Through Jade's Eyes

This blog is about the fictional character, Jade del Cameron (www.suzannearruda.com), and the historical time period in which she lives.

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Location: www.suzannearruda.com, United States

I'm the author of the Jade del Cameron historical mystery series set in 1920's Africa. Lots of action, intrigue, mystery and a dash of romance. Follow me at www.twitter.com/SuzanneArruda *The audio link (view complete profile) is an interview by Baron Ron Herron (9/17/2009, Santa Barbara {CA} News-Press Radio, KZSB, AM 1290

Monday, November 30, 2009

1920’s EARLY AFRICAN MOVIES CONT. : DUGMORE’S ADVICE FOR FILMING WILDLIFE (PART 1)

Jade del Cameron deals with a silent movie troop on Kilimanjaro in TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH. In past weeks, this blog has investigated early action movies set on location in Africa. But what about those like character Sam Featherstone, who came to film the wildlife?

Pioneer wildlife photographer, Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore, documented his expedition filming elephants in his book, THE WONDERLAND OF BIG GAME (1925). And a would-be photographer such as Jade del Cameron or motion picture photographer such as Sam Featherstone might have asked him for advice as did Martin Johnson before he and his wife, Osa, set out to photograph elephants.

Dugmore offered advice on cameras (see last week’s blog) as well as how to hide to photograph the animals. He lists three “principal methods: stalking, working from a ‘blind’ or hiding place, and flash-light.” In his opinion, working from the blind was the “most satisfactory.”

As to stalking, he says it is easy if one is armed with a rifle, but much more difficult when one is “armed with a hand camera.” This is because the stalker has to approach to a much closer range and, with a sixty pound cinema outfit and difficult brush, the animal would likely see or hear the photographer before they could get in range to film. Add to this the necessity of being up wind. It helps if the tripod is partially camouflaged with tufts of grass or branches.

When one finally finds an animal, Dugmore cautions that no movement can be made when the animal is looking up. One must wait until they have their heads down feeding before you move. This is easier said than done. An animal may watch you for several minutes before deciding you were harmless. In the meantime, hundreds of flies and mosquitoes have found you.

All quotes are from A. R. Dugmore, Wonderland of Big Game, 1925.
Next week: Dugmore’s advice on hiding and filming part 2.


NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, and The Leopard’s Prey, all available in trade paperback. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH is available in hardcover. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda

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Monday, November 23, 2009

1920’s EARLY AFRICAN MOVIES PART 4: A. R. DUGMORE

While Hans Schomburgk was most likely the first person to make a fictional adventure motion picture in Africa, he was not the only person to film and document Africa in moving pictures. Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore was another one of the pioneers, documenting wildlife using the cinema. He offered advice for the would-be cameraman in his book, THE WONDERLAND OF BIG GAME (1925).

Having only used the Newman & Sinclair and the Debrie cinematic cameras, he declined to recommend a particular brand of camera although he did admit that he preferred the Newman & Sinclair for long-focus work. He recommended that, whatever camera one chose, to “avoid any that are too high. They are very difficult to use in a ‘blind’ and are less likely to be steady.” He advised that compact is better and that ease in changing lenses is important so as to not miss opportunities. This change should be “quick and silent.”

Practice was deemed important and Dugmore suggested filming cattle in a field using different lenses from different points to gain experience. “Give plenty of exposure, and do not be afraid of stopping down.”

Dugmore advised paying attention to the choice of tripod. “Be sure that it is absolutely rigid, that it tilts and ‘panorams’ easily, that it is quickly set up, and that it is strong enough to stand the hard usage.”

Finally, he advised that “great care must be taken of the exposed film, and the sooner it is developed the better will be the results.” Humidity, it seemed, was a bigger problem than heat and it the Kenya dry season, there was no deterioration of film even after a month or more.

All quotes are from A. R. Dugmore, Wonderland of Big Game, 1925.
Next week: Dugmore’s advice on hiding and filming.


NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, and The Leopard’s Prey, all available in trade paperback. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH is available in hardcover. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Pre-1920’s EARLY AFRICAN MOVIES PART 3: CAMERA TROUBLES

The motion pictures: White Goddess of the Wangora and The Outlaw of the Sudu Mountains were two of the dramatic films made by Hans Schomburgk and starring Meg Gehrts, both of them made in German occupied Togoland around 1913

Making a motion picture on location has its own troubles. Weather doesn’t always cooperate for one and when Schomburgk’s crew tried to film at Mangu, the dry heat played havoc with the cameras, cracking the wood. Cameraman James Hodgson and Producer/Director Schomburgk worked every evening to repair the day’s damage. Sealing wax was used to fill the cracks in the wood. First it was pressed in, then “smoothed down with hot knives and covered with sticky tape.”

The crew had only brought two “cinema cameras” along and three “ordinary” cameras and “the woodwork of one of these had got so badly warped by the heat on the road up as to interfere with the working of the mechanism, rendering it utterly useless.”

Since there was no other motion picture camera to be had outside of Europe, that last working camera was babied daily. They hired one African worker to continually “rub it over with palm-oil.”

Meg Gehrts wrote about her experience in a rare book: A CAMERA ACTRESS IN THE WILDS OF TOGOLAND.

quotes taken from M. Gehrts’ A Camera Actress In The Wilds Of Togoland
NEXT WEEK: More early motion picture lore.

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, and The Leopard’s Prey, all available in trade paperback. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH is available in hardcover. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda

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Monday, November 09, 2009

1920’s EARLY AFRICAN MOVIES PART 2: WHITE GODDESS AND OUTLAWS

In TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH, Jade del Cameron leads a Hollywood silent film crew to Kilimanjaro to make a motion picture. In last week’s blog, I wrote about an early silent movie filmed, not on Kilimanjaro, but in German occupied Togoland.

The White Goddess of the Wangora was not the only motion picture being filmed by Hans Schomburgk and starring Meg Gehrts. It was too costly an adventure in terms of money, time, and effort to travel into wild African territories for only one picture. In addition, Schomburgk made several documentary films about tribal bead making and daily life. And he filmed Outlaw, another adventure picture.

In Outlaw, a white man is cast out from his companions and “takes to the bush, living as a native amongst the natives.” When he finds a farm settlement, instead of rejoining society, he “prowls” nearby until the farmer’s wife (Meg Gehrts) orders him off. He goes, “cursing and threatening” to “his lair” where he has collected “a lot of black scalliwags” (birds of a feather as it were) and become their chief. This outlaw decides to abduct the woman.
(photo still from White Goddess of the Wangora)
Meg Gehrts writes that this abduction scene caused an accident. She was supposed to struggle and she did so, giving an “more than usually energetic wiggle” while the camera man called out “Capital! Capital! Keep it up! Keep it up!” It seems the villain was supposed to carry Meg in his arms, but he insisted an outlaw would hoist a woman over his shoulder. Meg’s energetic struggle caused the actor to lose his balance, trip over a boulder, and the pair tumbled “on the very brink of the precipice.”
Ms. Gehrts landed less than a foot from the cliff’s edge.

The camera man, true to form, never stopped cranking film and the accident produced a very dramatic bit of footage for the movie. Meg suffered considerable cuts and bruises. What effect did it have on the actor? He soon after “got homesick and gave out that he must return to Europe then and there.”

Meg Gehrts wrote about her experience in a rare book: A CAMERA ACTRESS IN THE WILDS OF TOGOLAND.

Image and quotes taken from M. Gehrts’ A Camera Actress In The Wilds Of Togoland (film still)
NEXT WEEK: More early motion picture lore.
.
NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, and The Leopard’s Prey, all available in trade paperback. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH is available in hardcover. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda

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Monday, November 02, 2009

1920’s KILIMANJARO PART 10: FIRST MOVIE IN AFRICA

In TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH, Jade del Cameron leads a Hollywood silent film crew to Kilimanjaro to make a motion picture. During one of my book talks, a reader questioned the premise of a silent film company shooting a movie on location. The reader thought that most pictures of that time were shot on film lots and in studios. And many were. But since this was before the need to record sound, the constraints on where to shoot a film were much less than when one had to block out extraneous noise. Just what was the first picture to be filmed in Africa?

Trader Horn, (1931) starring Harry Carey, is often credited as being the first action-adventure movie filmed in Africa. Perhaps it depends on how you define “action-adventure” but in truth, it wasn’t the first. That honor should go to a German motion picture called THE WHITE GODDESS OF THE WANGORA, which was filmed by Hans Schomburgk in 1913. The location was Togoland, a German protectorate in what is now the Volta region of Ghana, Africa.

His film starred actress Meg Gehrts, a woman who would later become Schomburgk’s wife. While he ostensibly wanted to film documentaries about life in Togo, Schomburgk knew he needed a girl to draw a bigger audience. And so his picture slipped from documentary into the realm of adventure fiction. The plot: a white child is found washed up on Togoland’s shores and the Togo raise her. Only they see her as (what else) a goddess. Once she’s all grown, she is found by a white hunter (played by Schomburgk). Naturally, he’s captured and will be brutally killed but the girl has fallen in love with him. She saves him, and after a dramatic chase scene, they escape to live happily ever after. If that’s not an “action-adventure” then what is?

Meg Gehrts wrote about her experience in a rare book: A CAMERA ACTRESS IN THE WILDS OF TOGOLAND.

Image taken from M. Gehrts’ A Camera Actress In The Wilds Of Togoland (film still)
NEXT WEEK: More early motion picture lore.
.
NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, and The Leopard’s Prey, all available in trade paperback. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH is available in hardcover. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda

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