Looking back on my childhood, I realize that I spent the most time and had the most fun with one special gift, a camcorder. My parents decided to give the camera, which they had bought when they first got married, to my sister, Monica, and I. The camcorder itself was big, old-fashioned, and heavy, but it worked! After my mother showed us how to use it, we went off in search of something to film. At first, we couldn't figure out what to film; but that soon changed. Within days, we began making our own movies.
I usually filmed while my sister was the lead actress; our friends would be her co-stars. Our first films were "Super Girl" and "Janitor Emily." In "Super Girl," Monica would tie a red cape around her neck and bounce on her mini exercise trampoline. Emily, my sister's friend, thought up "Janitor Emily." Emily would pretend to be the janitor at our studio and would take care of any situations that arose: crazy parrots, alien invasions, and the camera going haywire.
As you can probably guess, a very low budget for special effects forced us to be rather creative. Our basement served as our movie studio. My dad lent us some workshop lights. The costumes ranged from the sparkly and colorful sequined leotards and tutus from ballet to the comic skunk head and multi-colored clown hair to my mother's old wedding dress and grandma's fur coat. All special effects were objects that we found lying around the house.
One of the two best special effects we came up with used only a black piece of paper. During a music video, I would slowly lower the paper from the top of the camera. Then, Emily would step in front of the camera, bend down, and pretend to slowly lift it up. In the video, Emily really seemed to be lifting the darkness from the screen. The other effect was a camera trick to give the illusion of a character vanishing into thin air. We used this effect particularly in "Super Girl." The villain would tell about his diabolical plot to destroy the world, whirl his cape around, and vanish. The scenes looked great and Monica and I were proud that we were able to execute them with so little equipment and knowledge.
We also had many sound effects. Our sound equipment consisted of a portable stereo and an old video game set. The rest of the time we just used our voices. The stereo provided music for the music videos. Our best sound effect came from the video game when we were filming a science fiction movie. The game was a space adventure. By playing the game behind the scenes and shaking the camera, we created the effect of a raging battle in outer space.
I still have many of the movies. Now, when I watch them, I usually can't stop laughing. I also tend to criticize the camera work or how we set up a particular scene, especially in the older movies. I definitely enjoyed filming and directing. I loved trying to think up ways to create a certain effect, figuring out which props and costumes would work best and coming up with new story ideas.
Even better than the movies are the good times we shared and the memories I will treasure forever. I will never forget how my sister looked in that cape, or the pink bean-bag chair that we taped eyes and a mouth to and used as a Killer Tomato, or any of the commercial jingles we made up. I intend to preserve the videos, so that when I watch them years from now, I will still be able to look back, remember, and smile. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.