Two months ago, Blue Spark (aka Leslie Cameron) took me to see the Sea Shadow, the stealth research ship built in the 80’s by the CIA, kept secret until the 90’s, and now, in 2012, set to be destroyed.  It’s gorgeous in a dark, twisted way, but I’m not conflicted about it’s destruction.  No, no.  Tear it down, piece by piece, and sell it for scrap.  Re-use those 2-ton brass pipes, the Dr. No paneling, the switches, the dials, the Darth Vadar paint that somehow never corroded, never collected barnacles. How is that possible?

Minoosh, our Iranian photographer and filmmaker, helping me test exposure.

If you look very carefully, you can see four diamonds on the underside – 2 big and 2 small – which facilitated the transport of secret documents (via the small diamonds) and Navy Seals (via the large ones).  

Photog’s and filmmakers Ajakari and Anita on set.

Enough secrets, I say.  Time for a new paradigm.

Yet, the beast is sexy.  Gorgeously grotesque.  A backdrop to end all backdrops.  And so the planning began.  Blue Spark would provide access.  I must return, I thought.  With cameras.  But not just for a photo shoot.  Something big.  Grandiose.  Ceremonial.  Cinematic.  A music video!  That’s it!  With hip hop dancers, custom choreography, weeks of rehearsals.  Like Madonna.  Like Lady Gaga.  Like I had the cash.  Scratch the music video.

Incredible crew with great energy: Anita, our Taiwanese filmmaker.

Alright, then.  How about a photo shoot that would be filmed?  A sort of Behind-the-scenes video in Dr. No’s lair?  Only instead of Double-0-7 and Money Penny, there’d be filmmakers videotaping filmmakers filming photographers shooting filmmakers as makeup artists painted models who’d of course be photographed and filmed.  Layers upon layers.  Stories within stories.  A bad boy stealth bomber, woops, I mean “research” vessel, with a cock pit straight out of Ian Fleming’s wildest imaginings.  Lots of gadgets and switches and hatches and creepy lighting.  Madness.  Chaos.  Beauty.  War.  Death. Rebirth.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes!

We’d collect A-roll and B-roll and C-roll and as if that wasn’t enough, something mysterious would happen, at some point, somehow and then we’d film that.  What would it be?  I had no idea.  Details.  That would come.  Meanwhile, there was a deadline.  November 1st and counting, after which it’d be, Hasta la vista, baby.  Chop, chop.

Faith playing the part…

The first model skedaddled to LA.  The second didn’t receive my text.  The third materialized less than 24 hours before the shoot.  What a relief.  Faith was her name.  Of course, Faith was her name, and she was perfect.  We discussed wardrobe at Ollie’s Waffle Shop in Alameda at 8pm the night beforehand.  Namely, I needed contrasting imagery:  warmth, beauty, nature, and color against the dark, mechanical, cold, hard steel that is the Sea Shadow.

This was not a fashion shoot.

This was something else.

Two generations:  Faith and Athena.  The Present and the Future.  Hope.  Potential.  Mother Nature.  The Earth.  The beats of a new drum echoing…..reverbing from her core.  Boom, boom, boom.  Let go of the old, and from these fissures, as dark finds light,  will spring the new.

And then something magical did happen.

At twilight, when the sun slipped beyond the sea.

Athena, Betty and Dori slip silently from the shadow realm.

The fairies appeared.

Betty and Athena

Not one, two or three,

Blue Spark appears at dusk

but four, including Blue Spark!

As the crew  gathered, the fairies flitted back into the Unseen – ethereal creatures who’d for a moment allowed the invisible to become visible.

Daniel and pal managing the uploads

And then Johnny and Daniel worked their own magic, transporting over 100 gigabytes of still photos, video and sound, captured from fish-eye’s and macro’s, both fast and slow-mo, finessing their Bond-worthy gadgetry of USB’s, SD’s, and P2’s via card readers and fire wires to laptops and drives, finally returning the 11 cameras to their owners, at which time we all let out a collective, “ahhhhhh.”

The crew, not all pictured, was fantastic!  Many, many thanks to fairy spirits Betty, Dori and Blue Spark; filmmakers and photographers Gerald Charles, Minoosh, Anita, and Ajakari; Director/filmmaker Chris; Tech gurus Johnny and Daniel; Sea Shadow and HMB-1 crew Alan, Chuck and Paul; makeup artists Erin and Jane; stylists and set consultants Krista, Jill and Gail; grunge expert Sean; and our superlative models Faith and Athena!

Stay tuned, more goodies to come.

More info can be found on the history of the Sea Shadow on Betty’s Blog, the statuesque, 91-year-old fairy spirit.  May we all have her grace and energy at 91!