Smooth Shooting in Rough Seas

Good Ol’ John

Intolerable Working Conditions

Relax John

Panama Canal

We’re Still Working for Them

In the last 20 years or so I’ve produced over three hundred videos for Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Crystal Cruises and a variety of others. I’ve spent well over three years of my life, one or two weeks at a time, shooting films and videos on various cruise ships all over the world. I know it seems like an ideal occupation, full of blonds in bikinis and martinis in Martinique…and, uh, well, sure there is a lot of that.

But it’s hard work too! Really it is!

I’ve had my share of adventures (and misadventures), moments of breathtaking beauty in far away places and panicky mornings when nothing seemed to be going right. It’s pretty tough to have a major mechanical malfunction when you are hundreds of miles out at sea and the nearest camera rental agency is a continent away. It’s also not so great when you’re hauled in front of the Captain because one of your “elder statesman” actors has been harassing an assistant purser. So you have to really expect the unexpected and be extremely flexible to come back with the goods.

Rules of the Road

I’ve developed some golden rules to minimize these rogue waves you run into when doing oceanic production. The first one is: Always contact the Captain beforehand so he knows you are coming and what to expect, and always meet him as soon as possible when you get onboard. The Captain is the complete dictator of the ship. His word is law. I’ve met some Captains who were the nicest people in the world and some who were incredible jerks. It doesn’t matter. You need to make friends with him as soon as possible. If something goes wrong or you really, really need something done, you have to have the Captain on your side. The Purser is the one you deal with on a day-to-day basis but the Captain is your trump card if you really need it. Case in point, the “elder statesman” actor mentioned earlier.

Good Ol’ John

This guy looked like a million dollars but was completely nuts, something I didn’t find out until we were well underway on a cruise that took us through the Panama Canal. I actually had my doubts after the first day of shooting which involved our actor just lounging around in a splash pool with a beautiful co-star, sipping colorful drinks with umbrellas in them. The next day he refused to come out of his room citing “intolerable working conditions”! This wasn’t a warning sign; it was a gale force winds-hurricane flag! Fortunately his co-star conspired with me to keep him under control between the hissy fits and tantrums. My Assistant Director and I shuffled the shot list so that all of the scenes where we absolutely needed him were shot first. We walked on eggshells for several days including shooting some beautiful scenes as we went through the Canal requiring our actor to lounge on a balcony and point to selected parts of the passing jungle. At the end of this day he announced that he just couldn’t continue such a horrific schedule without a significant upgrade in pay. I had suspected this was his motive all along. I was reviewing our shot list when I heard the Public Address System call me to the Purser’s Office. That is where our Captain, the Purser and a Purser’s Assistant all confronted me with the charges of sexual harassment committed by one of my “crew”. Ulp!!

The Meeting

The Captain was very upset and threatened to shut down our shoot. Of course this would have been a complete disaster and ruin any standing I had with the cruise line not to mention dooming our shoot. Fortunately, I had made the effort earlier to meet with the Captain and assure him I would be responsible for all of the actions of my group. Now was my chance to prove it. The Captain was at least willing to listen to my story. When I explained that we were having all kinds of trouble with this guy as well, everyone became more sympathetic. When I told them I had essentially shot all of the scenes I needed with him, everyone smiled. Long story short, the actor was off-loaded in Panama City with a plane ticket home and we continued shooting all the way up the coast to Acapulco. Fortunately, my gaffer had a similar head of silver-grey hair and so we shot several scenes where all you could see was our actress and the back of her “husband’s” head. No one at the cruise line ever noticed and we have continued to shoot for them for years.

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