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ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Storytelling • VIdeos • Travel

Video: Telling ‘Mysteries of Travel’

We tried to make sense of what we had seen. We compared notes. We realized that we would probably never find out anything more about what had happened, and why and how.

In case you missed any of the live shows (or you’re dying to see it again!), here’s the video of my story, “Mysteries of Travel,” from the Monday Night Marsh event at The Marsh in San Francisco on April 29th. Storytelling in the oral tradition. No notes, no text.

Closed captions available. Just click on CC near the bottom of the player.

. . . CONTINUE READING: Video: Telling ‘Mysteries of Travel’

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Storytelling • Travel

My April Storytelling Gigs

‘Mysteries of Travel’  
‘The Great Debate’  
‘The Elevator in Rome’  

I’ll be telling some new stories at three gigs this month in San Francisco and Oakland. Storytelling in the oral tradition. No notes, no text. Hope you can make it! The Marsh venue is easily accessible on BART (or park nearby). And the Stagebridge telling is free.

MONDAY NIGHT MARSH on April 15th and April 29th at The Marsh in San Francisco.

LUNCHTIME STORYTELLING on April 18th at Stagebridge in Oakland. . . . CONTINUE READING: My April Storytelling Gigs

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Storytelling • VIdeos • Travel

Video: Telling ‘The Elevator in Rome’

She looked at me, wide-eyed, with a big smile.
I knew that getting stuck in an elevator was one of her worst fears.

In case you missed the live show (or can’t wait to see it again!), here’s the video of my story, “The Elevator in Rome,” from Tell It On Tuesday at The Marsh in Berkeley last month. Storytelling in the oral tradition. No notes, no text.

Closed captions available. Just click on CC near the bottom of the player.

. . . CONTINUE READING: Video: Telling ‘The Elevator in Rome’

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Production

Health: Our Most Important Product

Technology companies around the world spend millions of dollars on marketing media. Many of these projects rely on real people talking about their own experiences—that staple of corporate video, the talking head.

It’s important to keep asking: what are we selling? I sometimes find it difficult to feel an emotional attachment. Enterprise systems integration or managed hybrid cloud-based solutions don’t always tear at the heartstrings.

But I’ve come to realize that health is the most important product of technology, and that patient stories make the most interesting and compelling talking heads—not corporate executives, engineers, or software designers. Here are four memorable patients . . . CONTINUE READING: Health: Our Most Important Product

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Muse

Eiffel: What Goes Up

As the Seine meanders aimlessly through Paris, Gustave Eiffel’s work of wonder appears to glide from one bank to the other. Our Batobus commuter boat docks in the shadow of the Tower, and I shepherd my small flock to the shore.

Razi, 14, and Danny, 11, have been troupers on this first trip to Europe, and they are eagerly anticipating the Eiffel Tower.

Except … my wife Susan has a phobia. Elevators make her anxious, and she’ll only ride in one if there’s no alternative. Fortunately, the small hotels we have stayed in on this trip have booked us on low floors so she can climb the stairs. But the Eiffel Tower is no walk-up, and we approach with some apprehension. . . . CONTINUE READING: Eiffel: What Goes Up

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Production • Muse • Teaching

How to Succeed in the Film Business While Really, Really Trying

An old friend from the East Coast contacted me recently to see if I had any career advice for her friends’ son, a recent film school graduate who was trying make it as a filmmaker in New York City. I told my friend that, though my experience as a freelance crew person in the Bay Area wasn’t directly applicable to his efforts at finding production clients in New York, I would be happy to offer some general advice. Here it is.

Hi,

Nice to hear from you. As I explained to our mutual friend, I’m not sure how to advise you, other than telling you a bit about my career.

A little background:

Though I grew up on Long Island, I’m not too familiar with the world of production in New York City, having worked my entire career in the SF Bay Area market. I did do some shooting in New York at times, but primarily for California-based clients, usually Silicon Valley companies. And I worked as a freelance director of photography, not producing films as a production company, so my advice will be pretty general.

After graduating from Dartmouth with a major in government, I taught high school . . . CONTINUE READING: How to Succeed in the Film Business While Really, Really Trying

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • VIdeos • Travel • Production • Muse

Showcasing ‘Showdown at Shinagawa’—The Video

Video of a presentation by Bill Zarchy at Northbrae Community Church, Berkeley, California on 2/3/16.

The author reads excerpts from four of the stories in his book, Showdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil.” He also discusses the ins and outs of self-publishing, as well as his background as a globe-trotting cinematographer.

The stories read:

  • “Starstruck at Cannes: Morgan Freeman on the Red Carpet”
  • “21st Century Village: Telemedicine in Rural India”
  • “Dog Years: Sophie, Pop, and Bill Clinton”
  • “Shanghai Lunch”
  • Please note: Video is from an iPad. Sound level is low, but audible. Crank it up!

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Production • Muse

    Bangkok, the Saudis, and the Jism Balls

    Sunset over the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok

    “I’m hungry,” said Randy, as we set up a sunset shot from the overpass near the end of our first day on the ground. “We need something to eat.”

    “Okay,” Larry agreed. “I’ll get street food. There’s lots of it around.”

    “Is that safe?”

    “This is at least my fifth trip to Thailand. I’ve never gotten sick on street food here.”

    “Unlike Mexico,” I put in, “or India, or Uganda.”

    “Or other places. I think everything’s very fresh here. When you buy something, it’s usually been made just minutes before.”

    Larry crossed to the other side of the pedestrian bridge, past a mutilated street beggar, to one of several food carts there. We resumed setting the camera for a shot of traffic below on Sukhumvit Avenue near our Bangkok hotel.

    Two men walked up and caught Randy’s eye. “Are you people Americans?” asked the larger, more prosperous-looking guy.

    I looked up from the camera as Rod adjusted the focus for our shot and Conrad set up his mic. The strangers didn’t look Thai. “Why?” Randy asked.

    He regarded us with a big smile and open arms. “We are from Saudi . . . CONTINUE READING: Bangkok, the Saudis, and the Jism Balls

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Travel

    Good Night, Irene—Confessions of a Mileage Whore

    Bronze Certificate, Funny Travel Category, 9th Annual Solas Awards for Travel Writing from Travelers’ Tales, March 2015

    It’s not easy being a mileage whore. Sometimes you have to do things that don’t seem to make sense.

    United Airlines operates a major hub in San Francisco, and I’ve whored for their miles for years now. On my trip to Brazil recently, because I wanted the mileage, I had chosen a longer United itinerary through Newark going and Washington coming.

    But when things got complicated on the return, I had to decide if the miles were worth it.

    We wrapped our week-long video shoot in São Paulo on a Friday night—amid much hugging and thanking with the cast and crew—and had time to relax over dinner that evening.

    Saturday was the first day all week I didn’t have to set my alarm for 5:30, and I luxuriated in sleeping in. I had plans to meet my co-worker for breakfast before his 3 pm flight back home to Salvador, Bahia, further north up the Brazilian coast. My own departure for the States was scheduled for Saturday night.

    But when I awoke with a start Saturday morning, I had an . . . CONTINUE READING: Good Night, Irene—Confessions of a Mileage Whore

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Teaching • Tech

    Why They Call It Far-go

    At 9 am Monday, I left my home near San Francisco for what proved to be one of my longest trips ever. Twenty-nine hours later, I reached my destination, after a grueling air journey.

    But I hadn’t been hurled halfway around the world. I had finally touched down in Fargo, North Dakota, just halfway across the U.S., a mere 1450 miles from home.

    At that rate—about 50 miles per hour—I could have driven there.

    By comparison, some years before, in 24 hours, I flew from Singapore to Johannesburg to Nairobi to Kampala, Uganda—over 7500 miles. Another time I traveled 8800 miles from San Francisco to Singapore in 23 hours, including a very short overnight in Bangkok. Twice I had flown nearly 10,000 miles to India through Frankfurt in a mere 21 hours.

    But the day before my departure for Fargo, a “Check in Now” email from United hinted that I might have a problem. Though my calendar insisted it was March 30, and that spring had sprung ten days before, Fargo hadn’t gotten the memo. The weather forecast for my destination was “Blizzard” (a word I had hoped never to see on a boarding pass), accompanied by an ominous . . . CONTINUE READING: Why They Call It Far-go

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Travel • Production

    New Award & Reviews for SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil

    My book SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA tells true stories from my long career as a director of photography, working on film and digital cinema shoots across the U.S. and all around the world—Japan, India, China, Uganda, the Philippines, New Zealand, France, Singapore, England, Taiwan, Mexico, and Brazil.

    The book has recently been honored as a Commended Winner in Non-Fiction in the 2014 Self-Publishing Review Awards. One of the three highest non-fiction awards!

    RECENT REVIEWS

  • “Funny, sweet, and wise…deeply moving human interest stories…the doctor in India who doesn’t charge for treating people via telemedicine, the young man in England with cystic fibrosis who has a new lease on life thanks to a portable nebulizer, and the medical student in Uganda who is tirelessly working to help his people.”—Foreword Clarion Reviews
  • “The author recalls his near ‘big break’…as a novice director doing preproduction in the Philippines for a low-budget Japanese sci-fi film…Thumbs up for this filmmaker’s collection of postcards from the edge.”—Kirkus Reviews
  • “’Shanghai Lunch’ is a funny little vignette about Westerners trying Chinese delicacies. ‘The Big . . . CONTINUE READING: New Award & Reviews for SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil
  • ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Travel • Production

    SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA Now Available in Paperback and Kindle e-Book Versions

    SHOWDOWN AT SHINAGAWA: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil

    New Book by BILL ZARCHY on sale now!

    Introduction by Larry Habegger

    Bill Zarchy’s new book—SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA—is now on sale at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle e-book versions. SHOWDOWN AT SHINAGAWA: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil tells true stories from Zarchy’s long career as a director of photography, working on film and digital cinema shoots across the U.S. and all around the world—Japan, India, China, Uganda, the Philippines, New Zealand, France, Singapore, England, Taiwan, Mexico, and Brazil. . . . CONTINUE READING: SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA Now Available in Paperback and Kindle e-Book Versions

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Muse

    Unpunished

    Ten of us arrive, unannounced, at the restaurant on the terrace, hoping for an outside table.

    The staff seats us quickly, then waters, breads, menus, wines, serves, desserts, and espressos us in style. The service is seamless, though during the meal I notice one of our waitresses hurrying by, looking harried. But we gab and laugh and catch up in the sun on the terrace, enjoying the company, the food, and the splendid New England day.

    Eventually the waitress brings the check, with amends. “I’m so sorry about the delay. Thanks for your understanding.” . . . CONTINUE READING: Unpunished

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Photos • Travel

    The Color of Mexico City

    Lots of time in Latin America lately.

    In the past two years, I’ve been to Brazil on two work trips, vacationed in Baja, visited my son in Chile, and now I’m in Mexico City for nearly a week, shooting a medical video. Everywhere we’re surrounded by wonderful faces, fascinating street scenes, huge swaths of color, unique art, and both traditional and innovative design. A visual smorgasbord, for sure. Also, amazingly, we have a whole weekend off.

    Here’s a sample of the color around us. Photos from Coyoacán and Palenco Districts, Frida Kahlo’s House/Museum, and the Museo de Arte Moderna. . . . CONTINUE READING: The Color of Mexico City

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Tech

    Lost Wages: Everything Looks Great at NAB

    In my mind, I’m Danny McCoy, deftly easing my washboard abs into my 69 Camaro ragtop, trolling confidently up and down the Strip, the wind ruffling my hair as I head for a liaison with my all-grown-up childhood pal Mary Connell, or a dalliance with Delinda Deline, the boss’s daughter.

    In RL (gamer parlance for Real Life), I’m a middle-aged guy with grey hair, a little too full of sushi and sake, ambling and people-watching from Luxor to New York, New York, trying to take a few interesting photos on the Strip before collapsing into bed after a long day walking the floor at NAB.

    Obviously I’ve watched too many episodes of “Las Vegas!” Like the Josh Duhamel character in the Camaro in that now-defunct series, I use a lot of cameras. Unlike him, I’m a freelance DP, not a casino surveillance and security expert.

    I’m often asked about how some camera or other looked at the annual NAB Show in Lost Wages. My answer is usually the same: “It looked great.”

    The truth is, nearly everything looks great at NAB. The manufacturers show off their cameras in shooting galleries in their booths. Every camera they make . . . CONTINUE READING: Lost Wages: Everything Looks Great at NAB

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Photos • Travel

    Prowling Through Paris

    I shot a one-day HD job this week for a Silicon Valley company … in Paris. Another shoot with two Canon 5D Mark II cameras, mine plus one belonging to the production company.

    All in all, I was in the air about 22 hours, and on the ground for about 48. I did have a couple of hours to prowl around through the heart of Paris on our arrival day with my camera and director Dan Smith. . . . CONTINUE READING: Prowling Through Paris

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel

    Sky Jockey: Conquering Jetlag

    Busy week. Lotsa time in the air:

    Last Monday—Fly SFO to Washington-Dulles / Tuesday—One-day shoot near Dulles airport / Wednesday—Fly Dulles to SFO / Thursday—Breathe, pant / Friday—Scheme, pack / Saturday—Depart SFO to Paris / Sunday—Arrive Paris / Monday—One-day shoot in Paris / Tuesday—Fly Paris to SFO / Today—Breathe, pant, blog

    Mastering jetlag is the only way I can get through periods like these. It’s an imperfect science at best . . . CONTINUE READING: Sky Jockey: Conquering Jetlag

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Travel

    Townsend 11: Volume 1 Now in More Stores, Volume 2 Due Out Soon

    News from Townsend 11, the writing collective I’ve belonged to for years, here in San Francisco:

    First—Volume 1 of our new book series, No Fixed Destination: Eleven Stories of Life, Love, Travel, was originally published in July as a Kindle book. But now we have made it available at most e-book stores.

    Next—Volume 2 of the series, No Set Boundaries: Eleven Stories of Life, Misadventure, will be published in a few days on the Kindle Store, and through other e-Book outlets a few weeks later. . . . CONTINUE READING: Townsend 11: Volume 1 Now in More Stores, Volume 2 Due Out Soon

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Photos • Travel

    Streets of São Paulo

    Photos from my Brazil trip, August 2011 . . . CONTINUE READING: Streets of São Paulo

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Production

    Brazil: Smooth as Silk

    Less than an hour after my last post (Brazil: Some Days the Bear Eats You), my friend The Dave Mitchell responded on my Facebook page: “Nice, Bill. Easy days are completely forgettable.” Isn’t that the truth?

    “But,” added The Dave, a freelance gaffer/key grip, “I’m available if you’ve got any coming up.” If only!

    After our tough time at the tower, the next couple of days shooting in Brazil were smooth as silk. Just as The Dave said, I can remember little about those shoots except for what we did and where we did it. I always find it amazing that I can easily spin out 1500-2000 words describing a bad day, but smooth shoots leave me with less material. That’s why OO stories (Overcoming Obstacles) are so popular in movies. It’s hard to find a narrative arc in a yarn about happy professionals cheerfully moving apace from setup to lovely setup. . . . CONTINUE READING: Brazil: Smooth as Silk

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Production

    Brazil: Visiting the Rental House

    On my first day in Brazil, I visited the rental house with Mush and Heeka.

    I brought my Canon 5D, a slew of lenses and two GoPro cameras with me from the States, but we’ve arranged to rent a second 5D camera body, two tripods, a small monitor, a wide angle lens, and some accessories from Universo Imagens here in São Paulo.

    Visiting the rental house is a time-honored ritual on international shoots. The most interesting rental house experience I can recall was in India several years ago. In a small warehouse crammed with a variety of battered and somewhat obsolete lighting instruments, a dutiful staff brought out each light we were renting, then plugged in and turned on each one. I’d seen this ritual before and was impressed that almost every light actually worked.

    Then I noticed that, because of rain pouring in under the rollup door, the floor was wet. In fact, the staff members were standing in puddles, barefoot, as they plugged in and demonstrated their lights. I backed cautiously away, nodding approval at the demonstration, but a bit cowed by the unholy mix of water and electricity.

    On another shoot in Taiwan, the staff demoed . . . CONTINUE READING: Brazil: Visiting the Rental House

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Production

    Back to Brazil

    On my first trip to Brazil in 1993, I was shooting for a Japanese high-tech company. We arrived in São Paulo and went out to scout at our client’s manufacturing facility nearby.

    We met with the general manager of the company, a Brazilian who was impressed by this visit from corporate headquarters.

    “What can I do for you?” he asked our clients from Tokyo. “Where would you like to film?”

    “We are here to film the manufacture of our cellular phones,” they responded.

    A frown crossed the general manager’s face. “Cellular phones?” he asked, then consulted in Portuguese with several of his colleagues.

    “We have not made cellular phones here for three or four years now.”

    Somehow, the geniuses in our client’s PR department hadn’t gotten the word that the cell phone manufacture had been moved to the Philippines a while before.

    We did some filming in the factory anyway, but we still needed a compelling story. Through our local production company, we found a sports radio reporter who used a cell phone to issue soccer game reports from the sidelines. Pretty advanced for 1993!

    Last year I returned to Brazil, this time to the smaller city of . . . CONTINUE READING: Back to Brazil

    Books / Writing • Travel

    My Writing Group Has Published a Book of Stories—No Fixed Destination, by Townsend 11, Vol. 1 of Our New Series

    For the past few weeks, I’ve been working with other authors in my writing group, passing through final stages of publication for our first e-Book … Drumroll !! …

    Available NOW at Amazon’s Kindle Store:

    No Fixed Destination: Eleven Stories of Life, Love, Travel

    This collection of 11 personal essays, memoirs, and true stories from Townsend 11, a group of award-winning writers, takes readers on emotional journeys and adventures from California to Croatia to China and back, Ethiopia to Egypt, England to New England, and Hawaii to Hot Springs, Arkansas. . . . CONTINUE READING: My Writing Group Has Published a Book of Stories—No Fixed Destination, by Townsend 11, Vol. 1 of Our New Series

    Travel • Muse

    Paris When It Sizzles

    “Pinch me,” says Susan as we cross the Seine from the Left Bank to face the sun-drenched Gothic towers of Notre Dame. “I can’t believe we’re back here.”

    We peel off jackets and join the throngs of tourists and worshippers outside the Cathedral. Despite the lyrics of the Cole Porter song – “I love Paris in the summer, when it sizzles” – it’s only April, but the temperature this afternoon sizzles near 80.

    We’ve visited Paris at earlier stages of our lives – nine years ago with our teenagers, when we witnessed a suicide at the Eiffel Tower and a young woman in some ecstatic trance dropping her dress at Chartres Cathedral; 25 years ago, during our disastrous Open Relationship period before we had children; and separately back in 1968, long before we met, when Susan spent a year in a study abroad program and I coincidentally buzzed through Paris on a speedy trek across Europe with my college roommates. . . . CONTINUE READING: Paris When It Sizzles

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel

    ‘Wrecks and Pissers’ Wins Travel Writing Award

    Winners of the Fifth Annual Solas Awards for Best Travel Story of the Year were announced February 28 on BestTravelWriting.com, by the editors of Travelers’ Tales.

    I’m pleased that my story “Wrecks and Pissers: The Bombay-Pune Road” has won a Bronze Certificate in the category “Destination: The best story about a place that captures its essence and reveals its attractions, making the reader want to go there.”

    “Wrecks” is a funny story about my travels in India a few years ago. It certainly captures some of India’s essence. I’m not sure it makes you want to go there, but who am I to quibble? You be the judge. . . . CONTINUE READING: ‘Wrecks and Pissers’ Wins Travel Writing Award