a different side of her that I can't wait to explore on camera in the future! It was fun but it got late and I had to head back to the station to catch the train home. I got back home a little after 11 so it was an exhausting day but was a blast! I can't wait to see the footage; it should be great! I really would have liked to have stayed until the race on Sunday but was not prepared for it. It sounds like a lot of fun with everything they have planned during the race including showing it live on two huge screens in Times Square as well as having some of the Broadway show casts sing as they go past 42nd street.

I did however wake up early on Sunday to watch the race live on WABC=TV and was able to watch Catherine win by a nice margin (the inaugural year she won by less than one second, last year she lost by one second). You can see video of the finish here:
(For the record, Lisa's other runner, Hosea Rotich, came in 7th!)

Our next shoot will be on Wed. July 30th so be sure to check back! :-)

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!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Update on the Beijing Olympics and Filming There

Well, I've been back for a month now and have been working tirelessly on making phone calls, reading, researching, making contacts, learning, learning and more learning! I finally have my answer regarding obtaining accreditation to go to Beijing to film Catherine during the marathon. I will not be going. I'm very disappointed because I really wanted to be there to capture footage myself and know that what I want and need is filmed but the reality is that even if I had received accreditation to go and access the events and Village, I still would not have been allowed to film anything. There are very stringent regulations and permissions for filming at any Olympics and even then the footage shot belongs to the International Olympic Committee and it would have to be licensed/purchased anyway. So, at least I have my answer, I was able to get to the right people in the highest of all places, the head of all media operations for the IOC in Switzerland so I know I have the answer from the right person and I feel good about that. I was also put in touch with the proper person who heads all Olympic Broadcasting and the organization and people there have been very nice. Hopefully I will be able to get some good footage from their archives after the games are over. Since Catherine is a favorite to win her event I was assured that there will be footage of her!
As disappointed as I am about not going, it also frees me up to concentrate on getting the budget worked out now and to concentrate on beginning filming which may happen as early as next week! I was not expecting that but I recently learned that a part of Catherine's training changes after a certain date and I want to be able to capture this part before it changes I'll go! It's been very challenging trying to figure out what I can and can not afford not having a budget worked out yet and also not knowing what I will definitely be able to raise. But, I am also learning that this is the dilemma of many documentary filmmakers so at least I am not alone! I have found a wonderful community online called doculink and the people there are amazing and so helpful and patient! In fact, I have found everyone in the documentary world so far to be amazingly accommodating and patient! You can't even imagine (well, some of you may be able to) how many questions I ask! The poor DP's that I have interviewed must be going crazy answering all of my questions! What format, what camera, do I want to shoot SD, HDV, HD, what camera manufacturer, if I use this one here and that one in Kenya, how will it all work, etc., etc., etc! Mind boggling to say the least and information overload! I am sure once I start working in the field that all of these things will become more evident to me. Right now it is just words on a page but once I see the differences between the cameras and the equipment in use, it will sink in (one can only hope!)

Well, Catherine arrives in PA today so hopefully I will see her soon and things will get under way. She is coming down to the nitty gritty now with her Olympic training so it will definitely be a balancing act getting the footage I need without interrupting her schedule and training!

I will post again after I start shooting!