When we finally bought a video camera, I swore our home videos would rise above the traditional. Boring? Never. Ours would be amazing. Our friends would clamor to view our latest. Maybe we would tape arty little films, which just might make it to a film festival (just call me the Sundance Kid).
Could celebrity and fame follow our electronic purchase? I became very interested in Oscars awarded to previously unknown independent film producers.
Cut to the scene where I try to learn to operate our camcorder. "It's very simple," Craig says repeatedly. "This pops open, you slide the toggle to 'camera,' turn this button, and twist the knob. Then press this button and you're filming." (Does this sound "simple" to everyone but me?)
After the technical difficulties, I developed problems with my cast members. "Get the camcorder," I'd urge at any given moment. The second I said "camcorder," friends or family quit talking, eating, or cooking to stare frozen-faced at the camera.
"Say 'hi,' " I'd coax.
"Hi," each person said woodenly.
"Uh, want to say what you're doing?"
No one ever did.
Our next venue was action films. When our grandson, Liam, learned to walk, we were ecstatic. We could watch him run up and down our hall for hours. And he, at least, continued to do whatever he'd been doing, oblivious to the camera. Until he saw the light.
"The light! The light!" he'd shriek, pointing to the tiny red light on the front of the camera. Next, he discovered the fascinating viewfinder.
Soon, whenever he saw the camera, he'd beeline for it not optimal for taping the star of the show. Despite our spylike maneuvering (hiding the camcorder beneath sweatshirts or tablecloth, clever light coverups using electrician's tape, and distraction ploys), our days of playing candid camera with "eagle eye" Liam were over.
Notwithstanding our few tiny moviemaking glitches, I could hardly wait for Craig to edit our videotape. Genius would surely triumph. When the video was finally ready to be viewed, I made popcorn and built a fire in the fireplace. I took the phone off the hook and snuggled under a throw. We dimmed the lights.
And there he is: Liam, running up and down the hall for, oh, about 30 minutes. All the grownups trying to get Liam to say, "I love you!" while he points at the camera and screeches, "The light! The light!"
And there's more Liam, clomping in my big slippers beside me while my heel flashes pink through a big, now never-to-be-forgotten hole in my sock. Then, "The light! The light!" as he dashes toward the camcorder.
There's family and friends staring at the camera over Thanksgiving dinner with deer-in-the-headlights expressions on their faces. Each saying, "Hi," at Craig's urging, in strained voices. Their eyes pleading for him to turn off the camera so they can eat. Craig urging me to do "Tootsie-face" for Liam, in which I impersonate our Pekinese by bugging my eyes and thrusting my lower teeth forward while flattening my nose (a lot more fun to do than to observe, I discovered). Liam pointing: "The light! The light!" More footage of Liam running up and down the hall.
Our movie climaxes with the scene that sums up the essence of my movie-producing career. Liam is in his wading pool pouring water through a funnel. Craig, the obliging grampie, sits beside him, attempting to interest Liam in a toy ship. The camerawoman/director (yours truly) is very verbal: "What are you doing, Liam? Are you having fun? Do you like having Grampie swim with you?" Liam ignores me, steadfastly pouring water through his funnel.
Craig looks up at the camera. "OK, hon. That's probably enough."
Bump, jerk. The grass flashes blurrily onto the screen, followed by a flash of my Birkenstocks and bony white toes. The grass again. Blue denim smears by. Lawn. Then Craig's voice: "Terry, turn the camera off."
Mine: "It is off."
Craig: "I don't think so, hon."
Me: "I know what I'm doing."
More jerking, twisting views of grass and feet.
Me: "Oh." The screen goes black. Immortalized forever.
"I want to thank my film editor...."