Alom, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the setting sun.

Demo: The Movie – Production blog 10

Like the previous Monday, we’d schedule today as a day off. Also like the previous Monday: aye, right.

Day 10 – Friday 23rd August – San Francisco

We headed back to the Exploratorium to pick up all the shots we didn’t get the previous day. But I already showed you those yesterday, by accident. Oh, go on. One more:

Alom tickles a Mimosa plant in the Exploratorium
Alom tickles a Mimosa plant in the Exploratorium

We had long discussions about these shots, actually. We wanted to capture some of the atmosphere of the Exploratorium, but more particularly: one of the thoughts running through the film is that science is about noticing the world and how it works. We wanted to film visitors really looking at exhibits. However, as it happened most of the other visitors on this particular day were young families – children around the age of 9, say.

Our intended audience for this film is secondary teachers, and we started to think it would seriously undermine the messages we wanted to convey if the children we depicted were younger than their students. Now, it’s not as if teachers aren’t smart enough to think this stuff through for themselves, but the problem with this sort of subtle subtext is just that – it’s subtle. For the most part a viewer of the film isn’t going to consciously notice, but subconsciously we risked reinforcing the idea that demos are ‘tricks’ best used for ‘making science fun’ for primary-age children. Which … well, look, it actually pained me to type that sentence.

Anyway, the upshot was that we filmed detail shots of Alom looking at exhibits, and completely avoided other visitors. Which made the paperwork simpler, though did mean we lost the big sweeping context shots we’d planned.

I still think that was the right trade-off. It could be that we were over-thinking things, but I tend to the opinion that this stuff really matters when one’s making films. It’s too late for us to reshoot, but if you feel strongly about this, drop us a line in the comments, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

We spent lunch staring blankly into the middle distance, then Alom failed to buy jeans at the Levi’s factory, which is somehow reminiscent of failing to organise a drinks party in a distillery. Ironically enough I’d done just that shortly before heading out to the States.

Having dumped the heavier gear back at the hotel we hot-footed it to the end of the Lombard/Mason cable car line and hopped on board, pretty much as tourists. However, we managed to shuffle our way into a position where we could film, and Alom gamely delivered an ‘I’m in San Francisco’ sort of link whilst hanging off the car:

Alom on a cable car, San Francisco.
Alom on a cable car, San Francisco.


With the sun well over the yardarm we hot-footed it out to Crissy Field, and the beach there which looks out on the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Kite surfers flung themselves at the howling wind, a group out to enjoy the sunset positioned themselves photogenically in the middle distance, and Alom was completely silhouetted in my viewfinder. We couldn’t hear each other, and I couldn’t see Alom, and I couldn’t change lenses for fear of filling the camera with sand. We shot a wrapping-up link anyway and hoped for the best.

Alom, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the setting sun.
Alom, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the setting sun.

Miraculously, we got away with it. Modern cameras are awesome.

That evening we staggered into a pizzeria and ordered their clam and garlic special, which probably wasn’t the most civilised thing we’ve ever done given that we had a 10-hour flight the following day. Sorry, fellow passengers of UA930. After the pizza Alom had a craving for something sweet, which led to the classic exchange:

Alom: “How’s the cheesecake?”
Waiter: “It’s pretty bad, to be honest.”

Oh. Right. OK, so we found a late-night grocer and there, some little rice puddings. Therefore, kind reader of this blog, let me present you with this classic image of Demo: The Movie’s wrap party:

Rock. And. Roll.
Rock. And. Roll.

Footage shot: 01:24:00 / 15.6Gb (total 15:07:57 / 158.4Gb)

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