Sunday photos: dawn at the Roque

Another week with not much progress on “Pinch Me”, but for nice reasons.

I sent off another query to another agency about “Murder by Starlight”, so that’s 10 queries out there, and I feel I can afford to hold off sending more until I get a reply or two.

I haven’t heard back about the big translating job, but I got a different one. I’m translating the Transvulcania website. (Transvulcania is an ultramarthon on La Palma. It usually takes place in May but this year it will be October, because COVID.) And I might still get the really big job.

In other news, the balcony now has a parasol, and I love it. It’s a shame it rained at the weekend.

The main time suck this week has been Festivalito. This is an annual film festival held on the island. Unlike most film festivals, the participants don’t spend much time watching films: they make them, and I’ve joined a group. We’ll get a theme on May 14th and we have to produce a 1-4 minute film by May 21st. Luckily we’re a great group, but I have a lot of learning to do.

I’ll be doing the bulk of the script work. I just taught myself how to layout a film script. Now I have two weeks to learn how to tell a story visually. There are great advantages to film – you can show stuff in 2 seconds that it woud take a paragraph to describe, but there are also limitations, particularly with a very tight schedule and a tiny budget. No colliding space stations or flying dragons for this one! I also need to get a feel for how much fits into 4 minutes. After writing for so many years, when I get a story idea I usually have an idea whether it’s a 4,000 word idea or a 6,000 word idea.

Homework for the group was to create a short film, however crappy, just for practice. I rejected my first idea as too static – it would have been entirely me talking to camera. I think my second idea would have worked if I could have organised the props, but that would have taken way too long. My third idea seemed workable.

Dawn at the Roque will be a scene in “Pinch Me”, but it’s someting I haven’t seen for years, so I wanted to go and remind myself. So I decided to kill three birds with one stone and take notes for the novel, record my short film, and take some publicity photos for my books.

It meant a very early start. We still have a curfew until 6, which made it very tight to get to the top for sunrise at 7:30, but I managed. Dear Lord it was cold! Just 4 ºC and a stiff breeze. I was very glad I’d brought a hat, and very sorry I’d fogotten my fingerless gloves. Both of the friends who had planned to come with me had to cancel, so I went alone, with a tripod.

But I got everything done. Not having a friend to hold the camera meant that while I was filming at the Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope I had to use a tripod. That meant that I had to stand further back from the camera than I really liked, but the shots didn’t look too bad. I took some for fun, too.

When I got home, I listened to my footage for the first time and almost panicked. My camera records sound, but has no speaker, so I couldn’t check it at the time. Once it was too late to fix, I found it was almost all wind noise. OK, I wrote out what said re-recorded it on my phone, and transferred that to the computer.

Then I spent hours learning how to use Windows Movie Maker, cutting out the boring bits of me walking in and out of the shot and the flubs and so on, getting the new sound to match up, adding a title and credits. It did warn me that the free version of Movie Maker added a watermark, but I was expecting a small thing in the corner, like I’ve seen with Filmigo and InShot. When I exported the project it put a great big bar across the whole screen, and asked if I wanted to cough up for the paid version. Well no, but I didn’t have time or energy to do it all again. I won’t be using Movie Maker again though.

Normally writers don’t get immediate feedback. It was facsinating watching the group as they watched my 2-minute film. The bit I’d thought was overlong held their interest, and the surprise at the end got gasps and giggles, to my huge relief. So I hope that I can write someting halfway good with a bit more practice. The fun part will be fitting the practice around translating.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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