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Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Sites of Nairobi

Today we took the day to film establishing shots of Nairobi. First we went to Kibera which is the second largest slum in Africa. It was unbelievable! All you could see were rooftops side by side everywhere you looked! The roofs were different colors and they just seemed to go on forever. There was a constant flow of foot traffic up and down the road in and out of it near where we were filming. The women carried huge loads on top of their heads or in a basket/bag that has a strap and is secured around the forehead. It was quite amazing how they balanced their loads. They also carry their babies on their backs held on by scarves or blankets wrapped around them. We were quite intrigued by the place and knew we needed to film inside in order to illustrate exactly what the viewer would see. We decided to secure security and go in tomorrow.

shooting outside Kibera

After Kibera, we went to a lookout point to view the entire city from a raised area and it was very pretty. We also did some exterior shots of Nyoyo Stadium (where the Prison Championships will be held next month) and learned that it has been renamed Coke a Cola Stadium and has been repainted red. I must say that it has lost a lot of its charm because of this.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

First Day of Filming in Kenya

Willy, our sound technician, met us at our apartment at 8:30am. I had wanted to wait until after 9 to leave so I could meet the woman I had been dealing with on the phone but she was not due in and we had to get to Catherine’s. When we got there she had already picked up Anthony and Jane from the airport and they were on their way to the dentist; Jane had a problem with her tooth starting back in December when they were in Costa Rico. We had some time to kill as they were already at the dentist so we went to the Giraffe Center which is in Karen, named for Karen Blixen (Out of Africa story fame). It was SO cool to have the giraffe come right up and literally eat out of your hand.

Jon filming the Giraffes

There are containers with food and you just scoop some up to feed them. There is the ground level where some of the smaller ones come up to you and bend their long neck down, then there is an upper level where you go up steps so you can get to the taller ones. They are very gentle for the most part but there was one, Helen, who likes to give head butts so the employees made sure to alert people of her habit!

Around lunch time we headed back to Catherine’s home and waited for her there. When she arrived, Anthony and Jane were in tow and little Ruth, who was so little a year ago and who is Catherine’s niece, came running out to greet her. She had been playing with Kevin, Catherine’s nephew and she is just adorable!

Ruth (left) and Kevin (right)

She is also incredibly self-sufficient which I found very different from the two year olds I know in the U.S. She just runs around where she wants and does not have to be watched every second like we seem to watch our kids back home. The house is gated at the end of the property but it is still quite far from the main house. I was amazed how good she was and SO friendly!

We spent the day just filming Catherine at home with her family and especially focusing on Jane since she was due to go back to school. I am completely surprised by how much Jane hates the camera! I would have thought she would be used to it but it seems almost like she resents it because she is so used to it. She also doesn’t like running or anything to do with it and it is my opinion that maybe this is because it has taken her mother away from her for periods of time as she grew up. It was very difficult at first to get close to her because I was the “lady who brought the camera” but once I sent the big camera away and just brought out my small “stealth” camera she was much more open and her personality really came through! You’ll have to see the film to see what she is like but I will give you a hint, she is very much like any pre-teen girl into music and pop culture and becoming a woman!

Jane & Ruth

She is just adorable! It was evident that she became more comfortable with me and the crew and we were able to film her in the kitchen with Catherine as well as Lydia, Samuel’s wife who stopped over but didn’t know I was there so I wasn’t able to see little Stephen!

We had a late lunch and Catherine and Filhelmina (her house help) prepared Catherine’s favorite dish for us, Mukimo. It was delicious and I had been waiting to try it! After lunch Anthony gave us a tour of the grounds including the gardens where Catherine loves to grow all kinds of vegetables. She obviously doesn’t have the time to tend to them all on her own but I learned that she has an intense love of agriculture which she has had since she was in school. She grows everything there from spinach, beans, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers to pumpkins and sugar cane!

While we were outside some visitors arrived; monkeys! They are SO cute! First we saw one, then two then there were at least five of them! They were hanging around the front of the house and climbing on the house. While we were inside at the dining room table, the front door was open and one came inside! Anthony said they have never had one actually come in the house but there he was; unfortunately I couldn't get my camera quick enough to capture the one that came in!

After a cup of Kenyan tea we were all exhausted and left for the day. I look forward to filming more with Catherine over the next few weeks and am sorry that we won’t see more of Jane. She will have her tooth fixed tomorrow and head back to boarding school on Thursday.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back in Kenya again!

Monday morning came quickly and it was time to go back to Kenya! I was very excited and had been looking forward to getting back since I left. I still didn’t feel 100% prepared but also knew that I had to just jump in and force myself to get it done! Once again we flew British Airways and this plane was even nicer than the previous! Business class has seats that recline into beds and it is a really nice way to travel! It is how Catherine travels which is good because it allows her to sleep as well as not have to sit in a cramped position. The flight was great and we even landed early. Waiting at the airport were two people: One was the driver for the place Jon and I were staying, Wasini Luxury Homes and the other was Willy, our sound technician for the length of our stay. Since Anthony and Jane would not be flying in until 6:30am on Tuesday, Catherine needed a ride home so I asked Willy if he would give her a ride. Technically I had contracted for him to begin today, the 27th but this way he would know how to get to her house since he will be our driver as well while we are here. So off he went with Catherine and we piled our bags into the van to Wasini. I should mention another great aspect of flying business class is that you are allowed to have 3 checked bags and two carry ons so we needed it with our equipment!

We arrived at our home for the next 5 weeks and it was great! Wasini Luxury Homes is operated very similar to a hotel but they are apartments. We have a two bedroom apartment with one large bathroom that has a Jacuzzi tub, living room/dining room area and a kitchen. It is also fully service which means we have someone come in and clean daily as well as replace our towels with fresh ones. I took the master bedroom and Jon the other (one of the perks of being the boss!). They are pretty similar but I think the master bed is a tad larger ;-). We settled in and got some sleep knowing we would have a long day on Tuesday.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Flora London Marathon

On Saturday we headed to The Tower where Catherine and crew relocated so they could be where needed Sunday morning early for the race. After they got settled into their room we were able to watch Lisa decorate Catherine’s bottles for along the race route. We later would film Catherine as she prepared them with endure and water and taste tested them before dropping them off with the race officials. Each elite athlete must submit their course bottles at a certain time before the race so they are monitored and not tampered with before the start. On Sunday morning we had to be at The Tower by 6:45 am to film Catherine board the bus en route to the start. Unfortunately, the race directors would not give us credentials to film Anthony and Jane at the finish line; something to do with privacy of the other athletes. I was extremely disappointed as this was one of the main reasons for coming to London in the first place; once again capture the enormous support Catherine receives from her husband as well as Lisa and Mostafa. Lisa ended up being offered a spot on the lead vehicle and not wanting to insult anyone she accepted it. She said it is not a great place to watch a race because you only see the lead runners so if your runner is not in that group you have no way of communicating to find out! She ended up texting me and I kept her informed when she needed an update; Jon and I watched from the press center and had access to all of that information. Catherine stayed at the back of the pack as she usually does but she did not seem to ever really make a “move”. The race was really between three runners for much of it; Irina, Chunxiu and a British runner, Mara Yamouchi. Along the way Chunxiu Zhou fell back but Catherine was still just comfortably in the lead of the second pack just over two minutes behind the two leaders. She finished in 7th place and then Lisa texted me that Catherine was on her way to see a podiatrist, alerting us that they would not be heading right back. It turns out that at around 15k Catherine said she felt something on her foot but she didn’t pay attention to it. By 25k she was in much discomfort and pain but dropping out was never even a thought. She still turned in a respectable time at just over 2:26! The doc bandaged up her foot and all of the elite athletes returned to the hotel via bus and water taxi because so many roads were closed. We caught up to everyone as they docked at the pier by the hotel and we followed Catherine back to her room where we were able to see her foot. She showered and then we followed her back down to the media centre for lunch. When she was interviewed she didn’t even mention her foot injury to the reporters! She was gracious as always and congratulated the winners and stated that today it was their day. Catherine was approached by many reporters as she finished lunch and was very accommodating to each. Jane, however, was completely bored. Still trying to break the ice I thought back to what I liked to do as a kid. I asked her if she’d like to draw and she perked up and said yes. I got her a pen and paper and she now had something to do! I still wanted to get to know her even better so I told her about when I was younger how I was always embarrassed to loan people my notes because I had little drawings of people in all the margins! I drew one of my “creations” for her and she was so impressed (glad to know someone was!) She tried to duplicate it and ended up doing a really cool job on her own! I felt as if maybe we had made a little progress. As much as I would have liked to hang out and get to know her better, I still had interviews to conduct! I arranged to interview Sean Hartnett who had been involved with Kenyan runners for many years and many of the Kenyans call him “Professor of Marathon” (he is actually a geography teacher at University of Wisconsin. He used to run marathons, has been writing for US Track and Field for many years. It was very interesting talking to him as he has followed Catherine’s career as well as many others.

When we finished with Sean we spoke with another man who had just run his first marathon. He and his wife watched my interview with Constantina previously and we spoke with them after. I was curious to see how he did and we got a quick interview as well. He is a very charming man with a big smile and even better attitude so it was great to hear him talk about completing his first marathon! His name is David Wright and he is a former PGA golf pro from New Zealand and he and his wife is a lovely couple. If I ever get to visit New Zealand I know I have a place to stay AND they have St. Bernard dogs to top it all off! J It was now past 6pm and the elite athletes as well as other invited ones were getting ready to head out to their post race party. Jon and I were exhausted and knew we needed to still pack before leaving in the morning.

We charted our way back to our hotel via the tube and got the tapes downloading from a good day. Around 8 we headed out and found a cute Italian restaurant that had a good special. After dinner I told Jon I would meet him back at the hotel because I wanted to hit an ATM so I could pay the taxi to the airport in the morning. I went to the Barclay’s Bank because they are international. I put my card in and could not figure out how to operate the machine. Now I’m no dummy; I tried touching the screen to make my selections, that didn’t work. I tried everything I could and still could not figure out how to operate the screen! You would think it would be easy or that there would be instructions. Eventually it asked if I wanted more time and since I could not figure out how to answer it, I thought it would just spit my card back at me. NOT! That $#%*#&$*# machine ATE MY ATM card at 9:40PM the night before I was due at the airport at 8:30am!!! I kept myself calm and called their 24 hour number at which time I was told that I had to call MY bank in the US. HUH? What good would that do me? They are 5 hours behind and I was due to fly out the next morning to Kenya! It was useless; I got the good ole deaf ear and ended up using another ATM machine across the street to get enough to pay the taxi driver in the morning. Fortunately, I had my personal ATM card as well. Unfortunately, it left a bad taste in my mouth of London!

Friday, April 24, 2009

London Calling.....

Gardens at Buckingham Palace

On Friday I had planned to film the sites around London. I worked in the morning making arrangements and planning our route and we headed out just after noon. We wanted to catch the afternoon light and hopefully film sunset over London from the London Eye. We took the tube to a station we thought was near Buckingham Palace but got off too soon so instead of getting back on we decided to walk. It was a gorgeous day again and a really nice walk. London was never a city that I cared whether or not I went to but I did like it. It is really very nice although extremely expensive! We filmed at Buckingham Palace (where the marathon will end),
Buckingham Palace
walked over to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Parliament.
London Phone booth, Big Ben & Parliament

The light was hitting Parliament and Big Ben in just the right way and we got some beautiful shots.

Then we headed over to the London Eye and did the overview shots. Jon got some nice shots but we were a little early and didn’t exactly hit sunset (the line moved much more quickly than anticipated).

View of London from London Eye
The one thing that struck me was how after each “pod” emptied out they scanned the entire inside for bombs before loading up with passengers again. On one hand it is nice to know that they keep us safe and on the other hand a bit unsettling that they have to do that at all! Anyway…it was pretty and had been a long day of walking and shooting and we headed back. I wanted to stop at Piccadilly Circus just so I could see it so we did and I saw; I was not very impressed! We hopped on the tube from there and headed back to download all of the footage from the day. We were both exhausted and neither of us had enough energy to get out to dinner so I just ordered in my room and learned later that he had done the same! We needed to be ready for Saturday so we could film some of Catherine’s preparations for the race.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Women's Press Conference-London Marathon Race Week

This morning we had to be at The Tower hotel by 10:30 for the press conference that was to start at 11:30am but we had not met our sound technician yet so we met him at our hotel for breakfast at 8:30am. We discussed how the day would go and then he and Jon worked on getting their equipment all set. We took a taxi to The Tower because we had a lot of equipment to carry and we did not want to be late. We planned on filming Catherine once she arrived at the hotel. Anthony and Jane I thought were due to arrive on Friday (because Anthony had a final exam for one of his classes on Thursday). We got to the hotel and set up our camera and sound equipment and I went off to find Lisa, Mostafa and Catherine. I went up to the Athletes’ Lounge and walk in looking for them. All of a sudden I see Anthony at the coffee station and I had to take a double-take! I was shocked to see him and then I saw Jane already sitting at a table having breakfast. Evidently, Anthony’s flight was already scheduled for Wednesday by the Flora London Marathon and it couldn’t be changed so he arrived yesterday. I “met” Jane and I say that because I had not seen her since she was a little girl with bows in her braids and here she was a beautiful young lady! She was very shy at first because not only did she not remember me from all those years ago but I was the one who was there to film her mother AND HER! She does NOT like the camera; not even a little! I had a feeling I was going to be in for a very rough time but was determined to win her trust. I did not want to start off on the wrong foot so just introduced myself and let her know that we would not push her. The Athletes’ Lounge was a virtual who’s who in the marathon world. After socializing for a bit it was time to get down to the press conference. There were two separate rounds of women on the podium for reporters to question and the first group included last year’s London Marathon winner Irina Mikitenko, Olympic bronze medalist Chunxiu Zhou, Olympic gold medalist Constantina Dita and Catherine. After the press conference the athletes broke away into different corners of the room and journalists were allowed to interview them. I wanted to interview Irina and Zhou but unfortunately I was unable to get to Irina because I was waiting for Zhou. Each reporter was supposed to have five minutes but there were two in front of me that went on for almost 20 minutes so I finally had to excuse myself to get in! She had a translator with her so I had to ask the question and wait for her to understand it and then have the answer translated. She was extremely confident that when she is in her best shape that no one can beat her. I was surprised at how assured she was and figure that most top athletes need to have that sense of self confidence. I was not trying to get an interview with Constantina at that time because I had already arranged a private interview through her manager.

After the press conference there was a photo op for all the journalists outside of the hotel by the river. It was a beautiful location and I was also able to catch a quick interview with Gete Wami, the Ethiopian runner who was the female winner of the first World Marathon Majors, a competition comprised of 6 major marathon events in which the athletes accumulate points over the course of two years. The man and woman with the most points at the end of the participating events win $500,000!

After the photo op we had lunch and I was able to chat with Jane a little bit and then we arranged our interview with Constantina Dita. We sat down over coffee and had a nice interview; she is so nice and it was interesting to hear her talk about balancing her life as an international athlete as well as a mother. I can certainly sympathize with all of the women who have to leave their children behind in order to pursue their careers! I have been having a lot of mixed emotions about being away at this time of year because so much will happen over the next month with my own kids (Rob’s 18th birthday, Eric’s 21st birthday, senior class trip, senior prom, etc, etc, etc) Anyway, it was a good interview and was late in the day so time to head on back to the hotel. Jon wanted to go to the race expo so I headed back with our sound tech, IP. When we got back to the hotel we downloaded his audio files and then I had dinner with Lisa, Mostafa, Catherine, Anthony and Jane at a nice little Italian restaurant near the hotel. I still had work to do to plan the next day so I finished working after I got back to the hotel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Arrival in London

I know this entry is long overdue! It has been such a hectic trip that I have not had a lot of time to catch up and when I do, I usually fall asleep at the keyboard! So here goes:

My DP for the trip, Jon Dunham, arrived on Monday night having come straight from the Boston Marathon where he was promoting his film The Spirit of the Marathon. On Tuesday night we traveled to London via British air and they were kind enough to put us in business class so we could film Catherine. I will say that this is definitely the way to travel and it will certainly be very difficult to ever fly coach again. J Unfortunately we had to sit on the runway in Philadelphia for awhile due to bad weather but the flight was great and we arrived in London on Wednesday morning. We ended up having to wait on the tarmac for 45 minutes in a bus because there was some “police activity” on the plane; evidently there was a dispute between a few passengers about some missing money so they wouldn’t let anyone move on to customs/baggage claim until they sorted things out. We finally got out of the airport and went to our hotel. We stayed at The Royal Lancaster hotel which is in Hyde Park because Catherine likes to stay in that part of town so she can train in the Park. Unfortunately, they somehow lost Catherine, Lisa and Mostafa’s reservations so they ended up at a different hotel across the street. But I will say that the Royal Lancaster is definitely a lovely place. They really spoil you to the extent that you have “biscuits” in your room at all times and a heated towel rack! That’s right, in the shower, on the far wall is a heated towel rack so the towels were always nice and toasty! But I digress….once we got situated it was time to get to the Tower Hotel which was where the headquarters for the Flora London Marathon were. I wanted to be sure we had our credentials lined up to best capture Catherine, Anthony, Jane, Lisa and Mostafa during race week. There really was no direct way get to this place; it seemed to be at the complete opposite end of the city from where we were. We learned how to take the “tube” and found our way somewhere nearby and then just walked the rest of the way. London was certainly not what I expected weather-wise! It was beautiful and sunny and we made it to the hotel and picked up our credentials. We poked around a bit to plan for some interviews would conduct during the week and then headed out. The hotel is situated at the base of the Tower Bridge which is a beautiful bridge. There was a water taxi so we decided to try to find our way back to our hotel via the Thames River. It was a nice ride and we got off at a stop where we thought would be near to a tube station but I wanted to get a simm card for my Kenyan cell phone; (my blackberry wouldn’t work there but the Kenyan phone uses simm cards) We found one and then found a cute little crepe place and had dinner before heading back to the hotel. I had to prepare some interviews for the next morning because we were scheduled to follow Catherine to the women’s press conference. The time difference was 5 hours ahead of Philadelphia so it had been a very long day since leaving Philly after 11pm Tuesday night (original departure was 9pm) and only few hours sleep on the flight so by 2am I was exhausted!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Preparing to Leave for....

It was almost a year ago that I wrote that first title and so much has happened in that year! It is now time to move forward with more filming even though the money has not been raised yet. The timing is right and on Tuesday I leave to follow Catherine to London for the Flora London Marathon where she will compete among a very talented field. All three medalists from the Olympics will be there as well as other champions so it will be exciting. Anthony and Jane (Catherine's husband and daughter) will arrive later in the week and support Catherine along with Lisa and Mostafa. While in London I will interview some of the other elite athletes from around the world. After London my cinematographer and I will follow Catherine back to Kenya where we will be until May 31st filming her daily life, her family, and many others. I am so excited to be going back to Kenya! I really loved it there; the people were so welcoming, the country is beautiful and I can't wait to see the night sky in the out-lying villages again! Stay tuned for details; I'll try to be as detailed as last year but with so much work to get done I can't promise so you'll have to just keep checking back! ;-)