Adventures in Filmmaking
Celebrating his birthday sipping Champagne, sitting on the edge of an erupting African volcano is Peter Rowe’s idea of fearless filmmaking fun. In his book Adventures in Filmmaking he tells it all. You’ll have to read the book to find out what birthday.
Peter’s robust narrative style sets a lively pace. At times I almost felt I was reading a fast-moving novel or blockbuster script. High-risk endeavors are the stock-in-trade for his hit TV series Angry Planet.
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In his home town, Toronto, Canada, he was the high school stage manager. He had tasted theater elixir and liked it. At McMaster University in Hamilton, the hippiest college in Canada, his movie-making shenanigans earned him name recognition of sorts and a summer job in the editing department of the CBC.
About this time, 1967, the film scene suddenly exploded.
The first IMAX Theater was built on the Toronto water front. Peter writes, “I was stoked to dive into the scene myself.”
In the mid-sixties a new way of shooting film and telling raw, unvarnished stories was born. Peter joined Allan King and Associates, an exciting outfit. He wrote and produced an elaborate underground docudrama titled Neon Palace which was the first to tap into 50s nostalgia films. It won a Canadian Film Award which was an early equivalent of an “Oscar.”
Rowe on bow sprint (widow maker) of the La Revenante, replica
of a 19th Century schooner used in his new film Shipwrecked on
the Great Lakes. British actor Jack Manser, plays Ned Meyer,
a survivor of the maritime disaster, a true story.
While in London, England at Technicolor supervising the blow-up of his gem, Neon Palace, to 35mm he heard about the Isle of Wight Rock Festival, hyped as – bigger than Woodstock – and it was – hordes of people. He went. Friends filming the event “drafted” him into a 16-hour-day shooting schedule.
Meanwhile, he learned about a group of sailors rocking and rolling on the high seas in a solo non-stop round the world, Golden Globe Race. One boat was lost under curious circumstances while rounding Cape Horn. This piqued Peter’s imagination. His new passion turned to sea stories on film. Peter wrote a script dramatizing the tragic loss. The CBC drama department liked it. He called it Horse Latitudes. The film was made and aired and received nice notices.
Entrepreneur Peter with friend Barry Pearson, Story Editor, formed an independent film company named “Rosebud “after Citizen Cane’s famous last word. After a year of writing (failed script stories come in a later chapter) the company got going with a mini-series called The Spirit of Adventure about explorers and larger-than-life adventure personalities. Peter directed a company of skilled actors including Graham Greene in his first role. A few years later, Graham would win an Academy Award for his role in Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves.
Filmming the Crystal caves of Mexico
From glamorous Cannes Film Festival on the Riviera to chasing waterspouts off Sugarloaf Key in Florida; to Antarctica and the whispering sands of Arabia, Peter’s bucket list is endless. His island list alone now stands at 163. “Just for the record they are: (Next follows a full page of island names) Abac to Yap. “There it is, A. to Y. – haven’t been to Zanzibar – yet.
While climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I’m constantly stopping pulling out the camera trying to tell the story. That’s what adventure filmmaking is – constantly trying to develop scenarios, make things compelling – getting coverage as the story itself develops. My climbing performance is at the “geezer” level. Expedition porters give clients nicknames. I discovered my new moniker was, “Le Vieux”, the old guy, en Français.
One of many active volcanoes seen in Rowe's new release
Peter Rowe was awarded membership by virtue of having documented the world and by producing film biographies of historic explorers. On accepting membership Peter thought of Grouch Marx’s famous line that he didn’t want to belong to any club that would admit him as a member.
Writing scripts, pitching TV Specials, is no bed of roses. Welcome to the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, writes Peter. In the next to the last chapter he presents two dozen thumbnail sketches of scripts that never hit the starting line. Some were judged “too weird” and were tossed into the recycle bin. Others remain, saved somewhere in dusty trunks.
Logo for ANGRY Planet TV series now
seen world wide.
His last chapter is a primer on how it is done. Extremes of nature, life-threating episodes, life in faraway places, Timbuktu, Tashkent on the old Silk Road, avalanches, scuba diving to lure the Great White shark for a camera close-up. (See book cover art.) It is seat-of-the-pants cinema photography. “Shake ‘n Bake shooting.” The filmmaker’s favorite expression – “It’s in the can.” The book stops here. For this reviewer –“that’s a wrap.”
But wait – hand him a mike – a stage – an audience. It is “Amazing Planet – LIVE” Featuring Peter Rowe in person. The audience is captivated. We explore, not just places, but moments in time.
Peter Rowe is represented by Franklin Film Artists.