After walking across the whole of Australia it was truly unimaginable to me, that a couple years down the track, Chris’ big thoughts back in Balladonia would become reality, & lead to the adventure that was ‘The Global Roll’, following the both of us push a giant globe of the Earth, 6 feet in diameter, across 12 different cities over 50,000 km’s – in LA, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, London, Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Rome, Dubai, Hong Kong & good ol’ Sydney town.
The Global Roll
This is a guest post by film maker James Blannin-Ferguson.
This is part 2 of a 2 part story. Catch Part 1 here.
Sponsors Powerhouse Global Logistics, and other member companies in H.T.F.N (Hi-Tech Forwarder Network) worldwide logistics, would host a welcome function in each city, where they would use the Global Roll as a catalyst to raise money for their local charity of choice. This meant getting in front of the camera, telling us why charity was important & why their chosen cause was personal to them.
To get the ball rolling, Chris & I made some short clips of us ‘in training’ before our big adventure. Rolling with world famous horse trainer Gai Waterhouse down Randwick Racecourse, hitting it up with ex-rugby league player Mario ‘The Falcon’ Fenech at Sydney Football Stadium, pushin’ the limits with wheelchair basketball paralympian Tina McKenzie out at Homebush Athletic Centre. We even got down to Botany Bay for a beach boogie with Elvis tribute artist Royden Donohue!
And It Begins, Again, Bigger and Better
The Global Roll kicked off on August 17, 2012. They’d closed off Macquarie street, & people of all ages from all walks of life supporting their favourite charity were milling around Parliament House, gearing up for the inaugural Global Roll down to the Sydney Opera House; in wheelchairs, strollers, on scooters, skateboards, you name it.
I was there with my HPX250 in a loud blue Hawaiian shirt & cargo shorts, standing among 6 different news cameraman in their puffy vests with big-ass ENG rigs in tow. I must have looked like Bart Simpson on holidays… In shorts, because I knew I’d need to run fast ahead of all the supporters & have ONE opportunity to cover the entire walk (as I learned from The Big Roll), & in the Hawaiian shirt (matching to Chris) because it showed we were a team, & stood out from the crowd.
Once again I was running around like a maniac, getting wides, mids, close ups, weaving in & out of the crowd, getting people to shout & wave, just going hell for leather. This is the kind of stuff I thrive on, & when you give something 100%, results will show… hopefully! I filled both Panasonic 64GB E Series P2 cards that day, & it became abundantly clear to me, that I was going to end up with yet another mountain of material, especially knowing what was to come, & then some. So, my logical thought process was, if time permitted, could The Global Roll become a feature film?
My initial idea for ‘The Global Roll Movie’ was to make it like a ‘buddy road movie’. But it quickly shifted character-wise from Chris & I, onto our inflatable friend ‘G.E.G’ (Giant Earth Globe), given how much attention ‘he’ garnered on our roll from Parliament to the Sydney Opera House. Thinking it would be fun & interesting to tell the story via G.E.G’S point of view, Chris wrote speaking lines which he’d go on to narrate. Mixed between the interviews & instrumental scenes of G.E.G’s city sightseeing, I felt his commentary track gave the film a very playful tone, gave it a soul.
To give you scope of just how much you can make something out of nothing, our only planned scenes were the preliminary training videos & the roll from Parliament to the Sydney Opera House. Almost EVERYTHING else, save our scheduled visits to sponsors, was created on-the-fly. Take G.E.G rolling up to the Hollywood sign as an example. The plan was to make it this classic ‘National Lampoon’s’ style scene where he’s visiting all the postcard spots. But… he gets caked in a thick coat of dust. Little did we know, we were rolling up a horse trail… So our Ethiopian taxi driver mate ‘Abby the cabby’ offered to roll G.E.G through the ‘Express Hand Wash’ in downtown L.A for a spray ‘n’ scrub! This is the kind of stuff you just can’t plan. Recognising a moment like that in the spur-of-the-moment (like with The Big Roll) is what made our story unique.
But my favourite scene born out of thin air (literally) was on Barceloneta beach in Spain. Our sponsors were playing volleyball, when all of a sudden the wind picked up & our beloved G.E.G jumped in for a swim! A team of paddle boarders, rubber duckies and yachts raced after, but were no match for the Mediterranean’s great gusts… Alas, all was not lost. Carlos (head honcho of the Spanish freight team) jumped into a cab & proceeded to track G.E.G down. Starting with an investigation on the La Barceloneta promenade, he asked the locals if they had seen “el gran mundo”.
I was back in ‘running mode’, following close behind with my HPX250, moving in on Carlos for close-ups as he asked the question, then whipping around to the subjects for their ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. Unfortunately, the wind destroyed alot of the audio, but it was the ACTION of Carlos enquiring that was enough to tell the story.
El Gran Mundo!
Ironically, it was a guy smoking a spliff; whose comments might have been passed off as hallucinatory on any other day, who leaped up & exclaimed “I have seen el gran mundo!”. Apparently our Giant Earth Globe had been lassoed by a man in a dinghy from the marina located about 2 kilometers north of the La Barceloneta promenade. Chuffed with our hot lead, Carlos & I made tracks!
The cheerful ‘Pepo’; our lassoing dinghy man, greeted us at the marina & retrieved our fat, inflatable friend from one of their boat sheds. Pepo gifted us some rope, & suggested we secure G.E.G tightly as possible. So Carlos demonstrated his navy skills by tying his ‘inescapable knot’, & proceeded to carry G.E.G over his back all the way down the La Barceloneta promenade, pointing out landmarks & garnering plenty of local attention.
This was one of those moments that wasn’t going to repeat itself, so once again, I had to be fit & fast. My strategy was to run about 50 metres ahead, get the super wide, punch in for a loose mid, then as Carlos got closer, I would circle around him, track feet, go over the shoulder, & get crowd reactions. This continued for another 3 kilometers… until our return to Barceloneta beach where Carlos was heralded as ‘savior of the world’.
Again, you couldn’t plan that stuff! It’s just picking out a spontaneous moment & running with it, seeing it through to the end, because you never know where it will lead. Honestly, after the paddleboarders failed with their oars in getting G.E.G back, I thought that was the end. But Chris urged me to stay rolling & it turned out to be a great scene.
On the Practical side
Lighting-wise, there was no other option than to shoot with available light. Reasons being, the majority of the film was going to be outside, & I didn’t fancy lugging around more gear than what I felt was needed, plus budget didn’t afford anything extra at the time. For interviews/scenes shot outside, I always tried to have the sun positioned behind the subject, because it gave a nice edge & stopped them from squinting. To keep background exposure, I’d pull down an ND. But sometimes you’re stitched up when your subject is only available a certain time of the day, & the only way to get that great landmark in the background is to have your subject staring into the sun. If that was the case, I’d pray they had a pair of sunglasses (which wasn’t preferable as it feels a little detached) or if there was a tree nearby they could stand beneath, that was hopefully in line with the angle I wanted to shoot. Luckily, these situations were rare. For interiors, I’d look for big windows. This worked especially well for the interview of our Milan sponsor Roberta Suardi from IFL Spedizioni. Her office was actually a perfect right-angle of windows, & the way she was positioned, allowed for her to have a backlight & some fill.
The biggest directing challenge came when dealing with large groups, eg: the sponsor visits. They would shout in unison “We’re (insert company name)! And we’re doing the Global Roll for (insert chosen charity name)!”. Of course, everyone has different timing, so to avoid sounding like a dog’s breakfast, Chris & I soon realised it was far easier to break down each phrase, and in the edit I’d stitch up the words to make it sound understandable.
Apart from the physical lug of gear, being the one-man-band truly was a blessing in my book. I’m a fast mover (something I honed from the Big Roll), & definitely attribute the amount of footage got, by flying solo. On the flip side, shooting at a frenetic pace & without restraint, meant a higher risk of sloppy shots, & more time spent editing. But the trade-off was I was given just under a year to cut the film, so I had the time to wade through it. I’ve definitely learned from my experience on both ‘Rolls’, & I made a promise to myself after that long long edit… that in shooting, I would keep composed, shoot less, avoid a mess.
A massive leap from cutting The Big Roll on Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5, I cut ‘The Global Roll Movie’ on Adobe Premiere Pro CS5. With hundreds of hours of footage to sift through, I spent every second day for a year on the edit.
Creating a daily plan & setting deadlines for myself was paramount to managing such a wealth of material. First, I’d break the footage down into cities. Then break it down further into scenes from that city. My deadline (which I’m proud to say I stuck to), was to knock off one city per month. I’d then liase with Chris for feedback, who would review & suggest minor changes if any. He’d also tailor his writing of ‘G.E.G’s lines’ into the script, based on what scenes we both felt had the most heart, or would get the most laughs.
Looking back on my film making experience over both ‘rolls’, I’ve boiled it down to 2 key lessons. First; to keep my eyes open. There are stories happening all around us, & we as filmmakers should recognize them & investigate! My second; to embrace spontaneity. Go with your gut. Maybe it doesn’t work out, but then so what? On the flip side, it could lead to a scene (or a feature) with more energy & heart than you could ever have planned.
‘The Global Roll Movie’ set to Royden Donohue’s rollicking blues rock score & vocals, premiered on the forecourt big screen at the Sydney Football Stadium on November 8, 2013 for ‘Global Roll Day’, where 100’s of charities rolled wheelbarrows, wheelchairs, giant footballs, even a stuntman rolling himself! & I was there with Chris in my matching Hawaiian shirt running around like a maniac going at 100%…