Friday, 14 February 2014

Naked Filming.. something for the weekend

The Sandrunners a book by Chelsy Swann

Bizarre Adventure Naked Filming…Filming in the nude

I thought that would get you interested..
I am often asked if I have filmed any naked ..nude..or explicit sex scenes. The straight answer is yes to all of that. What, when, where and how.??
Calm down..we can deal with this subject in an orderly and cool manner.

Cool being the operative word when I recall shooting a documentary on Vienna, Austria in the early seventies. The crew were there for a month and we were staying in a Sport Hotel on the outskirts of the City, naturally, this being Austria there was a sports complex and the usual sauna,
The hotel was used mainly by American tourists who, remarkably, are quite prudish in some matters and at that time they rarely used the sauna facilities, the crew did, and to our delight so did the very attractive hotel staff. But that was just satisfying our own voyeuristic tastes…we did not film in there.
We did film at a famous female artist’s studio and she arranged for her model to be there on the day of filming.The model turned up and she was absolutely stunning, after being introduced she excused herself to go and change, we carried on filming an interview with the painter.The model re-entered the room ..stark naked except for a silk top hat.
After a prolonged session of filming we took a break for refreshments and the model sat down in a large easy chair in front of the crew. She was warm from the lights and proceeded to cool down her overheated parts by wafting the silk topper…bizarre and surreal..It is difficult to keep a conversation going and look at someones eyes whilst this is going on. However we persevered and stuck it out for most of the afternoon.. some jobs are just too tough!
On another occasion, during the Paris student riots of 1968…going back a bit I know but stay with it…We were there filming with a small crew and following events..After the riot police had chased most of the students out of the city we located some of them who had gone to ground in a large chateau on the outskirts.
The house had a walled garden and a massive entrance gate..We banged on the gate and asked if we could interview some of the students, there were about a hundred or so in there.
The answer was a definite “NON”
We persevered and finally a little negotiating committee came to the gate. They thought they had us, they said that everyone inside was sunbathing in the nude and we could only have access if we were nude too..We got the interviews,. and a very pleasant afternoon..
A couple of passive nudity stories where no sex was involved.
As a young cameraman covering local news I went with my recordist and lighting man to a local university where the national female students hockey finals were being played. A stringer covered the field action and we arranged to interview the captain of the final two teams.
We were shown to a building where we set up to interview the captains.We set up at the end of a broad wide corridor and waited for the games to finish. The final whistle went and the cheering crowds soon began to drift to our building..There had been twenty two teams competing, that’s assuming eleven girls in each team…over two hundred girls.
Within minutes they were swarming through the doors and without even breaking stride they were stripping off their hockey strips and milling about before making their way into the shower rooms, hundreds of 18-22 year old girls, all excited and happy, all starkers and all around us..Some days are just sent straight from heaven.
Another event was down in the Dead Sea area. Because of the peculiar properties of the ozone level down there its a place that attracts sufferers of psoriasis, a dreadful disease which can be awfully disfiguring.
The hotel we stayed in had a special section of the beach which was female only and it was completely screened off for total privacy, it was also the place where the women with the disease went to expose their affected part to the sun.
It seems that psoriasis is common around the pelvic , buttocks and pudenda sections and the victims spend a lot of time on their hands and knees pointing their derrieres towards the sun.
To cut a long story short we got permission to film this event as long as no faces were shown and I found myself tracking along about twenty bare bottoms.. sometimes you do wonder if you are actually cut out for this job.
There are a number of memories of famous naked folk , perhaps the most famous was an A list Hollywood actress who was renowned for her fabulous body. I went out to her ranch on the outskirts of LA to interview her and her almost as famous Director husband….no names here.
The husband greeted us at the door and said his wife was busy in the pool but would be a couple of minutes, then he proceeded to show us a massive revolver he had just bought, it was quite an antique and weighed a ton, we all had a little play with it then the Director said ..”Ok..lets go out to the pool”..As we walked through the patio doors there was his famous wife emerging from the water, naked as a jay bird and I have to say all of the compliments that had been paid were absolutely in order. She was definitely Number 10..She stood around and shook our hands before casually wandering off to find a robe. Another heavy duty day. But we all remembered the very big pistol on the hall table.
Another A list American actress had to do a nude love scene and insisted that the set was closed..
Ok..Everyone went off except me and the director plus the two actors..She was reluctant to disrobe and asked if I could leave too…Ok I said but I have to see what the light is doing, just briefly to make sure it was all going to look alright then I would also clear the set.
She took off her top and all was revealed ..except she had nothing to reveal..flat as a wonder she wanted a closed set…The only actual sex scenes we filmed was also in LA..a documentary on the making of porn movies.
We arrived at a large Beverly Hills mansion and were taken to the set, which really consisted of the entire house..they were at it all over the place. Couples were having sex on the floor, the stairs, by the pool, in the kitchen..everywhere
In fact some of the male artists had been so vigorous in their efforts that the producer immediately asked the crew if they would like to participate…just for the close ups..I am pleased to say that no one accepted the very kind offer. The girls were all a bit off putting anyway..The funny thing was that the crew were all from New York…all professional filmmakers but they made some money on the side by shooting high quality porn but didn’t want to be recognised.
That’s about it quite boring really…
But then there was the visit to Hugh Heffners Playboy Mansion for a party…but maybe some other time………

Friday, 7 February 2014

Got the paddle, where's the Canoe?

The Sandrunners a book by Chelsy Swann

A Film Cameraman’s Bizarre Adventures

Did I ever tell you…Of the time I was working down at the very tip of India, in the state of Kerala.
We were staying at the Kovalum Beach Resort,
In those days, mid seventies, it was a very rare and attractive hotel that sprawled down a gently sloping cliff face and every room and large terrace had a view over the fantastic Kovalum beach which curved away into the distance to finally be obscured by the foam from the breakers.
There were a number of very active, and for India, seemingly prosperous fishing villages dotted along the beach and one was just outside of the hotel compound, a short walk from the hotel bar down the well guarded path..
One evening the crew were as usual propping up the bar knocking back a few beers and getting quite merry when pandemonium broke out. The hotel staff were running around doing a bit of weeping and wailing and calling for divine help.
Apparently one of the fishermen from the village had gone missing during a fishing trip and everyone presumed he was a gonner..including us. We returned to the bar and continued with our hobby, getting drunk.
Some thirty minutes or so later the noise of weeping had diminished a little and we were a little more drunk..The Manager appeared and apologised for the scene we had witnessed as it must have been a little embarrassing for us. The problem was that the missing fisherman was from our local village and nearly everyone employed in the hotel was a relative of his.
We asked what sort of rescue operation had been set up to search for the man..”None” he said…”we don’t have such a thing, his fate is in the hands of The Almighty” And with that he left us.
The producer on this particular trip had a slight fetish, he saw himself as the archetypal Englishman. He never travelled anywhere in the world, no matter how hot or dusty or tropical, without wearing a black pinstripe three piece suit, plus collar and old school tie and Oxford wing tipped shoes..
And that’s what he was wearing now as he said to me in the words I will never forget “We cannot let this happen, just sitting here getting drunk when a poor chap might be dying for want of some effort” or very near to those words anyway..
And so it was a few minutes later that both of us were down on the beach pushing a canoe out into the Indian Ocean.
What we had failed to spot in our very drunken state was the fact that the canoe was the only one left down near the waters edge…very much on its own., but it seemed to float very nicely so we hopped aboard. and grabbing a paddle each we headed off into the pitch black night……..Fools….
At this very tip of India the two oceans from either side meet and to put it mildly, collide.
This causes the water to churn on the surface and heaven knows what type of strong currents are running deep underwater.
We were to find out.
After vigorously paddling for some time we hit this maelstrom of water .It was rough. and it suddenly got very tough..
The canoe we were riding in departed..without warning it serenely sank beneath the Ocean waves and left us floating, with just two small wooden paddles. It happened so quickly that we didn’t speak for a few moments and during that time we both got very sober.
Here we were bobbing about. The hotel lights were fading in the distance very fast and in a short while we lost sight of them completely. The current was strong and we could actually feel it towing us further out. We locked the two paddles together and contemplated our fate, or rather our imminent demise
This was how it stacked up. A long way South of us, several thousand miles was Antarctica, immediately to our left was Malaysia and just beyond that Australia, again, several thousand miles and many days of floating along clutching our paddles. It would never happen, this was the Indian Ocean which is apparently stuffed with man eating things called sharks.
The thought that in a few hours time we would be shark shit did not make us very happy and we both went very silent, each with our own thoughts.
We floated for a very long and sombre time, waiting for that first strike. I did keep my legs up as much as I could and never let on
Do you believe in miracles. I never did .The parting of the Red Sea, the Five loafs and Fishes, Turning water into wine. That was just great storytelling and total myth to me.
And then a miracle turned up.
Way out there in the Ocean, having almost given up hope, a small canoe came out of the darkness, at great speed. It almost went straight over the top of us.
We both desperately grabbed the outrigger that those canoe’s had and it came to a sudden stop.
Had it been twenty or even ten feet away we would never have stopped it and I feel sure the fisherman onboard wouild not have stopped..would you..
The man on board must have been near a heart attack as he looked down and saw two white faces peering up at him,grinning wildly.
White sea monsters..
I have often wondered what his thoughts were as we struggled aboard. Two Englishmen and one wearing a complete Saville Row outfit. I bet his grandkids think he is nuts.
He did manage to keep his cool as we requested he drop us off at our hotel
Two happy endings to this story. The fisherman took us to our beach and kindly dropped us off and on returning to the Hotel bar we were told by a bemused but delighted manager that the “Lost” fisherman had been found .
Moral of the story..If you ever steal a canoe, stay sober and make sure the bugger floats..

Originally published on     by RJ Dodd

About Richard Dodd
Director of Photography...Started filming in 1967 at Donald Campbells crash on Lake Coniston and been at it ever since. My career has been a great mix of Documentaries (Alan Whicker etc.) Drama (Cracker..Melissa..Ultimate Force..etc) and Comedy (Royle Family..etc)IMDB
Co-Founder of Reelshow International.
Recently published 2 books: The Sandrunners co-written with Mary Lou Clarke under the name of Chelsy Swann and The Stack.


  1. Richard Dodd

Monday, 3 February 2014

A very Sober Pilot and passenger.

Some time in the eighties I was working in California and shooting a documentary on suicides from The Golden Gate Bridge which crosses the bay at the entrance to San Francisco Harbour
The bridge is a massive structure, A beautiful elegant design .The broad, sixlane, roadway across is supported by thick metal wires which are held at either end by steel towers. The bridge is one of the most photographed man made constructions in the world. It is also very high off the surface of the water.
If you jump off this bridge then the chances of survival are extremely slim. If the fall into the water doesn’t kill you then the damage sustained by the body will render you incapable of swimming in the strong currents and then there are the sharks.
Alcatraz, the infamous high security prison is built on an island in the bay and was selected because of the high risk escape procedure..basically..after you evade the heavy duty guard system and then make it out of your cell block, climb the prison wall and then get down the other side ..all you had to do was swim to freedom. I am unaware of anyone escaping from Alcatraz and sending a post card back from anywhere in the world to announce their new found liberty.
That is why the bridge is a magnet to would be suicides; there are so many attempts that the bridge authorities have a “Jumper” watch situated at either end of the span. These people scan the pedestrians on the bridge constantly and are quick off the mark to foil an attempt when they see a likely customer. Apparently there are tell tale signs that someone is about to take the short flight to oblivion..
And that is why I was there.
Except on this particular day I wasn’t walking across the bridge, I was about a hundred or so metres off it dangling outside a new Bell Jet Ranger helicopter.
The presenter of the programme was supposed to walk along the bridge, in a casual manner, the way presenters do, and talk to the camera, giving as many relevant facts as possible in a conversational way, as they do.
The cue for the presenter to start talking was when a distinctive coloured car, driven by a production team member, drove past him, he would look up to the chopper and begin the spiel as he continued to stroll along .
These plans always work brilliantly on paper.
For the logistics enthusiasts out there this is how it was planned
My camera team would drive from the centre of San Francisco to the International airport about twenty miles or so east of he bridge where we would rig the camera onto a Tyler Mount fitted to the helicopter.
The Tyler mount is a rig that is fitted inside the aircraft and it works on a balance system. A series of weights are moved along a large metal arm that curves over the cameraman and the camera is used as a counterweight .This system allows for any size camera to be fItted. I am sure they are infinitely more sophisticated these days but the gyro or steadying system was not too clever and the cameraman had to put a lot of physical effort into keeping the camera steady during a take.
The mount takes up a lot of space and the rear seats have to come out plus the passenger door comes off. In effect the cameraman has to sit almost outside of the aircraft
The security harness for the cameraman is standard five pin fitting into a centre locking device. The restraining straps are one over each shoulder, two around the waist and one from the floor up between the legs The lock pins can all be released by one quick twist of the centre lock. More on this later.
Radio comms are fitted , one for me to the pilot and an extra one for communication to the bridge team.
Are you still with me…good. keep going.
The presenter is fitted with a radio mike. The director/producer is fitted with a radio mike..the sound recordist is dressed to look like a tourist with a back pack and a funny hat to hide his headphones .These three will be posing as sightseers near the presenter and within range of his transmitter.
The car driver is fitted with a radio. The “Jumper” teams are brought in a and briefed.. We have the permission of the bridge authorities, the radio frequencies have been cleared with the various authorities. We all know what we are doing and when.
Ok, climb aboard the chopper, a brand new Bell Jet Ranger, very nice. And off we zoom, a low swoop over Alcatraz and then to position on the west/seaward side of the bridge.
The brief is for me to follow our marked car, a white one, along the bridge and as it gets to the presenter he will start talking and we slowly hover and crab across until he is finished, then we pull back on the lens and the chopper moves higher and further away to reveal the truly stunning sight of the Golden Gate Bridge with SF in the background.
What could go wrong?..
Everybody is in position, all the sound checks are done, its “Go Go” time
Nobody briefed Mother Nature, or the ten or twelve owners of white cars who all decide to cross the bridge at the same time.Or the twenty or so Japanese tourists who seemed attracted to a strange man, our presenter, who seemed to be having a chat with a man in a helicopter and then they seemed to be obliged to wave at.
Take two.
This meant that the white car had to go across the bridge, off at the next turnoff and then back across the bridge through the one way approach system and take up position again.This took about twenty minutes.
Stay with it
The bridge is so large that it creates its own micro weather situation. No matter how calm it appears there is always a strong wind roaring around the towers. This makes a hovering helicopter a very unsteady filming platform.
Take two: The presenter fluffs his lines.
Take three: A strong gust of wind blows the chopper badly.
Take four: I follow the wrong white car.
And so it goes on and every take is twenty minutes to set up again.
We began to run out of fuel and the pilot decided to go and refill, at the airport. In the light of what was to happen it was a divine and inspired decision. The trips and refuelling would take an hour or so. Off we went.
After the refuel we were ready to get airborne again. The pilot checked with the control tower and we were given permission to overfly the very end of the runway between passenger jets landing
This is at The San Francisco International Airport, there are a lot of jets landing there all the time, they seemed to be precisely stacked up in the sky, exactly the same distance apart and all lined up on the approach beacons. The end of the runway juts out into the bay. Very busy place and very impressive.
A jet lands and off we go from our hover position, we have just a short space of time to clear the approach.
And then it happens.
At about two hundred feet above the threshold lines the Gyro Assist went AWOL.It broke.
In the space of a couple of seconds and from my perch on the side of the chopper I saw the sky, runway, bay water, spinning horizon and then went through it all again.
In my ear the pilot was yelling instructions to the tower or his God, and we were plummeting towards the concrete.
Which we hit..very hard.
Bits were flying in all directions and I was aware of pushing the Tyler mount off my chest where it had rammed on impact and flicking the release button on the harness. One last push at the Tyler and I leapt onto the tarmac.
The chopper was on its side, the  smashed rotor had screamed to a halt and I legged it to the side to jump down into the jumble of massive concrete blocks that form the base for the runway.
The pilot was there before me..You can't beat military training..
The conversation was a little stilted for a few moments as we took stock of our new situation
We were both unharmed but in a slight state of shock.
The chopper seemed to be seriously damaged and on its side.
All of the neatly lined up aircraft with hundreds of passenger on board were now on their way somewhere else, they were peeling off for destinations unplanned.
My radio went off, it was the Producer..”Where the fuck are you?”
I quickly briefed him on our new situation.
He never asked if we were ok, all he said was “Get another chopper and get back out here”…Honestly..
What is it about producers?
I relayed his request to the pilot who simply said “When God tells you to sit on the ground you sit on the fucking ground”
It occurred to me that if we had not done so many takes then the chopper might have been over open water and I don’t think we would have survived the drop from the much greater height that we were filming from. An inspired decision by the pilot to refuel when he did, just a minute or so either side and ..hey ..who knows..

Ok we had survived the crash, screwed up the filming and also screwed up the travel plans of hundreds of airline passengers and now we were waiting for the rescue wagons to appear. We talked, just to calm our nerves
I asked the pilot who was approximately my age how he got into the flying business, it had always appeared attractive to me as an alternative career.
His story had me mesmerised.
During the Vietnam War he had been conscripted into the Military, being a bright lad he had been sent onto a flying course and finished up training to fly helicopters.
(For a book on this subject read “Chickenhawks” by Robert Mason)..
Completed training and off he went to war.
They gave him a gunship. Probably an AH1 Cobra, fitted with twin Cannons. A flying killing machine.
“I was God” he said.
“At twenty one I had the power of life and death. This was Apocalypse Now for real”
He went on to describe how he and his Squadron of Cobras would set off on raids that completely destroyed hundreds of villages, shot up fishing boats, blasted anything that moved on the ground that could conceivably be considered to be the enemy.
It was a fantastic feeling. The Vietcong were virtually defenceless against these airborne attacks and so the young pilots felt all powerful and not in a great deal of danger.
“It was a great life, full of excitement, I had this huge powerful beast that could rip up a village in seconds, two passes with the cannons on full blast and it was no more, wonderful”
Until one day.
He was on patrol as usual and he came across a very small village, he decided to take a closer look and as he approached a group of villagers dashed out of one of the flimsy grass huts and began to run along a jungle path.. He followed them, assessed the situation as much as he could through the jungle canopy as he whizzed past, and decided they were not good people. Why would they be running etc.. He gave them a burst of cannon, Damn, missed, He went round again, another burst of cannon, he destroyed a number of trees and a couple of bamboo thickets but missed the runners, he went round again.
There they were, still on the path through the jungle but they had stopped and were looking at him as he approached for the kill. They could not run any further, dense bamboo and forest on all sides, all five of them were exhausted.. Mum, Dad, and their three little kids.
“It was like a bolt of lightning, I suddenly realised what I was doing. I was a killer of innocents and enjoying it”
He disengaged his attack, flew straight back to his base and refused to fly gunships any more.
They put him on Medivac duties…

This was originally published in    in the Magazine section where there are lots more stories

Written by RJ Dodd author of The Stack on uk