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BBC Trex

A film crew was here recently on behalf of the BBC to do a program about T rex 
to be aired next year. It will feature the usual cast of talking heads: Horner, 
Bakker, Farlow, Brochu, me, but not, surprisingly, Holtz (they did talk with 
him on the phone, though). 

Since so few of you have ever been involved in one of these programs (other 
than as video-critics), I'll share what took place. A lot of what happens is 
common with all video filming. I am always told that it will only take two 
hours or so, but I know they are lying to themselves. It ALWAYS takes twice or 
more as long. In most of these productions, there is a lot of waiting while the 
shot is discussed adnauseam between the cameraman, director and producer. I've 
told them that I think they are all frustrated independent film-makers. Usually 
I get a nervous laugh, as if they have been found out. But this time, the BBC 
director laughed and admitted some truth to that. Then lights get set up and 
adjusted a half-dozen times, and the camera positioned. By this time I 
inevitably have to pee from the soft drinks, so when I walk off to the men's 
room, I have to remember to either cover the mike I am wearing with my hand, or 
turn it off (it's worse if I have to do more than pee). The !
C sound man told me he has heard some interesting things at times (but not from 

Once all that is done, then the director will tell me what he/she wants me to 
do. In this case, the morning filming was done at the US Geological Survey 
drill-core library, where the warehouse structure is filled with row-after-row 
of steel shelving almost to the ceiling. Each of the shelves was filled to 
capacity with stacked boxes of rockcores taken from dilling (its not a book 
library, but a rock library). The obvious connection was from the ending of the 
first Indiana Jones movie. I was taped walking towards the camerawith the 
bright sunlight at my back through the open loading door. Naturally one take 
wasn't good enough ("walk this way",  "that was good, but this time walk 
slower", "walk alittle faster", etc.). Re-set the camera and lights, more 
talking, okay, "now push this metal wheeled ladder  to this point and pretend 
to be looking at the boxes..." I supposed I was looking for a slightly 
misplaced T. rex. But how the hell can anyone misplace that! Later than morning!
 , !
a boom-arm camera is used to film me taking next to a fork-lift that is 
carrying a wooden crate that ('nudge, nudge, wink, wink') the viewer is 
supposed to think has my precious T. rex. In reality, it is a crate of old 
furniture that the director saw on one of the shelves (I referred to the crate  
as the stunt-double). The camera starts down at ground level and slowly rises 
towards the ceiling as I walk with the forklift. At one point, I put my hand 
out to steady the crate (not really, but pretend) and the dirctor loves that 
touch of non-verbal communicating that its "my baby." I told her it will 
probably end up on the cutting room floor. 

I had no speaking lines during all of this and the filming was simply for 
"effects" or to convey a "mood" (now you know why I say that these video 
production crews are frustrated film makers).

Throughout all of the morning shoot, the producer and director are in a tizzy 
because the next day filming is out the window: Bakker refuses to be filmed 
driving down a dirt road. By the time we finish that morning, the plan was to 
met Bakker at Dinosaur Ridge, just west of Denver where Lakes collected 
dinosaur bones for Marsh in 1874. I warned the director that the location was 
right next to a highway - she wasn't happy. I don't know how that shooting went.

That afternoon, we shot at the museum. First me in the lab with some of my 
volunteers in the background looking busy. I have my first speaking roll 
discussing who T rex was (duh!), etc. I am fed questions by the director to 
answer in a manner that gives he impression that I am just speaking. Usually, 
that means couching the question in some manner so that you (the viewer) knows 
what I am talking about: "What did T rex eat?" becomes, "T rex was a 
carnivorous dinosaur that ate meat..." The questions are edited out so all you 
hear is my reply. 

All of this shot the afternoon, so we moved into the dinosaur gallery since the 
museum just closed. Filming continued with me and the tail bitten hadrosaur 
(see http://dino.lm.com/images/display.php?id=1447). That naturally took hours 
to film since the camera was repositioned numerous times for different 
"effects": me walking towards the hadrosaur with a bright light behind me, me 
starting up at the bite mark, me up on a ladder with the bite mark with a T rex 
tooth in hand, etc., etc., me talking, me not talking. As usual, it is very 
tiring and I usually get goofy (or goofier). At one point the camera is filming 
me as I climb the ladder, so I turned and asked if the camera makes my butt 
look bigger (the director has a little monitor that shows her what the camera 

So that is basically what happens at one of these (and you thought it was just: 
stand here and talk to the camera). It is nothing like making a home video and 
really is like making a movie ("Action!"). Only once in these various 
productions did I have make-up - my forehead was too shiny.