From little acorns....

So what do we do? We have done little for television – our market place is much more modest. Parafotos has its origins in the early sixties when I started filming free fall parachuting– having to cope with a Bolex H16 strapped to the side of my helmet during the opening of the parachute was an interesting experience which no doubt accounted for an increase my shirt collar size.

Then about twenty five years ago we discovered that the world of naturism (the lifestyle of naked living) lacked promotional films to show the naturist holiday maker what was on offer at the numerous naturist resorts around the world. To put this in context a recent survey has suggested that over a million people in this country alone practice and enjoy naturism. Now, sixty films later, we have filmed at 45 different naturist resorts in ten different countries, mainly in France and Spain but also in the USA and Caribbean. In the early days I attended a really excellent Film Production Course at Leeds Metropolitan University; it was an first rate grounding and I still become Mr Grumpy - I’m allowed to, after all I am a state pensioner - when I see sloppy camera work on television such as the sea shot with a sloping horizon background or ‘crossing the line’, which now seems to have become a trendy gimmick, and the incorrect use of cutaways. I also quickly became a disciple of Steven Katz – his masterly Film Directing Shot by Shot is my well thumbed bible. Initially, however, it was a very steep learning curve and we finally realized that equipment hire was not an option, particularly in this country where we often had to grab the rare days of sunshine as they occurred.
Betacam was just starting to appear and that, being out of our price league, we opted for Hi-Band U-matic. A bank loan enabled us to purchase a magnificent Sony M7 camera at £9000.00 which we umbilically linked to a second-hand Sony BVU-150 recorder. It was a great combination which did us well but, boy oh boy, did it have some draw backs. Often naturist beaches are remote and access to them hauling this, by present standards, bulky equipment longish distances over rough terrain proved challenging and was finally aided somewhat by modifying a golf bag trolley for the job. Filming in the sea with this combination was initially made easier with a ten metre umbilical, but later we modified the BVU-150 case into a back pack. It was a cumbersome, weighty combination and it certainly kept me fit! I soon discovered another problem when filming a naturist evening at the Doncaster Dome Leisure Centre. We’d shot an establishing introductory piece to camera outdoors just before it got dark before moving inside to film the evening’s proceedings. But the BVU-150 said: “oh, no you don’t” as the humidity warning light blinked its uncooperative message. While Alison, my co-presenter, guarded the door of the ‘Ladies’, I used the resident fixed position hair dryer therein to rectify the recorder’s well being – luckily it worked as this was not something I’d studied on my Leeds course.
Filming naturism presents its own particular set of problems. Generally naturists are reluctant to appear on film, with the result that we spend a considerable amount of time before each scene assuring the naked onlookers that they will not be filmed if they don’t wish to be. We were about to film in the al fresco restaurant at Club Orient, a beautiful naturist facility on the island of St Martin in the Caribbean, when we were approached by a tall, naked, but distinguished looking gentleman. “I’d rather not be in your film if you don’t mind,” he said, and by way of explanation, “you see I’m an American Supreme Court judge!” We were happy to oblige him. Unlike later in the day when we’d returned to our chalet for a snack, the owner of the resort came in to inform us that one of the visitors had complained that we had been filming her. We played back the tape and the owner said couldn’t see the lady in question. He went to find her so that she could see for herself what we’d filmed. We played the tape a second time whereupon this purple haired old harridan screamed excitedly: “There I am – behind that tree!” It was very difficult not to laugh.
Audio continues to present difficulties in a naturist environment, for example where can you stick a lapel mike? (Er, well, perhaps you’d better not tell us!) But the quantum leap for us was the introduction of DVCAM. Why we didn’t get caught for vast amounts of excess baggage with huge boxes of 20 minute U-matic SP tapes I shall never know – maybe the airlines were more tolerant twenty years ago. Now we can accommodate four 3 hour DVCAM tapes in the same space as one 20 minute
U-matic SP tape. And it was Matt of tv-bay who suggested the Sony DSR 250-P which has provided faultless service while our DSR PD 100P is just the job for shooting in difficult situations.
We strive to be a ‘jack of all trades’, but fear we are ‘master of none’, though our underwater filming has always proved reasonably successful and for that we must give credit to our mentor, Slim MacDonald of Eyewitness, who really is a master of this genre.
Somehow we’ve also managed to find time to publish a book about our filming adventures in the world of naturism – entitled Charlie’s Angels ~ Naturally, Joanna Lumley has written that she found it ‘…utterly charming – full of happiness and beauty: made me long for summertime!’
Aviation is a particular passion as I hold a Commercial Pilots’ Licence and have been a qualified flying instructor for 35 years. We’ve had great fun and satisfaction over the years from sticking cameras on aeroplanes for various jobs, and especially on my dear old Tiger Moth which has, on occasions, doubled as a World War I bi-plane fighter! Our aviation interests provoked our production of both Your Licence to Fly and Silently to War, the latter being a film history of the Glider Pilot Regiment. And currently we’re involved in the production of a documentary about a courageous Army chaplain who won a VC in World War I. But whether it’s the naturist environment of sun, sea and sand, or hanging out of an aircraft door with a camera to catch an interesting shot, if it all just becomes another irksome chore we’ll pack it in!
Charlie Shea-Simonds

Tags: iss028 | parafotos | bolex h16 | betacam | bvu-150 | naturism | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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