Events, Photography

A Tree Glows In Bay City

This past Friday (November 24, 2017) was the official Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, held at Wenonah Park in downtown Bay City, Michigan, US. This also included Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus arriving in town, via horse-drawn carriage. The actual event was only about a half-hour long, but I started roaming around downtown early, trying to capture some images around town while also trying to find out Santa’s arrival route.

My first photograph was viewing west along Center Avenue toward the Wenonah Park main entrance:

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This was about 5:30 pm (local), and you can see the sky lit by the setting sun. Here is another shot I took viewing across the Saginaw River:

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I took a few more photographs in the park, including a couple of our local tall ship, Appledore IV, docked near the park’s northwest section:

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The ship was surprisingly (to me) facing down the Saginaw River – surprising since it’s normally facing up river. Note: the temperature was unusually warm for the time of year – about 50 °F, however the wind was roughly 15 mph so this wasn’t T-Shirt and Shorts weather.

I then started roaming around the local area (stopping to grab a bite to eat at one of the downtown food establishments). By now, the sky was darkening and through the clouds could be seen the crescent Moon. I tried to get a shot of the Moon directly above the main building of the Delta College Planetarium:

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I also made several attempts at capturing the Moon above the City Christmas Tree:

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I had never noticed the lighting of the Planetarium before, but thought it looked very nice so I took a photograph from across the street (standing near the Christmas Tree):

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By now, a crowd (children and adults) was assembling in the Wenonah Park plaza between the main entrance and the Friendship Shell fountain.

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I also took a photo of some of the volunteers at one of the tables near the plaza:

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Following this, I was still wandering around (and trying to get an ‘official’ answer for Santa’s arrival route). While walking near the Planetarium I saw a young woman wearing a banner (“Miss Bay County’s Teen”). She graciously agreed to let me get a photograph of her:

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By now, the plaza was filling up. I took one more photograph of the Christmas Tree:

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I then took several photographs of the crowd:

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By then, I’d gotten an official idea (from one of the emcees, local personality Eric Jylha) of the direction Santa and Mrs. Claus would be arriving from. The ceremony then began. Here are the emcees for the evening (Mr. Jylha is on the right, but I’m not sure who the other person is):

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This was followed by a local Scout troop leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance:

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Mayor Kathleen Newsham then spoke to the crowd:

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Following the Mayor, a local teen performed a dance routine to a Christmas song:

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Here is a video clip of her performance:

By now, the crowd was anticipating Santa’s arrival, so I moved into position and captured this video (though there was very little lighting along the route):

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus then greeted the crowd. This included leading everyone in singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” with the assistance of a guest “elf” (another local child):

By now, Santa and his wife noticed the huge tree, but thought it’d look better if it were lit. So, they led the crowd in a count-up (one to five), then a huge shout of “Light the tree, Bay City.” Following the lighting, Santa and Mrs. Claus told the crowd that it wasn’t too late to ensure they were on the “nice” list (giving a few tips):

There was another sing-along, this time the song was “Jingle Bells”:

Finally, Santa and Mrs. Claus led the crowd in a chorus of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”:

Following that, Mr. and Mrs. Claus headed over to the Planetarium where they met some of the children (unfortunately I left at that point, so I don’t have any other photographs, besides a few shots from the park showing the now-lit Christmas Tree:

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2015 Bump in the Night Film Festival

(Edited version of my original post on Facebook – Sunday, October 25, 2015)
This year’s (2015) model of the Things That Go Bump in the Night Film Festival (presented by Wade Lodewyk of Even Keel Productions) featured four ‘blocks’ of films (though one film, Intent, had it’s own block due to it’s 24 minute length) shown at the Westown Theater. There was also a display of artwork in front of the stage by Todd Stevenson.
First and foremost, I want to emphasize that the following reviews are my own observations and feelings. Though they may be of some use, I do not intend to discourage anyone from viewing any of these entries. The bottom line is that what one person may praise to the skies, another person may abhore (and vice versa). So, please take these reviews with a grain of salt: the only sure way to tell whether you personally will like or dislike any of them is to actually view them yourself.
I use a zero-to-four star rating system (with half-star increments), zero essentially being a ‘bomb’ and four stars being, well, Citizen Kane-calibre (I should mention that I personally do not consider Citizen Kane a great film, but I realize how well it’s respected by critics and many patrons). For those rare films where I really can’t decide on a rating, I grant my coveted/despised “Well, it’s no Equinox” stamp of approval/disapproval (depending on your point of view).
Block 1:
Der Engel – I’d give this 3 stars. A time-travel film with supernatural elements from Michael Welborn of Smug TV, where the traveler gets more than they reckon on. Though it does evoke some sympathy for the innocent, I feel a little more information for the viewer would help that aspect.
The Dunn Inn – I give this a 2 1/2 star rating. A comedy-horror film by Victor Pytko of One-Eyed Bear Productions as an entry by team Bear Cubs 3 in this year’s 48 Hour Film Project (Detroit). I thought it was rather cute, though the effects were a mixed-bag. On re-viewing it, I confirmed my initial idea of the storyline, which I feel could have used a little more fleshing out. Still, this is a fun film if you don’t try to over-analyze it.
Back Road (trailer-link) – I feel this film is worth 3 stars. A thriller film with a supernatural theme by Joseph Thompson from Campfire Pictures, and billed as the final installment in the Campfire Pictures Anthology. One can’t help but think about 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but with a nice twist on the theme. One thing I feel is that the mid-story seemed to run a little bit long, and trimming a few minutes might help it’s presentation.
Block 2:
Creeps – I give this 2 1/2 stars. A science-fiction entry from Michael Welborn of Smug TV which is reminiscent of 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with a tinge of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend thrown in. Though I thought some of the traveling sequences seemed a little jerky, I also thought one sequence where Tobin Welborn’s walking and a background wall contains several (actual) movie posters pertinent to the story’s theme was a very nice touch.
Dead Credit – A solid 3-star comedy-horror selection from Tim Rooney and Randumbify. There are still a few guarantees besides death and taxes, and this cute film covers one of those guarantees. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Also, several out-takes during the closing credits – though possibly a few too many.
Glyzell – I’m a little bit torn on rating this supernatural film from Michael Welborn of Smug TV, but I’ll give it a 3-star rating. I personally couldn’t pick up on the underlying storyline without actually asking Michael. Still, it’s an interesting experiment (and rumor has it, possibly a ‘pilot’ of sorts for a future series). One thing I liked was Bruce Falcon’s performance. Though his earlier efforts may seem slightly wooden (sorry, Bruce), I feel he’s come along very well. He now seems more at ease in front of the camera and fills his roles in a believable manner. You can tell that he actually enjoys this line of work – to the point where it’s no longer ‘work,’ and just comes naturally.
Room For Rent (trailer-link) – A 2 1/2 star thriller by Jon Manthei of Campfire Pictures. A nice little twist along the ‘urban legend’ trail. I did actually like that twist quite a bit (and – maybe I’m dense, but I actually did not see it coming), but felt that the last main scene may have been stretched a little far. Though it may be a little bit over-the-top for a PSA, it works as a short horror entry.
Block 3:
Intent – A 3-star supernatural-thriller entry by Robin Devereaux-Nelson for Farm Girl Films. This is an encore presentation from the first (2013) Things That Go Bump in the Night Film Festival. One can’t help but think about the Dixie Chicks’ video for Goodbye Earl when viewing this. However, though not without it’s humor, this film is quite a bit darker. There were (in my opinion) a few graphic portions near the end which could have been left out, but overall this was a good presentation.
Block 4:
Knock – A quick 2 1/2 star comedy-thriller from Tim Rooney and Randumbify. Something to think about when you’re on ‘the throne’ and hear a strange noise outside the bathroom. Pretty straight forward, with a twist. I actually enjoyed the final scene behind the closing credits.
Eight Years Ago in February – I was in a few scenes of this film, so I’m going to take the fifth on giving a rating. Very strange and disturbing psychological-thriller from Darkhaus Sound & Film, Inc. I did like the scene where two images are quickly strobed over each other, which I think really added to the feeling of unease.
Headlights – A 3 star supernatural film by Nic White. This film had originally been shown at the Radical Spaces event at Bemo’s Bar this past July. I like it but I would almost down-grade my rating to 2 1/2 for one reason. I still feel that the film uses “that certain word” a few too many times. Though I have no dread of it, and can see where it can be quite useful at times, I feel it was simply overused. Otherwise, the story is pretty straight-forward. I particularly like Michael Welborn’s character actions at the conclusion.
Well, again – that’s my two-cents worth. As I say, the only true way to tell whether you’ll like or dislike a particular film is to actually view it yourself. And I would recommend viewing any of these presentations. Please keep in mind: They’re no Equinox – for what that’s worth.
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Chariots, Saucers, and Aliens – Oh My!

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*Could* this have been constructed by Ancient Astronauts (or, would they be too intelligent to build such a weird structure)?

Colonization of worlds, moons, galaxies oceans and even a small patch of grass has been a part of science fiction for quite a long time. Often it involves a hostile (to human lifeforms) environment, in which either artificial structures are created, or already exist from another civilization. However it can also involve a non-human lifeform performing such actions – and quite often leading to conflict with existing humans.

The reasons for colonizing are quite varied.

  • Overpopulation on a homeworld
  • Military expansion for the heck of it
  • Resources may have been exhausted
  • Monetary concerns
  • A planetary system’s energy source may be either exhausted, or approaching a nova stage
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What lies beneath?

Oddly the lack of information about a region seems to make it that much more ‘attractive’ as a place to visit, explore or colonize. To a minor extent, exploration of the oceans was (and still remains) one of the last remaining locations untouched by humankind. Writers such as Jules Verne actually brought his readers below the mysterious surface to a world of wonder (and giant squids, etc.) in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” while introducing the concept of an underwater vehicle (submarine), the “Nautilius.”

What could make ‘colonization’ of the oceans an immediate reality? I think it’d be possible to do it now, if the funding were available. I could easily imagine a large undersea ‘dome’ covering a large settlement. Extracting oxygen from the seawater might be (if not already) possible. Food could be obtained from either the sealife around the settlement, or grown within it.

Until the Venera probes actually transmitted information to earthbound scientists, the general public was convinced the planet Venus was a lush jungle (due to the cloud layer – which was later discovered to be about 95% carbon dioxide). And due to some of the speculative fiction (written, audio and film mediums) many also thought it was inhabited by an Amazonian style civilization (thanks, “Abbott and Costello Go to Mars,” he said sarcastically). However, once it was widely revealed that the surface temperature was around 500°C, such speculation went out the window.

I truly can never imagine Venus being colonized. Even a minor base would be a massive undertaking with (apparently) miniscule results. However – if terraforming techniques are developed, this world could be a possible “Earth II.” Without such a development, I feel this is basically not worth the effort. Yes, I know – poor attitude. However, that’s my feeling in this case.

Mars had it’s own mysteries (the canals, the color changes, the icecaps) which are only recently being unveiled. That lack of information about Mars also led people to believe intelligent life existed on “the Red Planet.” That in turn led to the great Martian invasion by H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds.”

I sincerely believe a settlement on Mars could happen within the next 50 years. Of course, I’ve been saying that for the past 25+ years, so… Still, I think this would be the easiest (I hate using that word, but in this case I believe it fits) of nearby colonization efforts – requiring the least technological developments (other than actually getting there).

Still, once (accurate) information about such worlds was gathered, the possibility of manned exploration could be seriously examined (possibly with a goal of colonization, though other concerns might include merely setting up a mining operation, a spaceport for farther expansion, etc.). Terraforming has become quite a buzzword (as well as creating many debates – ethical, practical, etc.), with the first written example possibly being the same Martians from Wells’ novel.

031905One of the most popular ideas is setting up a permanent base/colony/settlement on the Earth’s Moon. Such Lunar bases have been dreamed of for many years. I personally want to see that happen in my lifetime. Not for any particular reason other than the classic “because it’s there.” However I think a benefit would be having an off-world ‘port’ or staging area where larger expeditions could be launched from (such as an inevitable, in my opinion, Mars base). The tricky part with a Lunar base is the supplies, as well as necessities: breathable air, secure airlocks, etc. Other items such as transportation would be of a secondary nature. We’d already shown a Lunar Rover capable of traversing the surface (though it’s life-expectancy might be tricky, depending on the dust generated by it’s movement, etc.).

A Lunar base again seems like it’d be a piece of cake. However dreams of such settlements have existed longer than I’ve existed. Still, I think it could become a reality in the next 25 years. However such efforts (I believe) would be better suited for private enterprise to develop. Let global Governments handle the massive outward exploration probes. For the nearby items, it seems like a case of “build it and they will come.”

Two in-between ideas should also be mentioned here. One is settlement on one of the larger asteroids (Ceres, etc.), which I personally don’t think could ever amount to anything larger than a small mining colony, with only bare essentials. The other is a manned orbital space station (not simply an orbital lab capable of accepting supply shuttles, but an actual ‘colony’ of it’s own (think “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine“), with essentially ‘all the comforts of home’ – schools, farms, even businesses. Like the Lunar bases, such stations would be used as a staging/launch platform for exploration to other regions.

It sounds like a minor ‘colonization’ effort is being attempted by private businesses – as far as asteroid mining concerns. Though probably never developing into a full-fledged colony, it could provide a permanent ‘jumping off’ point (though I personally might not be anxious to jump off).

One of the first plastic models I ever constructed was a ‘classic’ ring-shaped space station. I still think such items could become reality – maybe 20-25 years down the road. Such undertakings again could be best served (in my opinion) by private businesses (I still keep thinking about Richard Branson’s outer space hotel concept), however cooperation with Government agencies could bring such items to life – and also serve a dual purpose: satisfying business interests, as well as providing some rest and recreation for Government sponsored explorers heading outward.

Again heading outward (I’m not planning to ‘retreat’ back to either Venus or Mercury, both of which I consider non-starters for colonization), It truly sounds like the next plausible location for colonization is Saturn’s Moon, Titan. Though it may never become a true colony/settlement (unless terraforming techniques can be deployed), it’s make-up appears to be the most suited for human habitation (again, with necessities such as breathable air, food supplies, etc. being transported regularly, unless artificial methods for production of them are perfected – and they’d have to be perfect due to it’s distance from Earth.

I cannot see a serious development on Titan for the next 75-100 years. There may be minor explorations, but nothing of a permanent settlement. Now, it’s possible advanced in space vehicles could speed up such a development. However there’d still be the supply problem. This would truly be a case where replicators (3D printers?) and other such science fictions devices would probably have to become reality.

After Titan, any farther colonization efforts from Earth are probably moot. That is, until we can develop either something close to a ‘light speed’ vehicle, or build massive spaceship colonies. The former, realistically, I do not believe I’ll ever live to see. The latter, I still may not live to see but their possibility could be on the horizon. Such ‘floating’ colonies would be self-sustained, and require enough colonists (as well as crew, though they would essentially be part of the colony) to be self-perpetuating. I think that would be the largest drawback to such a scheme – the size of the ship.

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Charlene Jeter publicly shares her passion project ‘Discrete Indiscretion’ winner of multiple awards

A filmmaker I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of years ago…!!!:

Michigan Movie Media/MMM2.0

It’s official!…We did not get into the Cannes Film Festival…But we got closer than ever before. I’m so proud of the work that team Detroit Film Studio created…and to think that we made “Discrete Indiscretion” in 48 Hours from concept to completion…Who’d ever thought that we’d make it so far…Winning 15 awards including Best of Fest LA Shorts and Best Short Film Award of Excellence Hollywood Film Competition and the OFFICIAL SELECTION into 8 Film Festivals. Today marks the end of our festival ride for “Discrete Indiscretion” and the first day that we get to publicly share our PASSION PROJECT with you. Enjoy!!!!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5967436/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_1

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Scouting the Territory (Part Two of 3)

Viewing from Veterans Memorial Bridge along the east bank of the Saginaw River during the 2013 Bay City (Michigan) Tall Ship Celebration

Viewing from Veterans Memorial Bridge along the east bank of the Saginaw River during the 2013 Bay City (Michigan) Tall Ship Celebration

Continuing a recap of viewing areas for the Parade of Sail – the official start of the 2016 Bay City (Michigan) Tall Ship Celebration – let’s consider locations at or near downtown.

Obviously, since this area is where the ships will be docking, the crowds will tend to be larger than other locations. However, since ship tours aren’t available on Thursday (July 14 – when the Parade of Sail takes place), there may not be an extreme number of people.

In general, there are plenty of restroom facilities, shops and convenience stores scattered nearby. There really aren’t many play areas close (I think Veterans Memorial Park has some playground equipment, but I’m not positive).There really is no shelter in case of inclement weather – rather, no shelter from which you can still view the arrival of the ships. I’m going to avoid discussing locations where the only view would be after ships have passed by.

Eastern approach of railroad bridge just down the Saginaw River from Liberty Bridge (where I took this photograph from).

Eastern approach of railroad bridge just down the Saginaw River from Liberty Bridge (where I took this photograph from).

Roald Amundsen departing Bay City on Monday following the 2010 Tall Ship Festival. To the extreme right can be seen the end of the eastern approach to the railroad bridge. Note how the ships would be obscured as they passed on the opposite side of the center swing span.

Roald Amundsen departing Bay City on Monday following the 2010 Tall Ship Festival. To the extreme right can be seen the end of the eastern approach to the railroad bridge. Note how the ships would be obscured as they passed on the opposite side of the center swing span.

Starting on the east bank near Liberty Bridge, there are a few viewing locations choices. One is the eastern approach to a railroad bridge right next to Liberty Bridge. However, I wouldn’t recommend this – at least from this side of the river. For one, I’m not sure how stringent the property owners and/or the railroad company would be about trespassers – mostly from a safety aspect. For another, the railroad bridge is a swing bridge, and the ships pass on the west side of the center span, so you would not have a clear view of the ships directly in front of you. You would have a nice view of them as they approach, and the background would be decent. Also, the sun would be toward your back-left. Bottom line – regardless of the legality, I feel there are many other sites with better views.

Now, a short distance away is Liberty Bridge. First, there is a public sidewalk which actually leads underneath the eastern approach, and brings you closer to the water level. This might sound appealing, however the main argument I’d make would again be how the ships pass on the opposite side of the railroad’s center span. The view is further obstructed by that same eastern approach I’d mentioned above. So – this would be worst of the worse.

Viewing from underneath the eastern approach of Liberty Bridge. Note, the railroad bridge is closed (for the winter). When open, the view of ships passing would be obscured by the center span itself.

Viewing from underneath the eastern approach of Liberty Bridge. Note, the railroad bridge is closed (for the winter). When open, the view of ships passing would be obscured by the center span itself.

Next, there is Liberty Bridge itself. Since we’re sticking with the east bank of the river, I’ll just discuss viewing from the eastern approach of the bridge. Also, only from the down river side, since the opposite side would only give views after the ships have passed through the bridge.

Bounty II departing Bay City on Monday following the 2010 Tall Ship Festival. In the foreground can be seen the eastern approach to a nearby railroad bridge.

Bounty II departing Bay City on Monday following the 2010 Tall Ship Festival. In the foreground can be seen the eastern approach to a nearby railroad bridge.

I’m not sure about access during the actual Parade of Sail. In 2013 I believe security personnel and/or local law enforcement were restricting access. Still I’ll mention it. There are advantages over the railroad bridge approach, but not too many. Liberty Bridge is higher than the railroad bridge, but the view of ships passing the railroad bridge center span is still blocked. You could probably get some nice views as the ships approach the bridges, though. This would mostly be a head-on view, so getting full shots of the ships would not be possible. I would not recommend this location (again, mostly because there are better views available).

Third Street Waterfall Park. Liberty Bridge is down the Saginaw River - to the right. Veterans Memorial Bridge is up river - to the left.

Third Street Waterfall Park – east bank of the Saginaw River. Liberty Bridge is down River – to the right. Veterans Memorial Bridge is up river – to the left.

Appledore IV heading down the Saginaw River, passing through Liberty Bridge

Appledore IV heading down the Saginaw River, passing through Liberty Bridge – viewed from the sidewalk along the east bank

Moving along the riverfront there is a short sidewalk area, then the rest is mostly private property until you reach Third Street Waterfall Park. It may appear to be private property, since there is a tall wrought iron fence at it’s entrance. However, there’s public access through an entrance close to the nearby St. Laurent Brothers Nut House – a local iconic confectionery shop. Liberty Bridge can be viewed quite well from this spot.

Sørlandet, the largest ship in the 2013 Tall Ship fleet, departing Bay City the Monday following the 2013 Festival - viewed from Third Street Waterfall Park

Sørlandet, the largest ship in the 2013 Tall Ship fleet, departing Bay City the Monday following the 2013 Festival – viewed from Third Street Waterfall Park

There are a couple of disadvantages though. First, there is not a lot of room – I’d guess the side facing the river is about 30 feet, the side facing down river toward Liberty Bridge is about 50 feet. The other point is that the ships will be quite a distance away, moving closer to the far, western bank. Bottom line: a camera with a decent zoom capacity would be desired. And, if you want to try this area, stake out your spot early.

The next location would be Wenonah Park, but I’m going to pass by that part. The large ships will be docking along it’s bank, and I’m not sure how much access will be available to the public during that docking. I believe there is a V.I.P. viewing tent and/or area, but you’d need to consult their website for that information. Plus, I don’t think you could get many good photographs from that location – due to the activity as the ships dock, and the view slowly being obscured as more ships arrive.

Viewing from the eastern approach of Veterans Memorial Bridge, down the Saginaw River during the 2013 Tall Ship Celebration. In the background is Liberty Bridge. To the right is the east bank and Wenonah Park. To the left is Veterans Memorial Park.

Viewing from the eastern approach of Veterans Memorial Bridge, down the Saginaw River during the 2013 Tall Ship Celebration. In the background is Liberty Bridge. To the right is the east bank and Wenonah Park. To the left is Veterans Memorial Park.

The next spot would be the eastern approach of Veterans Memorial Bridge, where an actual viewing area is located. This could be an interesting spot. I don’t think there would be as much concern, security-wise, since the ships would not be passing through it – instead they’d be docking on the opposite banks between this and Liberty Bridge. Also, there is a large hillside, where an able bodied photographer could possibly get a few good shots from. But, again, a decent zoom capability would be desirable.

Viewing from the western approach of Veterans Memorial Bridge, down the Saginaw River during the 2013 Tall Ship Celebration. To the right is the east bank and Wenonah Park. In the distance is Liberty Bridge.

Viewing from the western approach of Veterans Memorial Bridge, down the Saginaw River during the 2013 Tall Ship Celebration. To the right is the east bank and Wenonah Park. In the distance is Liberty Bridge.

Staying on Veterans Memorial Bridge, we’ll cross to the other side, the western approach. There is a large hillside – however it is quite a distance from the river, so don’t plan on that location. However, the viewing area on the bridge itself might offer a very nice opportunity for photographs. And, this side of the river would give a slightly better view of the larger ships, which tend to be docked along the east bank near Wenonah Park. For getting views of the ships as they dock, I think this might be the best choice. However, I’d really recommend having a decent zoom capability.

Liberty Bridge (eastern approach), viewed from Liberty Harbor Marina.

Liberty Bridge (eastern approach), viewed from Liberty Harbor Marina.

Moving back down the Saginaw River, along the west bank, we’ll pass by Veterans Memorial Park – again, the area will probably be restricted due to the ships docking, and the viewing would tend to be obstructed. The next location would be Liberty Harbor Marina, located just up river from the Hooters restaurant. This might not be a bad location. Almost opposite from Third Street Waterfall Park, the ships would be much closer. Plus, you can probably get some nice views as they pass through Liberty Bridge. I imagine this area will have a decent number of people, but there is a lot of river footage available. I might actually consider this spot for a future Tall Ship festival. But as I’ve said, my heart is set on taking my chances with Essexville Smith Park for the 2016 Parade of Sail.

On a side note – Hooters may offer a decent view of the Parade of Sail, but I’m not sure whether they’d have some admission/cover charge. Plus, I’m sure they’ll have a decent number of customers. So, unless you’re planning to grab a meal, I wouldn’t count on that location.

Viewing down the Saginaw River from the western approach area on Liberty Bridge. Note the railroad bridge and it's approach.

Viewing down the Saginaw River from the western approach area on Liberty Bridge. Note the railroad bridge and it’s approach.

Next would be Liberty Bridge – the western approach viewing area. I really don’t know whether people will be allowed up there for the Parade of Sail. I believe last year some were being moved away by security personnel. Still, I mention it as a possibility. If you can get access to it, the view should be very nice, as the ships will be passing through the railroad bridge on this side of the center span.

The next spot was my secret fishin’ hole during the 2013 Parade of Sail. If you look at the above photograph, you can see the western approach of the railroad bridge. Well, myself and about twenty or thirty other people were on that bridge, and the view was spectacular. I was a little paranoid about possibly being chased off at the last moment, but there did not seem to be any problem. Of course, if the spectators had been acting up, or causing some ruckus, I’m sure we would have been told to leave immediately. But everyone was well behaved – to the point where a sheriff’s boat, a DNR craft, and even a coast guard vessel passed by, giving polite waves. Still, things may change with the times. But, if you can get to that spot, I believe you will not be disappointed (FYI: there’s a party store about 3 blocks away).

US Brig Niagara, during the 2013 Parade of Sail, having just passed through a railroad bridge, now passing through Liberty Bridge. This is viewing from the western approach of the railroad bridge.

US Brig Niagara, during the 2013 Parade of Sail, having just passed through a railroad bridge, now passing through Liberty Bridge. This is viewing from the western approach of the railroad bridge.

Well, I’m wrapping up this part of my Parade of Sail suggestion blog. Hopefully this can give you an idea of where you may want to view the ships from. In part three I hope to cover the rest of the west/north bank of the Saginaw River, from the railroad bridge above, out toward the actual river mouth.

 

 

 

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Scouting the Territory (Part One of 3)

2013 - Tall Ship Celebration - Bay City, Michigan

Viewing from Liberty Bridge toward downtown Bay City (Michigan) following the 2013 Parade of Sail – the official start of the Tall Ship Celebration

Like any city, my home town (Bay City, Michigan) has many events and interesting sites/sights. One of the largest is the Tall Ship Celebration (sorry, Bay City Fireworks Festival), an event held every two or three years, when a fleet of tall ships tour the Great Lakes.

Being (currently) the only Michigan port the fleet is scheduled to visit, our little town swells from 30,000 to around/over 100,000.  The event normally takes place over a four day period, Thursday through Sunday. Once in a while, one of the ships will sneak in a day early. Also, the departure of the fleet tends to be on the Monday following the celebration – though that’s not an actual organized activity – the ships basically depart when they’re ready, rather than putting on a parade.

However, on the first day of the Celebration, Thursday, the fleet DOES put on a parade – the Parade of Sail.

Parade of Sail (viewing from the western approach of a railroad bridge down the Saginaw River from Liberty Bridge)

US Brig Niagara – approaching Liberty Bridge during the 2013 Parade of Sail (viewing from the western approach of a railroad bridge down the Saginaw River from Liberty Bridge)

 

Now, even though it contains the word sail, that doesn’t necessarily mean the ships will in fact have their sails unfurled. Obviously, wind conditions can affect this. And, in our case the fleet will be moving up the Saginaw River – they will be fighting the current, which may not be too much of a factor, but I’d think it also could provide an obstacle.

Still, whether their sails are flying in the breeze or not, watching the ships pass along in a literal parade is quite a sight. And that’s where choosing a viewing location can be important if one is planning on taking photographs or video. The general position of the sun, the background, and available facilities (ie: bathrooms, seating, shelter, etc.) are things to consider.

This year (2016) will be my third time – I also attended the 2010 and 2013 festivals. I truly wish I’d taken greater interest in the event previously, but that’s water under the bridge – so to speak. Still, I’ve slowly learned how the Parade of Sail (and other associated activities) proceed. That, combined with my general knowledge of the surrounding area (I’ve taken several photographs at various locations throughout the city and county), allows me to make an informed choice about where some of the more unique vistas may be offered – those which are off the beaten path.

I’m not saying I’ve got my own secret fishin’ hole – just that being a local does have advantages over people who are from out of town. An example would be from 2013. I thought I had the perfect viewing location (and it was quite nice), but also felt I was the only person in the world who would think of it. Wrong! It turned out about 20 others had the same idea. Still, with one or two exceptions, we were all locals.

Essexville Smith Park - sign facing toward the Saginaw River

Essexville Smith Park – sign facing toward the Saginaw River

But, enough of my standard rambling. Let’s start checking out possible sites. The first I’ll cover is Essexville Smith Park, located in Essexville, Michigan – where I’m planning on setting up for this year. I think this may be an excellent location because – most important – the sun will generally be behind me (assuming cloud cover cooperates). Next, it’s located just a few blocks from downtown Essexville. There may not be a lot of stores in the area, but anything you might reasonably need should be available. Third, the site is just up the Saginaw River from a bend. The ships will appear roughly north-northeast from us, then round the curve to proceed west-southwest in front of us. Fourth, the park does indeed have (limited) restroom facilities. Fifth (for those with children, there are a few playground items. Sixth, there is a nearby covered pavilion, with picnic tables (though the river is not clearly visible from that facility. Seventh – the background looks very nice – there’s a wooded area across the river, and very few ‘distractions’ down river. Finally. this is located a few miles away from downtown Bay City – and that may keep visitors from considering it, thus keeping the crowd at a reasonable size. It is also not too easy to find, with small signs pointing the way around a couple of twists and turns. Suffice to say, if you’re at Essexville City Hall, you’re on the right track. Additionally, the park has quite a bit of river frontage, so there should be room for everyone to see the show. Another ‘bonus’ is a boat launch – though that would only be important before and following the Parade of Sail.

Independence Bridge. To the left is Independence Park Boat Launch. On the RIght is our museum ship, USS Edson

Viewing from the down river side of Independence Bridge. To the left is Independence Park Boat Launch. On the right is our museum ship, USS Edson

Continuing along the same bank, the next site would be Independence Bridge – though I’m not sure whether observers will be allowed on it during the Parade of Sail. Located just down river from the bridge is the museum ship USS Edson, moored along the opposite bank. I personally wouldn’t recommend this location. It would indeed provide a nice view from above the ships as they pass, but there are no real facilities immediately available. On a side note: there is a railroad bridge located between this bridge, and Essexville Smith Park. It’s a swing bridge, but it’d also be private property. There are undoubtedly ways to reach it on foot, but again there would be no facilities. Also, in addition to the questionable legality of being on it, I’m not sure which side of the center span the ships would pass through. A local tour boat company has excursions up and down the river. I personally know that it’s passed through on both sides. So – this location would be quite a gamble.

Independence Bridge during the 2010 Parade of Sail (viewing from Edward M. Golson Boat Launch and Nature Area)

Bounty II passing through Independence Bridge during the 2010 Parade of Sail (viewing from Edward M. Golson Boat Launch and Nature Area)

Just next to Independence Bridge (again, staying on this particular side of the river), is the Edward M. Golson Boat Launch and Nature Area. This is where I viewed the 2010 Parade of Sail. Again, the sun would be in a favorable position. You will not have a clear view of the ships approaching the bridge, but you can get some quite nice photographs as the ships pass through. There are a decent number of bathroom facilities. There is no playground equipment, however the Nature Area has a couple of paths which wind through the nearby woods. This is also near an Eagle nesting area, though that’s off limits. There is a covered gazebo with a clear view of the Saginaw River. I actually don’t recall any picnic tables scattered around. Again, this is located about a mile from downtown Bay City, so shouldn’t be as crowded as it will be in the city. On the negative side, there are no nearby stores. So, if you choose this location, stock up. As for the background, it’s a mixed bag.

Seeing the ships passing through Independence Bridge is pretty nice, but after the ships have passed through, there are some distractions – including a stone dock on the opposite bank. Finally, as the name implies, there is also a boat launch – along with plenty of parking available.

Well. That pretty much covers the east/south bank regions down river from Bay City. The next post should cover the downtown viewing spots. Then I hope to cover views from the west/north bank regions down river from downtown.

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Batting Practice, Screenwriting

If It’s Good Enough For Corman…

Note: this was actually written a few months ago. I’ve just now dug it up from my draft archives

Today, two days after starting, I finished writing my first script.

How To Draw an Owl

Well, it’s my first draft of a script. Which at least is more than I had two days ago. Thus the title of this post, referring to Roger Corman – perhaps most famous for filming The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) in two (2) days.

A few years ago, a co-worker and myself came up with a concept for a film.  Since that time we still joked around about it. I had mentioned the idea to a couple of friends, and they’ve been telling me to “write it up.” So, I finally said the heck with it, and actually started to (paraphrasing a friend’s response to my initial draft): CREATE.

I’m a digital hoarder at heart. I’ll see an article or a post mentioning some free version of bean-counting software (or whatever), and the only thing that my brain processes is the word ‘free.’ My brain then takes control of my mouse-hand and before I can say “Wait. Do I even need this? Will I ever even use this?,” I find myself frantically searching for the download button/link. Such was the case when a friend posted a link to a free screenwriting program – a desktop version of Celtx, fully functional (apparently) except for sharing capability (side-note: that link no longer leads to the free desktop version). I quickly downloaded and installed it, then it sat on my computer for months. In the meantime, I’d finally decided to start gathering notes for “the great American screenplay.” I did that in the quickest way I knew how: creating a text file and typing random thoughts. I also mentioned to a friend what I was trying to do, and he recommended that I use that Celtx program. So, having totally forgotten that it was already installed, I immediately downloaded yet another copy of it, and while attempting to install it discovered that it was already available. Firing it up, I was faced with a program that had no standard help file or manual. However, it did have sample templates for a film, novel, audio play and other types.

Celtx Sample Film Template

Celtx Sample Film Template

I quickly scanned through the film template, and it actually seemed much simpler than I’d thought (though it didn’t cover every possibility, nor should one expect it to – such is actually part of the fun of playing with new software: discovering shortcuts, menu-options and right-clicking menus on your own). I also had a couple of scripts which my friend had sent me to proofread, so I had a rough idea of how to enter the different sections. I also started doing a little research on Wikipedia, starting with a simple search for ‘screenwriting,’ then merely following the various internal and external links to other articles and definitions.

Celtx Sample Film Template - Index Cards (Script Side)

Celtx Sample Film Template – Index Cards (Script Side)

During this stage, I took much interest in the preparation of a script, and one phrase stood out (for whatever reason): index card. The appeal no doubt being the basic premise that one jots down ideas, then moves them around – essentially creating an outline of a project. That flexibility has obvious pros and cons. Sections (scenes) can be created ‘out of sequence,’ so one can easily add a new scene. However, that also opens up the possibility of losing track of the overall story line, and creating continuity errors. Still, it’s a quick way of taking that first step: sitting down and actually writing.

Celtx Sample Film Template - Index Cards

Celtx Sample Film Template – Index Cards (Script Side) – Circled tab ‘flips’ cards to Notes Side

To access the index cards (as well as the script, reports and other options) there’s a tab/menu along the bottom of the main working area. A nice thing about the index cards is that each actually generates a scene heading (discussed in a little bit) in the script (though it’s blank if you don’t actually enter anything on the index card). An added benefit (which I didn’t take advantage of, and have only played with a bit so I really don’t know how it might function) is that you can view either side of the cards, with the opposite side allowing for notes. This could be useful, but as I say I haven’t done anything with that option.

I should point out at this stage that I am only now resuming this particular post, and my script has undergone several rewrites. I’ve also learned a few other tricks about using Celtx. Still, I’m trying to recall my early experience with it, and will provide such additional information and notes later in this post.

So, now I actually had something to work with: a basic plot and a rough sequence of the various scenes within the film itself. I now started actually writing. It was during this stage that I learned a little bit about the different sections of a script (though I may have misused some of them, not having experience along these lines). First, in order to work on your masterpiece, you should select the “Script” tab in the tab/menu near the bottom of the working area.

Sample Film Template - Section Select Pull-Down Menu circled

Celtx Sample Film Template – Section Select Pull-Down Menu circled

Next, you will be selecting the various sections; either using a pull-down menu near the upper-left corner of the working area, or by using shortcut keys which Celtx will display to the right of the tab/menu bar. Those shortcut keys will actually change, depending on what type of section your cursor is currently located on. The choices are:

  • Scene Heading
  • Action
  • Character
  • Dialog
  • Parenthetical
  • Transition
  • Shot
  • Text

 

Celtx Sample Film Template - Scene Headings

Celtx Sample Film Template – Scene Heading(s) circled

The first section I’ll cover is the scene heading (which had been generated by the index cards). This appears to actually be called either a screenplay slug line, or a master scene heading. As I mentioned, if you haven’t entered such a heading on the cards, this field will be blank in the script. However, the program does track each card scene sequentially in the lower-left part of the window (surprisingly called ‘Scenes’). Each is assigned a number which assists in referencing a section of the script. Note that the sequence is for the actual script, and not necessarily the shooting sequence (since scenes may be shot out of sequence). The scene heading basically gives the location (within the script, not necessarily the filming location) where it takes place. It also consists of a prefix abbreviation telling whether it’s an interior (INT.) or exterior (EXT.) shot, and a suffix (optional, but sometimes useful) to give an idea of when the scene occurs chronologically (generally DAY, NIGHT, etc., but it can also include flashbacks, days later, moments later, later that day, etc.). The heading is always entered in capital letters. An example from the sample film template is: EXT.THE GREAT DITCH.DAY.

The next step is a combination of describing what happens (action) and dialogue by the characters. Basically, these two items are the guts of a script. And, they indeed work in tandem. Without action, all you have is basically a radio dramatization – if there is nothing visually of worth being presented to the viewer, you should probably just consider creating an audio podcast. Without dialogue, all you have is a silent movie – and nothing to put what the viewer sees into any context. Yes, there are exceptions to this (you may actually desire this), but generally both are essential.

Action is displayed in Celtx as a standard document or letter would be – normal indentations on left and right, with (in general) no special alignment or formatting. Action is a catch-all word for, well, everything visible on screen. This could include the direction a character is looking, something happening in the background, handling of equipment and/or props, and other events. It gives both the crew, cast and other personnel an idea of how you – the writer – visualize the scene as it plays out. You don’t require a 5,000 word essay, but you also should avoid being overly generalized (ie: “Alien leaves” doesn’t really say much; but “Alien turns on it’s tentacles and creeps through the entry hatch” conveys a more concrete image). Generally, an action should be described in between one and four sentences. Remember, you can (and actually should) always go back and edit the script – maybe a certain prop isn’t available; you may discover an actor simply can’t perform a certain movement; maybe you decided that a certain sound would (or wouldn’t) help the scene. Be bold! Be descriptive! The more information you can convey to the other personnel, the better understanding they’ll have of the limits they’ll be able to work with.

Celtx Sample Film Template - Action (top) and Dialog (bottom) circled

Celtx Sample Film Template – Action (top) and Dialog (bottom) circled

In the sample screenshot, the top red-circled item is an example of an action within the script. In this case, it reads “They hear a deep growl from wild animals in the trees!” So, the actors in this scene, from that point, should be ‘reacting’ to that sound. The sound engineer (or audio editor) will ensure that the sound is included at that point. Other personnel will have an idea of, for example, how the scene should be lit, what camera position(s) should be used, etc. All that from a simple action line. Yes, even the exclamation point serves a purpose.

Dialogue (Celtx displays this as Dialog) can be a monologue (the character basically talking to no one in particular, or possibly breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the viewers); a back-and-forth verbal exchange between characters; a group exchange (several characters around a conference table, or maybe a dining room table); the possibilities are endless. In a script, the character’s name is capitalized and centered on the page, followed by the actual dialogue that character will speak. To help anyone reading the script, dialogue is normally indented (left and right) roughly an inch to an inch and a half to separate it from Action entries. This is where much of a script’s length tends to come from, especially when there is banter back and forth from one character to another to another.

In the sample screenshot above, the bottom red-circled item is an example of dialogue. In this case, the character referenced is SCARECROW (centered, and all capitals). Directly beneath it is that character’s line:

Hopefully not a beast who likes to eat straw!

You should be able to see how that is indented much more than the actions. That is a standard format, which makes it easier to visually pick out different sections within a script. In that example, you’ll also see that it ends with an exclamation point – which should give the actor an idea of how to deliver (speak) the line.

Celtx Sample Film Template - Parenthetical circled

Celtx Sample Film Template – Parenthetical circled

At this point, we’ll look at another section (actually, a sub-section under dialogue): the parenthetical. This can be selected by using the pull-down menu. It is placed immediately following a character’s name and their next piece of dialogue. The parenthetical is an instruction to both the director and the actor – indicating how the writer feels the line should be delivered (high-pitched, mumbled, etc.). However, the writer should be aware that they are not directing the film nor are they actually delivering the line. In other words, though it may add something to the dialogue – the principals involved will use such instructions as a starting point, and they may have a good reason to elaborate and/or eliminate it. Still, such items can be useful to convey something which otherwise couldn’t be easily written into the script. Remember – the writer (with few exceptions) is simply giving advice, and inviting the director and actor to participate in the creation of the film.

Such instructions should be kept to a minimum – both in length and in their use. If a parenthetical becomes three or more sentences, it may be better to incorporate it as an action section instead. Quite often, it’s merely a couple of words. In the screenshot example, the parenthetical merely reads (ashamed). This tells the actor their following line might best be delivered in such a manner. This might even extend to the actor’s mannerisms; in this case giving a ‘tail-between-their-legs’ look, possibly kicking aside an imaginary pebble. And let us not forget the director, who may feel that the line could be enhanced with some makeup to simulate blushing.

Also, overusing parentheticals could alienate the actor from the script. If it appears the writer is trying to control everything, any trust and bonds which had been present could disintegrate. Such overuse is referred to by the slang word wrylie (and various spellings) – where a writer feels that each line of dialogue requires a specific method of delivery. Again, there may be exceptions, but this is definitely something a writer should try to avoid. Ask yourself what a parenthetical actually adds to a production. If the answer is nothing except boosting the writer’s ego, then it probably should be omitted.

Transition is a post-production technique which is concerned with how two (or more) shots (or broadly, scenes) are combined visually using various film editing or video editing  processes. Transitions in a script have slowly fallen out of favor. Unless there is an overwhelming need to have a fade-to-black, jump-cut, or other transition, such decisions are generally left to the director and/or editor.

Celtx does allow for entering transitions (again, via the pull-down menu). Such entries are all capitals, and right-justified. There are no examples in the sample film template, but I did include general transitions in my script – though these were limited to FADE-IN and FADE-OUT.

The final section (I’m going to omit text,  since that’s rather self-explanatory) is shot. That one word can cover quite a lot of ground (figuratively and literally). Again, there is a fine balance between indicating a specific shot the writer believes would be best, and allowing the director to actually direct. One of the important things to remember is conveying an idea of what the overall scene should add to the film itself.

A shot could indicate how much of the scene is actually visible in the frame (field size). For example, if a character is arriving at a location then a long shot might be called for – a small image of the character on the distant horizon, slowly approaching and seeming to grow larger as they near the location. A character operating some huge machine might be captured with a medium shot – showing both the character and the machine in the frame. Or, a specific object may be the focus of the scene – a close-up of the object might work best. Keep in mind there is no specific definition of what the difference between, say, a long shot and a medium shot is – those are general terms intended to give an idea of what is intended to be shown.

A shot can also indicate the position and/or angle of the camera itself (camera placement). Maybe a body is lying on the ground; rather than showing it from ground level a better setting of the mood could be gained by using an aerial shot, viewing straight downward. Maybe a conversation between two characters is taking place; rather than showing both, a point of view shot shows only one character speaking toward the camera as if it were the other character. Such camera placement tends to be more clearly defined than field size.

There are several other terms associated with shots, and probably just as many interpretations of them. The important thing is that a shot should assist in ‘telling the story.’ A person (writer, director, or anyone else connected with a production) may think they’re the next Orson Welles (and such an attitude isn’t necessarily a bad thing). But attempting to use innovative or clever techniques, when such ideas don’t add anything to a project, is, to use the closing lines from The Bridge on the River Kwai:

OK. I was going to continue talking about other features in the program (storyboarding, etc.), but I will save that for a future post. As it is, this one is starting to get quite long. So, have fun until next time.

 

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