EL Camino Chose Skype
Sulfuric acid had taken its toll; it was cancer of the larynx. Angry Planet producer, Peter Rowe couldn’t name the volcano where he inhaled the poisonous gas, but the damage had been done. Rowe had undergone chemotherapy and was slowly recovering. His physical condition was poor, his voice worse. He spoke with great difficulty…gravely with long pauses and he still had three personal appearance college shows to give. How to handle it was the question.
As for the personal appearance, requiring travel, it was “unadvisable,” and the colleges were notified. The colleges could cancel the show and find a replacement, or stay with the advertised film, but without the filmmaker.
Rowe offered an alternative to cancellation. He would do a brief introduction for patrons via Skype or send a flash drive with the introduction. All three colleges chose to stay with advertised subject, two would use the flash drive introduction, and one would try Skype.
Rick Christophersen, the new Director of Performing Arts, El Camino College, in Torrance, California choose to go with Skype. This would be a first for the college and stage manager Jerry Root would handle the setup for the show.
Skype, simply put, is an internet system, which would allow Peter to introduce his film from his home in Toronto Canada and broadcast that introduction, “live” to the patrons at El Camino’s Marsee auditorium. Peter would sit in front of his computer, which has a camera, or his smart phone, with same, and send that video message directly to the audience at show time.
El Camino's, World of Discovery travel film series has been one of the top travel film series in the US. The show consists of 12 filmmakers with their films. Each will do two performances on the show date, the first at 3:00 p.m. and the second at 7:30 p.m. As with most travel film series across the US, armchair travel is a must for the 60 plus generation, they love it and they never miss a show.
Monday, April 18, 2016 at 2:30 p.m. found historian/filmmaker Stan Walsh and myself, as Peter’s agent, in our seats at Marsee auditorium. We were ready to catch and record this first Skype broadcast/show at the Marsee. The college had received a DVD copy of the film and Rowe would appear via Skype. At 3:00 p.m. sharp Director Christophersen took the stage, did his announcements then introduced Peter.
Having appeared hundreds of times on stages, as a filmmaker with film and being introduced by the MC, it was uncanny to watch Mr. Christophersen turn his head from the audience, look up at a 40 foot screen and say, “Peter, are you there?”
On this giant screen appeared Peter Rowe, bigger than life, speaking. However, it was shocking to see and hear what the volcano’s sulfuric acid had done.
Regardless, Peter's introduction worked perfectly and World of Discovery's first Skype introduction went off without a hitch.
I was sitting about eight rows from the stage, packing up my camera equipment and was approached by several attendees. All had positive comments and expressed concern about Peter’s physical condition.
Director Christophersen reported that many patrons had stopped him in the lobby after the show and asked him to send Rowe their best wishes, there were no complaints.
As for me, Skype had one very big positive and it was quite obvious. Unlike a speaker standing on a distant stage, Skype took the speaker off that stage and figuratively speaking, placed him in the row in front of me, he was close. In so doing, his introduction became very personal, Rowe was talking to me. I’m speculating that having Peter appear so close, via the big screen, made his talk more personal and resulted in the patron’s comments.
Had Peter’s physical condition been better, especially his voice, Skype would have allowed me to ask him a question, which he would hear and could respond to.
The negative is obvious, Rowe was not there, physically.
Skype is used widely today by business and individuals. The setup is easy; I have the Skype app on my iPhone and it is similar to Apple’s Face Time. In this emergency situation Skype was an excellent substitute for Peter's personal appearance.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I received an email from Peter on Friday, May 20. I had asked if he was improving and he wrote, “Finally, Yes! I ate my first meal since October (2015) yesterday. Incredible!”