LONDON – Good morning from sunny London, home of the Summer Olympics. Photographer Steve Rhodes and I are headed to two interesting stories today. We are going to ride the London Eye, a gigantic ferris wheel on the Banks of the Thames River. Each of the capsules can fit 30 people and one rotation takes half an hour. I rode it two years ago with my wife and kids. On a clear day (like today) the view should be spectacular.
Also today, we are doing a story on London’s “Singing Cabbie.” Aiden Kent drives a cab during the day and sings in pubs and restaurants at night. A unique day.
Monday was a success by every measure. Steve and I worked a 19-hour day, taking advantage of spectacular weather. When it’s clear, dry and sunny in London you keep rolling because you never know when the weather could change.
We spent a portion of the day on a “Harry Potter” film tour, seeing many of the London landmarks used by filmmakers. Our guide carried a portable DVD player and showed us the scenes at each location (Thames River, Trafalgar Square, Scotland Yard) and then described in vivid detail what was filmed on location and how moviemakers used post-production techniques to create the magic. We saw dozens of “Potterheads” taking pictures at Platform 9 3/4 where Harry catches the “Hogwarts Express”.
The Kings Cross tube station set up a photo location with a luggage trolley that appears to be halfway through a brick wall. Harry Potter fans would instantly recognize it and each person wants a photo to see if they can be like Harry and disappear through the wall. The famous platform has apparently changed locations several times inside Kings Cross. The actual filming area is between two working train platforms.
We caught up with Kevin Beresford, president of the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society. Who knew there was such a group? Kevin is a “bout” fanatic, creating a calendar of Britain’s best roundabouts. He’s a character, exactly the kind of passionate person that we seek for our stories. We had dinner near one of his favorite roundabouts where a huge IMAX theatre is located. We rented a cab and went around the “bout” photographing it from every angle. We are meeting Kevin in another English city later in our trip to see what’s known as the “Magic Roundabout.”
We capped off the night shooting video of Big Ben, the London Eye and other London icons. My highlight was hearing the bell from Big Ben ring 11 times at 11pm. Stunning!
The “behind the scenes” of this Olympic pre-trip is very unglamorous. Steve and I share a tiny “linen closet size” London hotel room near one of the underground train stations. We share a room to save the station money. Two twin beds. Most elevators have more space than we do.
When we are not doing interviews, we are downloading hours of footage on computer hard drives. It is tedious work for Steve. We pack cables, batteries, hard drives and video cards and bring them into the hotel lobby late at night to work. Of course, we need electrical converters for all of the gadgets and finding AC outlets isn’t always easy. Steve was up well past two in the morning downloading and dubbing video files so we can be ready the next day.
People often wonder why we come to the Olympic host city and don’t gather stories about athletes, sports, or venues. That isn’t our role. We have crews who will come to London in July to cover those angles during the Summer Olympics. Our assignment, which I prefer, is to capture the distinctive, compelling stories that most media either ignore or don’t have time to see.
Channel 13 has created a reputation for unique storytelling that goes well beyond the stadiums where gold medals are won. Steve has been doing these pre-trips since Sydney, Australia. I have covered Olympics in one form or fashion since Salt Lake City in 2002. I have been fortunate to travel with WTHR to Athens (2004), Torino (2006), Beijing (2008), Vancouver (2010) and now London (2012). We see so much more than we would covering the Games. In total, we are spending 15 days in England, taking a train to the southwest tip of England, then driving through the Cotswolds, into Liverpool and York. We hope to bring back 20 or more stories that will air during our Olympic coverage this summer.
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