Sunday, 19 January 2014

Drunken Pilots

Bizarre Adventures of a Cameraman and a Drunken Pilot..

As a rule, one doesn’t meet many drunken pilots, I suppose their careers are brought to a sharp halt or their lives are curtailed in a brutal manner.
As a Cameraman with many hours of shooting from all types of aircraft, particularly helicopters, one comes to rely completely on the flying skills of the man at the controls..He has your life in his hands.
Some years ago I was employed to shoot a commercial in the Highlands of Scotland, in the Glen Coe and Aviemore areas. Rough mountain country.
The evening before the shoot, the crew, who had been assembled from all over the British Isles congregated at a rather comfortable hotel near Fort William, it was a get together evening and the hospitality, as usual, was extremely lavish. This was a high profile product we were going to immortalize over the next few hours….
The bar did a roaring trade as we introduced ourselves and then after a couple of hours of drinking we trouped through to the grand dining room which we took over somewhat, with the drink still flowing, mainly because it was free, at least being paid for by the client.
The meal was excellent and the party continued into the early hours,
There were a number of staff from the client’s office present and they were hell bent on having a great time.
The man opposite me, a rather chubby, ebullient Scot, was appallingly drunk, so much so that he fell of his chair a couple of times. I got drunk and as is my usual habit I sought the comfort of my bedroom, what a sad person I was, but there was a very early start scheduled and it was a heavy shooting schedule.
The following morning, early, a rather shambolic crew gathered at a field adjacent to the hotel to start rigging the helicopter mount.
The mount was rigged in about twenty minutes and we waited for the arrival of the Pilot..
I know you are slightly ahead of me on this one..
Yep…It was the very jolly/drunken Scot from the previous evening. He arrived and still reeked of booze, but he put on a brave face and was enthusiastic about all of the flight patterns we had to shoot.
All aboard and off we went.
I have no idea what the top speed of a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter is but it is rather unnerving to approach the top of a peak at zero level at that speed , so close to the top that some grass hit my feet as we went over.
This Pilot was as drunk as a skunk and he never seemed to sober up all day . He seemed determined to display his phenomenal flying skills, which mainly consisted of seeing how close he could bring us all to an untimely end .It was one of the most frightening flying days of my life and one I shall never forget. We clipped the top of every peak n the Glen Coe area and then did a nice trim job on some of the trees in the Aviemore ski resort.
I have no recollection of the shot list, just remember being aware of how close we were to immovable objects at terminal speed.
Miraculously we eventually finished filming and I could unstrap myself from the harness. It was now late evening and the shooting was over. The Pilot was in roaring form and desperately keen to hit the bar again.
The following day I had arranged to shoot a commercial in London, some 600 miles south so I set off in my car as the crew retired for another night of total debauchery…lucky dogs I thought.
A few hours later I was passing through the sleepy little Scottish town of Lockerbie, completely unaware that some madman was about to blow a Jumbo Jet apart and kill over 270 people in just a few minutes time..
Some days you never forget.

RJ Dodd

Thiis was originally posted on

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Seyschelles Treasure Trove..I know where it is

Imagine this idyllic and your partner are relaxing on a beach in those beautiful Indian Ocean Islands called  The Seychelles.

The Hotels are wonderful and the beaches are among some of the best in  the world..I have made a serious life long study of great beaches so I can say that with some authority.

The water is crystal clear and the Scuba diving and snorkelling are awesome.

So, there you are, a beautiful day, a drive to a remote beach, a sunbathe, spreading suntan oil, a little picnic followed by a little dive....into the water, please pay attention.

The crystal clear sea is calm and perfect the sun glints on the tiny ripples as you move out from the white sandy beach into deeper water.

You reach the point where you want to descend, fix the mask, release some air and slowly sink into an aquatic paradise.

When you reach the sandy bottom you can crack open a couple of sea urchins and watch as hundreds of brightly coloured little coral fish swarm in for lunch.What could be nicer.

Treasure could be nicer.

And then you spot it, the gleam of bright yellow metal sticking out of the sand, it is a dagger with a large ruby set in at the top of it's hilt.

As you pull the dagger out it unearths some gold coins,dozens of them, and there is a solid gold chalice filled with pearls, a rotted leather bag still holding some diamonds, lots of small silver coins and over there is a large golden crucifix.


I have told this story before so why am I returning to it? At the moment, in the mid winter of Europe I am yearning to go back to wonderful place and find that treasure, the difference is, I know the treasure is there and I KNOW EXACTLY WHERE IT IS.

I put it is all fake.  They are all film props, put out there when we were filming a movie, they should have been collected at the end of the filming but a major storm blew up and we left the Island before it settled down  so it is still out there in that little cove.

I have often wondered how many holidays have been destroyed  for someone finding some of those very realistic props and spending the remainder of their holidays working out how to get it away from the place in their luggage, how many times the money would be spent back home I do hope the old credit cards did not crack under the strain.

Meanwhile as I sit here in front of my woodburning stove, slowly feedig a small forest of timber into it and the nearest wave is a good one hour drive away I continue to imagine those fabulous beaches.

For those of you who like treasure hunts, the cove is at the northern tip of the Island of Mahe, just remember tho .. it is all fake...or is it..

Happy hunting...RJ Dodd
This article was first printed in The Mag  at

Car Chases in the Movies

I cannot lay claims to have seen every car chase in every movie worldwide but a short while ago I was fortunate to catch a screening of the Movie "Ronin" Directed by John Schlessinger and starrng Robert Di Niro.
The main sequences were filmed in the narow streets of Nice and then there is an amazing sequence which seemed to go on forever on the main thoroughfares of Paris.

Most of the action is against the flow of the traffic, with crashes, narrow escapes, multiple vehicle smashes, crashes in tunnels, all done at high speed and extremely well covered.

If you have ever driven in Paris, even with the flow of traffic then it would seem to be insane to drive against it at high speed.

Only six drivers were credited at the end of the film.Well done to all of them.

If anyone has ever seen a better car chase in a kovie then please let me know.

This article was originally printed in the ReelShow Mag at

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Getting the Script to the Screen...How long does it take?

One coul also ask .. How long is a piece of string, how many gallons of water in the Pacific ocean, where does eternity end ?
One is unlikely to get  an answer that nears the truth to any of those questions, the same goes for the length of time to get the hard worked ,well honed script from your comp to the silver screen.

Fifteen years ago my partner and I submitted a screenplay to a production company, they loved it, offered a nice cheque and we did a  deal, we thought. A few days later we were contacted by the companies NY lawyers saying they wanted to change the "agreed deal".

In order to bring the script to the screen we were asked to pay for all costs including Execs travel expenses, to distant and exotic locations, all first class of course and they wanted to drop the percentage of the "Back end deal". If the film was not started in one years time  we would be liable for ...get this one..ALL  OF THE COSTS INCURRED... in achieving this no show.
 Naturally the script was returned as was the cheque, and it still resides in a drawer in our office.

So that was fifteen years ago..nothing much has changed  One script I might be involved in the shooting of has been on the stocks for over six years now, a complete change of Producers, locations changed from the UK, Canada, a Pacific Island, South Africa, and is now heading back to Canada, the other side.
Several leading actors have been hired  and then they lost interest and left, the entire cast list has changed, the money is in and then out, we have had several "Imminent:|" green lit days.
It is now scheduled to start sometime this year, when the writer/ Director finishes his cuurrent project..It seems to be the way it goes..or does it.

One of the more pleasant aspects of my job as a Director of Photography is watching the work of other people doing my job and in that task I am aided by being a member of BAFTA which means I am sent copies of most of the major productions for the judging of the awards.

This year has been a particularly good year and there are some great movies out there, but in all honesty I have to admit there are some absolutely dreadful pieces of work that should never have seen the light of day, in almost every department .

How did they ever get made, what induced rich people to throw their money, millions of it, at such dire dross.In some cases one or two films might have been better off waiting for fifteen years, and then quietly forgotten.

So to answer my own question, How long does it take to get your film to the screen?  sorry, there is no answer, it will take as long as it takes... just keep plugging away, keep updating and polishing...  one day it will all be yours. Oh, and keep a sense of humour, you will need it.
Bon chance.