Lights! Camera! Garden!
By Wendy McPherson, Organic Gardener/Horticulturalist
Last Sunday morning, I was up with the birds (the early ones) and buzzing around my backyard turning it into a movie set. This is Los Angeles, after all, and I suspect that the rest of the world thinks that’s what we do in L.A.
It was the second morning of our “shoot” (that’s movie lingo) and the clock was ticking on the rented camera. My plan was to use the little Flip camera that’s been gathering dust on the bookshelf amidst tangled power cords and assorted adapters that have long since lost their parents. However, I learned that if you want to make an instructional DVD about how to make gardening accessible, it’s best if your audience can actually hear the audio (that’s movie lingo for “sound”). Thus, the rented video camera complete with wireless microphone packs and a newscaster-type lavaliere mic to clip to my collar. I’d wanted a Madonna headset, but saner minds prevailed. They said it might detract from my fascinating descriptions of homemade plastic spoon trowels, but I think they were afraid I’d suddenly break into song. “Like a virgin, touched for the very first time...” That actually might have been appropriate since I’m definitely a virgin filmmaker. (Note the lingo again—around here we make “films” not movies that are “screened” not shown.)
My dog, Granger, thought the whole thing was quite exciting as I pulled out hoses, watering wands, snap-on connectors and a very long broomstick. (You’ll just have to wait for the movie to find out how that fits into adaptive gardening.) He got that whole-back-half-of-the-body-butt-wiggle that dogs do. Unfortunately, Granger’s body swing carries more impact as he slams his 105-pound frame into tables, tripods and people legs.
We picked a nice little corner of the yard with bamboo behind me and the camera crew in front of me. My crew consisted of my partner as camera woman, finally realizing her long ago college goal of going into TV broadcasting; my Taiwanese roommate who’s in the States for language school and got a crash-course in English by handling the cue cards; and my co-worker from the library who runs the literacy center but is really an actress. (That is so L.A.)
I learned something interesting about myself when we were on set (lingo alert). You can take an adult woman—one whom I like to think of, modestly, as articulate, animated in expression and even amusing at times—put her in front of a little plastic and metal box called a camera, say “action,” and she turns into a stiff nincompoop who forgets to breathe and goes brain numb. This is the stuff of sitcoms. But no, it truly does happen. I know.
Fortunately, I was saved (along with my entire future audience) by Peggy The Actress who patiently coaxed a performance from me. She kept referring to me as “the talent” and told the crew to massage my shoulders between takes. (I could get used to that.) And she was so kind about it. After our first take of Wendy-the-Monotone, she diplomatically said, “OK. That was good. But may I suggest, respectfully . . . a little more excitement . . . smile . . . bright eyes. Remember how much you love talking about gardening.” That was good. She was helping me get into character. Never mind that the character is me, so it really shouldn’t be that difficult. As a director she was a champ, and by the end of the day we were setting up shots like pros. I was relaxed and even cracking jokes on camera. We wrapped eight long hours later, exhausted and satisfied.
My first movie—I mean film—is near completion. After post-production (editing it into some logical order), I’ll be able to bring Introduction to Adaptive Gardening to our Los Angeles Abilities Expo. You’re all invited to stop by my booth to pick up a copy. You can also see the live performance (I promise to breathe) at my workshop on Saturday, March 31 at 1:15 pm. I think I get to wear a Madonna mic for that one, so don’t miss it. I just might start singing.
Wendy McPherson, the Agrarian Librarian, divides her time between working with teens at a local public library and teaching classes in organic vegetable gardening and adaptive gardening methods. She loves showing others how to grow their own healthy groceries. Like her on Facebook.