Our very first holiday rental film, based on the theme of personality and emotion, was shot by Dan Childs. He spent a couple of days with with John Hobson at Windermere Lodges, who had such a great experience that he felt inspired to write a guest blog for us on how the process was for him. Call it a kind of “behind the scenes/making of” story! Without any more preamble, here it is…
“Well, I’m having a good time. Which makes me feel guilty too. How very English.” – David Attenborough
You know how when you’ve finished watching Life on Earth they switch to 10 minutes of the “making of…”? Well this is the Getaway Earth equivalent for after you’ve watched the Windermere Lodges film.
Like most owners of self-catering properties I struggle with some fundamental questions on a depressingly regular basis. How do I differentiate myself from the ever increasing number of similar properties that are available in the same area? How do I go about communicating the joy and excitement that I feel when I visit the Lake District to people who don’t know it? How can I show potential guests that I really do love the area that they are coming to visit?
The answer came to me in August 2010 when I heard that Getaway Earth were working with Dan Childs to make promotional videos for owners. After a chat with Andy at Getaway Earth we arranged that Dan would travel up to the Lakes in early September and I duly drove to Oxenholme Station to collect him. The first surprise was the amount of kit he had -or rather didn’t have. I had been expecting a truck load of video equipment and was worried that even my estate car would be filled up. Dan sauntered off the Pendelino carrying a small rucksack in which he had his Nikon DSLR with video mode and a small collapsible tripod. Hmm …. I wasn’t going to get a lot of bragging rights out of being seen around with him now was I!
We drove back to Troutbeck and I took an absurd delight in Dan’s reaction as the Lake District scenery unfolded in front of us as we drove past Kendal and into the National Park itself. We got him installed in Troutbeck View and then we went on a dual purpose shopping and sight-seeing trip to Windermere. Dan’s interest in the huge selection of beer in Booths, our local supermarket, made it clear that we were going to get on just fine. Once he’d had time to settle in we went on a tour of Limefitt Park with Suki, my flatcoated retriever. Now, like a few of our guests Dan is slightly allergic to dogs, so it’s a good job we had him installed in one of our pet-friendly lodges. This didn’t stop him from striking up a great friendship with her though and I was only a tiny bit jealous at the amount of footage he took of her down at the dog-field. In fact he got some really atmospheric shots which he has used to great effect to set the scene in the final cut.
Now, no trip to Troutbeck is complete without a visit to the Mortal Man, so, purely in the interest of research, we went up there for dinner. The Sally Birkett’s Hot Pot and the Landlord ale went down a storm and we returned to my lodge for a coffee and a brandy and a spot of badger watching. I cut up a peanut butter sandwich and threw it over the decking and in a few minutes we were watching 3 badgers gambolling a couple of feet away from us . Dan’s camera got an outing and the resulting footage is remarkably steady considering the amount of brandy that I had pressed on him. (That’s obviously why he needs the tripod.)
The next day was the main shooting day and when I woke up I looked out of the window with some trepidation. The weather had not been that wonderful over the previous week – the lakes do need rain to keep full of course, but we do prefer it to fall outside the main holiday season. That morning though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, which felt like a good omen.
We went up to the south side of Wansfell Pike to the spot where a pillar marks the viewing point where the Victorians used to picnic and then we worked our way down through the beautiful village of Troutbeck. I could see that Dan was really taken with scenery. We went past Townend and meandered down back to the Mortal Man where we did a spot of filming in what must be the beer garden with the most stunning panoramic view in the entire country.
Now the hardest part of doing an owner video like this is having to talk to camera. Even though I have done more presentations to groups of business people than I care to remember, my brain turns to mush as soon as you put a video camera anywhere near me. As in most things in life preparation is all, so we sketched out 3 main headings for short (less than 1 minute) pieces. Who I am, what we love about the place and what a perfect day here might be like. Even having done that and rehearsed it I can spot 3 huge (to me) mistakes I made in the final cut, but I hope they won’t be so apparent to people watching the video! It helps of course that Dan is such a chilled out and kind character. “Sympa” as they’d say in France. I can imagine how easy it might have been to be totally on edge, but it all felt very natural really once I’d got past the initial stage fright.
As the day drew to a close we went back down to the dog field to take advantage of the “golden hour” when the light falls more softly and warmly. I was sitting on the bench doing the third take of my “Who am I” piece when Suki decided that I’d been the centre of attention for quite long enough. She seemed intent on proving the truth of the old theatrical adage about never working with children or animals. She put her tail down and started to run around in circles at great speed and then spied Dan’s plastic microphone case. I suppose to a flatcoat a long white microphone case looks suspiciously like a bone. It certainly cracks and breaks in exactly the same way and makes the same satisfactory noises when it does. Sorry Dan! I think you can tell a lot about a man by the way in which he reacts to the misdemeanours of a dog. Dan was ever so nice about it, but then he was in love with Suki by this time.
At this point I had to leave Dan to his own devices as I had a commitment back at home, but being part of the process had been a fantastic experience. I really enjoyed seeing how the film was shot and hearing from Dan about the camera and the settings he was using. In fact just watching what he did and the angles he used was educational in itself. Couple that with a very convivial 24 hours of interesting company and I was sad to have to leave so early.
I had no idea what the final cut would look like, and I spent the next week on tenterhooks. I needn’t have worried. The first draft I saw absolutely bowled me over. What was most interesting for me was that, had I been cutting it myself, I would never have dared to put so much of me in there. I don’t know if that’s just natural very English diffidence or the embarrassment and self-consciousness that we all feel when we see ourselves on film or hear ourselves speaking. Either way if I’d been doing it you might have seen and heard about 10 seconds of me. The way Dan cut it he’s managed to get across the feeling I wanted to convey whilst showing some absolutely stunning footage of the local area. The whole point of the exercise was to create some sort of emotional connection that could go a whole lot further than a photo gallery or a set of video pans in describing what you might find if you visit us. Dan’s editing does a fantastic job of balancing what I wanted to say with some very evocative filming and the music composed by Ayako helps to create just the right mood too.
All in all it was a fascinating experience and the results exceed my wildest expectations. The only problem I have now is that Suki ‘s rider demands are getting ever more outrageous whenever we visit the Lakes – dog biscuits, fleecy blankets, bones and that’s just the start of it. Lassie eat your heart out.
If you are interested in being considered for future films please provide us with your name and email address via the registration form on the Getaway Earth home page.