I’ve learned a few things over the last few days. Way up on the list of things I’ll remember? If someone asks whether or not you can catch a bicycle, they’re almost certainly going to throw one at you. Without looking. More than once, in fact, until it’s done perfectly. I’ve also learned shooting video in a green screen environment is fun, and that I want to do it again!
Early Saturday morning I found myself on the set for the shooting of a new Steve Trash science video, this one covering the water cycle. Steve (whose non-stage name is Richerson) is a world-traveling “illusionist, eco-entertainer, kid comedian, and environmental educator,” as his website reads. He’s world traveling, but his roots are in north Alabama, as is his love for teaching others about the environment. Hence the early-morning video shoot at a small studio in the city of Florence, Alabama.
The video opens with a question: “The water cycle: What is it?” Before he gives the correct answer, the sight gag involves three wrong answers: A tiny bicycle, a unicycle, and a popsicle. It was decided the first two of those three things would come to him through the air (not so much with the popsicle). That’s where I got to help.
After a few quick run-throughs, we were ready to go.
Andrew, the assistant director, stepped to the front of the stage, filling the screen of the video monitor. After looking to see if everyone was ready, he started the litany I’d hear over and over throughout the morning.
And Damien, the sound engineer, replied with, “Rolling.”
And Danny, the videographer, replied with, “Rolling.”
“Steve Trash, Water Cycle, scene 1 take 1.” Then Andrew did that cool thing with the clapboard–Just Like In The Movies!
Morgan, the studio manager, read through Steve’s lines one last time before he went into character and performed them. Andrew, having put down the clapboard, picked up the tiny bicycle as Steve started.
“The water cycle: What is it?” Steve asked.
As Steve was saying “what,” Andrew was in his backswing with the tiny bicycle in order to get the timing right. Without looking, Steve’s arms came up and to the left to catch the prop that had just been thrown to him.
With just the right amount of exasperation, Steve said, “That’s not the water cycle, that’s a tiny bicycle!”
And then he threw it off camera to his right, into my waiting arms. I passed it down to another volunteer, JB, and quickly prepared to catch the next wrong answer.
With just-right comedic timing, Andrew lobbed in a full-sized unicycle–that’s right, a unicycle.
“That’s not the water cycle, that’s a unicycle!”
And then Steve threw it off camera at me, er, I mean, to me.
Okay, just a few quick observations: First of all, those tiny bicycles–you know, the kind that you see clowns riding, their knees up beside their cheeks–are heavy! I mean, 20 or 25 pounds heavy. I think my full-sized bicycle is lighter than those things. Second, bicycles and unicycles have parts that move when they’re thrown. Andrew’s job was to throw them in a manner that minimized the chance of Steve catching an errant pedal the wrong way, Steve’s job was to catch them while appearing not to look in their direction, and my job was to catch them after he threw them without looking at either them or me before he tossed. My final observation: it was a lot of fun, and I’d do it again at the drop of a magician’s hat.
My job done, the scene continued as Andrew slowly handed a popsicle to Steve, with only his arm visible to the camera.
“That’s not the water cycle, that’s a popsicle!” As the popsicle (not thrown to me this time) slowly moved back off camera, it paused expectantly. “Okay, okay, you can eat it,” Steve told his off-camera assistant.
His face and eyes turning back to the camera, Steve paused for a moment to facilitate later editing.
With that last word from Steve (wearing his director’s hat which still looked exactly like a steampunk top hat), the scene was over. One scene down, leaving somewhere around 60 to go!
Being involved with this project, even in a small way, was a lot of fun. Steve’s efforts for the environment are multifaceted, but all are geared toward helping people build an awareness of their personal impact on our natural world–the only one we’ve got. As a teacher, I want to dig into my own bag of tricks to help my students develop that same awareness. That said, the bicycle was fine, but I hope his next video doesn’t involve one of those cannons…
Note: Within the next few weeks you’ll be able to watch this video along with Steve’s others at http://stevetrash.com/classroomvideos