Travel Adventure Documentary Magazine
Travel Adventure Documentary magazine
where filmmakers and exhibitors meet

Adventures in Filmmaking

Stan Walsh Posted by Stan Walsh in The Travel Adventurers May 29th, 2014

 


 
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. 
    
Available at all major book suppliers
Let’s flash-back to the beginning of Peter’s 40 year career. One Canadian magazine profiled Peter by calling him, ”A master of all trades: Writer – Director – Producer – Cinematographer.” We would also add – Raconteur – Entertainer.
    
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.
Film was big back then but music was bigger. Peter switched to filming gigs with headliners like John Lennon, The Who , Tommy Smothers, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, now just memories as faded as their jeans. Those were wistful 16mm days with reams of footage to be synced on a flatbed editing bench; a nightmarish task now accomplished easily by one mouse click using Final Cut Pro.
    
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
An honor Director Peter Rowe would surely win would be a PhD in Human Patience. When actors stomp off in a huff a director has to go into damage-control mode. Hemingway defined courage as “grace under pressure.” Peter displayed style and cool courage when working with actors like Jack Palance, Mickey Rooney, John Forsythe and quizmaster Alex Trebek.      
    
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
Volcanic Planet
After exploring and filming glaciers of Patagonia, remote Pacific islands and deep caves in western Canada and Costa Rica, Peter decided he might get membership in The Explorers Club based in New York with chapters all over the globe. TEC is fairly precise about membership requirements. It was founded in 1904 by prominent men of the day including Polar explorer Adolphus Greely. Members have included Roald Amundsen, Thor Heyerdahl, Sir Edmund Hillary, Neil Armstrong and Lowell Thomas. 
    
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.
Peter Rowe’s Angry Planet
is icing on the cake. “I think we can call it a hit.” It plays world-wide; three networks in Canada, two networks in the U.S. and a variety of networks on all continents, except Antarctica.
    
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. 


 

 

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