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Making Movies:  Part 1

To be blunt, I was pretty devastated by my father's death in 2002.  That fall, before he was diagnosed with cancer, I was preparing to move back to Portland and go back to my job there after my whirlwind trips around America, New Zealand and Australia.  But after he died a few months later, I just wasn't ready to go back to work.  I felt the same way after my mom passed away in 1999.  Her loss was crushing and it took me a few months before I could pick myself up and go back to the office.


But jeez, has it really been two years since my father died?  During that time, I've been working on several projects here at my dad's house in Bellingham to perk myself up and get my bearings back.  That includes working on several family history things and fixing up his house to help my sister, who will be living here for the foreseeable future.


One thing I've been doing here lately is making movies.   I've always loved making movies – perhaps because I went to the same high school as Steven Spielberg (though 10 years later).  Anyway, I decided to spend some time here in Bellingham re-mastering a couple of extensive family movies that I had made back in the 1990s. 


The first project involved some old family films.  Remember those silent eight-millimeter films that were so popular before video came along?  Well, about ten years ago, I discovered a whole bunch of them in a shoebox sitting in my parents' basement.  There were 23 silent family films altogether, three minutes each, that my parents had shot back in the 1950s and 1960s.  In 1995, I transferred all of them to a single two-hour VHS videotape and then had my folks and sister narrate it as they reminisced about our family's many travels.  It was a fun project but, being on VHS, it didn't look that great, frankly.


After my dad passed away, I decided to re-master those 23 films but this time using my computer so they would look much better.  After transferring all the silent films to my computer and editing them, I added music and titles (but kept the family's narration), then I burned the 23 films, shown in sequence, onto a DVD.  I made copies of that DVD and sent copies to my siblings and cousins, and they've enjoyed watching it.  They especially enjoyed the scene where baby food dribbled down my chin when I was six months old.  In fact, I think they enjoyed that scene a little too much.



Above left:  My sister Doti bought an eight-millimeter film camera similar to this when she was nine years old in 1954.  She had saved up her allowance for over a year to buy it – and I'm glad she did.

Above right:  During the 1950s and early 1960s, our family shot 23 three-minute silent films of family trips we had taken around the country.  I found this shoebox of films in my parent's basement about 10 years ago.



Above left:  I bought an eight-millimeter film projector on Ebay and played each film while recording the image with my camcorder.

Above right:  The next step was to edit the videotape using my computer, then create a DVD of the 23 short films shown back-to-back.  Doti's cat, Lila, didn't share my enthusiasm for this project. 



Above left:  Here's a screenshot.  This is in Michigan in 1960 at the start of one of my family's cross-country summer trips, with my brothers Dwight and Dave waving as we pulled out of the driveway.  This is how my wanderlust all started.

Above right:  And here's another screenshot.  This is me a few days later with baby food dribbling down my chin.  I still sometimes look like this when I eat.  No wonder I can't get a date.

Making Movies:  Part 2

The other movie project that I've worked on in Bellingham was much more extensive.  I spent several months creating a DVD movie of a sailing trip that I took to Alaska with my father in 1989.  Back then, I was a restless lad who hadn’t yet settled into a career groove – or wanted to, for that matter, because three years out of grad school, I still yearned to travel.  My dad sailed his 40-foot sailboat alone to Alaska that summer, but before leaving Washington, he asked me if I’d like to fly up to Juneau and join him there, then sail for six weeks around southeastern Alaska and back to Washington.  After giving it serious thought – for about a half-second – I said “yes.”   Actually, my exact words were something like, "Are you nuts?  Yes!" (with the exclamation mark).


Above:  DVD case of my finished movie.  That's a drawing of my dad's sailboat, the Ilikai II.

I brought my camcorder with me to Alaska on that trip back in 1989 and documented our entire 1,500-mile sailing journey.  I'm sure I looked like a dork toting my camcorder and tripod around a different village every afternoon, but it was worth it.  Besides, I'm used to looking like a dork.  We both had a great time and when I got back to Oregon that fall, I created an 80-minute VHS movie of our trip, adding music and narration and giving it the corny title of “The Alaskan Adventure.”  The best parts of the movie were all of my dad's screw-ups that I was fortunate enough to capture on videotape, like when he accidentally poured four gallons of water into the boat's fuel tank.  Of course, since I did most of the photography, no one ever captured MY screw-ups.


I was never happy with the VHS quality of the 1989 movie, though, and decided to remake it someday when I had better equipment.  That day finally arrived 14 years later in 2003.  Shortly after my father passed away, I decided to re-create the movie as a tribute to his adventurous life, so I dug up the original videotapes and hunkered down at my computer for the next six months.  Using the Adobe Premiere video editing software and a stack of honkin' huge hard drives, I digitally recreated the entire movie, scene by scene, and burned it onto a DVD.  My dad had enjoyed the original VHS “Alaskan Adventure,” but I think he would’ve liked the DVD version a whole lot more.  Was it worth spending six months of my life doing it?  To honor my dad, you bet.


I've included some clips of both the eight-millimeter family films from the 1950s and the Alaskan Adventure from 1989 below.  They should give you a sense of what it was like to live in our nomadic and adventurous clan.  Yep, I was happy kid – and lucky to have grown up in such a wonderful and loving family.



Above left:  My dad's 40-foot sailboat, the Ilikai II, in Glacier Bay, Alaska in 1989.  That glacier looks pretty close but it was actually over a mile from the boat.  That gives you an idea of how large it was.

Above right:  I videotaped our six-week trip to Alaska and shot 24 hours of tape.  That's a LOT of video.



Above left:  In the dinghy at Glacier Bay, videotaping my dad's boat in front of the glaciers.

Above right:  A screenshot from the DVD, "The Alaskan Adventure," that I created recently.  This is my dad on the last day of our trip in 1989, near Seattle (watch the full scene below).



Above left:  Another screenshot, this one of a black bear catching fish at Anan Creek near Ketchikan, Alaska (watch the full scene below).

Above right:  A humpback whale swam with our boat near Glacier Bay, then submerged (watch the full scene below).

Video Clips from My Movies


My First Road Trip (1960)

This clip shows how my love for road trips all began.  This was my very first road trip, when I was eight months old.  Our family spent two months in the summer of 1960 driving from Michigan out to the West Coast and back.  My sister shot this with her eight-millimeter film camera and years later my parents and I narrated it.  If you can't tell, I'm the little guy with food smeared all over his face – just like now.

2 minutes, 21 seconds


The Alaskan Adventure:  Introduction (1989)

This is the introduction to the movie I recently remastered called "The Alaskan Adventure."  The movie is about the sailing trip my father and I took from Alaska to Washington state in 1989 on his 40-foot sailboat, the Ilikai II.  The entire movie runs about 80 minutes.

2 minutes, 13 seconds


A Curious Humpback Whale in Alaska (1989)

Here's a humpback whale that surfaced near our boat as we were sailing near Glacier Bay.  It was one of the highlights of our six-week trip.

1 minute, 8 seconds


Bears Fishing at Anan Creek (1989)

My dad and I spent an evening anchored at Anan Cove, north of Ketchikan.  We rowed ashore and hiked a mile up a trail, then spent a few hours watching the bears fish for salmon.  I'm not sure if they had a fishing license but who was going to check? 

3 minutes, 7 seconds


Beautiful Port Hardy (1989)

We spent an evening in the "lovely" marina at Port Hardy, British Columbia.  A noisy fishing boat unloaded fish all night next to our sailboat, so we didn't get much sleep, and the marina was filthy.  My dad couldn't help but make a few sarcastic-but-funny comments.

46 seconds


An Unforgettable Chicken Dinner (1989)

This was probably the funniest moment of our six-week sailing trip, and fortunately I caught it on videotape.  My dad was proud of his chicken dinner that he'd cooked in Wrangell, Alaska – until he put it on the swiveled stove.

2 minutes, 17 seconds




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