Making Movies

John McManamy Health Guide
  • I just noticed it’s Thursday. I thought it was Wednesday. I’m having way too much fun for my own good. Let me explain:

    I’m now the movie business, or, as they say in Hollywood, I’m a player. I had been thinking about producing my own short videos for some time now, and last week I got serious.

    Late last year, I bought an Apple desktop and laptop and started playing around with the GarageBand and iMovie programs. Both computers come with built-in video cameras and microphones. I gave myself a “screen test” by reading some of my articles. I didn’t do too badly. Two years ago, I would have been too terrified to speak into a camera or microphone. But last year, I took a flying leap into public speaking, and picked up some invaluable lessons in the process.

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    Sort of like an old dog learning new tricks. More on that in a little while.

    Nevertheless, despite my new-found confidence, I came to the quick realization that that any more than 10 seconds of me on camera violated several clauses in the Geneva Convention.

    As they say in the business, I needed to “break it up.”

    So I began experimenting with setting still images to music.

    Then I forgot all about movies while I spent nearly all winter working on overhauling my website. I came up for air just in time to catch an Air New Zealand flight to my daughter’s wedding. On my return, I eased back into work with further tweaks to the site.

    It was time to get back to my bread and butter. Blogs, newsletters, articles. Maybe prepare my income tax.


    I quickly dashed off a script. “Intercepting a Mood Swing,” I called it, based on a number of previously published pieces of mine.

    Then I went into pre-production, which involved cleaning the segment of my room within camera-range and dumping the debris onto my bed and available floor. Then I rolled the cameras and started reading.

    Oops! Ten seconds out, and the international human rights people were already mad at me. Droning on camera, apparently, rates right up there with chemical warfare on your own people.

    So I put together a new opening, using music and still images. Portentous Wagner, scenes from Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.

    “ ... you find yourself falling into Hell,” I narrated, by way of a voice-over.

    If Steven Spielberg calls, tell him I’m busy. Time for my close-up.

    “Hi, I’m John McManamy ...”

    Call me butter, cuz I’m on a roll.

    After a bit of trial-and-error, I figured out that the key to good filming was short takes, real short. Between takes, I would reposition my computer and myself, and resume reading. This way, it looked like I had about three or four cameras rolling at once.

    But five minutes of me, even in short takes, was asking a lot. So, at strategic moments, I spliced in other stuff. Captions, photos, sound effects. Ah, so THAT’S how movies are made. I’ve been watching TV and movies all my life and it took me nearly six decades to realize this? Better late than never.

    After a day, I had a wrap. It was time to roll the credits and upload to YouTube. Then I embedded some YouTube code on the home page of my website.

  • It was time to get back to my bread and butter. Then I had a chance to spend a day in the desert with some friends. When I got back, a script was in my head, along with some great photos.

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    “Splendid isolation,” I narrated over my desert photos to slow soft music by Mahler. “A chance to connect ...” Close-up of flowering cactus. “What could be more life-affirming?”

    Jump cut to dark screen and pounding screeching Mahler. “Isolation nearly killed me,” read the caption.

    Time for my close-up.

    Now, I began implementing a few new tricks, plus refinements to “old” ones. Yesterday, I uploaded video number two. Already, I could see vast improvements over my first project. This was highly-gratifying. My recent website overhaul involved my learning a number of high-degree-of-difficulty technologies. Now I was making movies. This old dog was learning new tricks.

    Time to be serious: At about my age, bad health forced my late father into early retirement. He had already been dying in slow motion long before. I remember as a young adult vowing never to end up like him.

    Instead, I got blindsided by bipolar and wrecked my life no end of times. By the time I reached my late 40s, the only role left for me was that of crazy uncle in the family. If only I could have ended up like my father.

    Then a series of healings began. I discovered the internet and got into the publishing business. At the time, I knew nothing about my illness or the new technologies, but I was willing to learn as I went along. Now, I was doing something I never dreamed of doing - I was making movies.

    More serious talk: The videos represent a new way to reach out to my community. When our illness has the upper hand, generally the last thing we want to do is read. But even when we are well, videos have a way of packing a wallop in ways the written word cannot.

    In turn, the written word has numerous advantages over video. It comes down to personal choice.

    My intention is to produce short new videos at regular intervals, based around practical solutions to common situations. My first two efforts are a bit ragged around the edges, and so will my next ones. I’m just entering a long and steep learning curve. I will get better as I go along. In the meantime, I feel sufficiently confident to share my first efforts.

    Please check out my work:

    At YouTube:

    Intercepting a Mood Swing

    At mcmanweb:

    Home page

    At YouTube, you can give me your feedback and provide me with ideas and topics for future videos. At my website, you can contact me via email. And here at BipolarConnect you can post your reactions.

    In the past, your efforts have guided me into how to shape my Newsletter, Website, and my writings here. Your views matter very much to me. I have a lot to learn.


Published On: April 03, 2008