Even two years after completing “Willing to Fly“, the project is still a work in progress. This project, like my earlier films, are not new one year and obsolete the next because “Willing to Fly” is not so much about what is in front of the camera, but rather how the subject in front of the camera is being shot. It is this that keeps the film fresh. I am not relying on the newest thing to keep people watching the screen, because skydiving is a sport that changes by the month. But with this said, I still like to show my viewers things they have never seen before, like the wildfire night wind tunnel scenes and the falcon in freefall with his trainer. Most of the “newness” of the project comes from the many perspectives presented to the viewer.
The “Willing to Fly” package sold more copies in the first year than any of my earlier films and, according to many of my dealers, it sold more films in the first year than the other skydiving videos on the market. This is even more of an accomplishment, as “Willing to Fly” is an expensive, boutique item consisting of a 63-page full color book and a 64-minute film shot primarily in 35mm movie film. This is the only skydiving film that has been shot on 35mm film, and the quality shows. I used 16mm film for the high-speed (slow motion) scenes. Though the price for the package seems high, I like to think the purchaser is still getting a bargain for this money, as they are buying both a book and a film, plus they will have the an opportunity to buy upcoming “Willing to Fly” products that will only be available to purchasers of the “Willing to Fly” package.
Another “first” with “Willing to Fly” is that I toured with the film before it was available for sale. The first premier was here in my hometown of Flagler Beach. When I was looking for auditoriums to rent for the premier, one of the possibilities was a place with a 150-person capacity, but as I started getting RSVP’s the count was up to 150 in less than one week, so I decided to rent an auditorium with a 1000 person capacity. This was a good decision as about 700 people came to the premier. When ask people from Florida if they have seen “Willing to Fly“, they either say, “Yes, the premier was fantastic.” or “No, I missed the premier.” What I learned from that is that having a premier added immensely to the experience of seeing the film; it made it even more special for the viewers. After the premier here, I had the opportunity to show the film in Mexico City (where I lived until I was 19), at the Espace Boogie in Vichy, and then at the World Freefall Convention in Quincy. Each premier reinforced what I learned from the first, which is that the event was as much of an impact as the film. It was one of the first times skydivers could view a film among a large group of their fellow jumpers; it is quite an experience. I have had the honor to show the film to other groups after “Willing to Fly” was released, and those showings were just as much fun with the group dynamics. I actually got the idea to tour with my movie from Sam Rostocks, when I was getting ready to release “From Wings Came Flight” in 1987. I was first going to premier the film in the US and then travel to Canada for a second showing. But the film was not ready for the US premier date, so the world premier was in Canada. For the Canadian jumpers it was off-season, so it gave the skydivers a great opportunity to get together and see a unique film about their sport; the evening was fantastic.
Now that I knew the impact it made to premier “From Wings Came Flight” I made sure to plan a tour for “Willing to Fly“. It would have been great to tour with “Willing to Fly” for two to three months, but I was tired from the effort of completing the project and had also spent all of the money to complete the film. Touring with a film is expensive, but it is an expense I will budget into the next film I produce.
It is great to look back over the comments I have received from people; people have been very generous with their praise and it is these comments that make all the work worthwhile. One of my favorite comments is that people tell me that they can show the movie to their families and friends that don’t skydive, and it gives them access into the world of skydiving. One of my main goals with “Willing to Fly” was to appeal to the person in the skydiver, not necessarily the skydiver. The images in the film usually do not picture what happens at the drop zone. This has frustrated some skydivers and one of their comments to me is, “This is not what is looks like when we skydive”. My answer is “Of course not”. My technique of filming is not a “reality TV” approach; rather, I am looking for the magic in what is happening. I am capturing unusual perspectives of usual events. Sometimes, I use a tight lens to get up close and look at one part of the performer, maybe the arms or the legs, or the movement of the torso. I am not just trying to capture the images for a documentary. When I say I am I trying to appeal to the person in the skydiver, I mean that sometimes the “skydiver” gets in the way of appreciating what he or she is seeing because they are comparing it to how it looks when they jump. The magic of movie making is to try to show the viewers something they think they have seen, but have never seen
Another one of my favorite comments is that people who had seen “Willing to Fly” at one of the premiers see the film again and think that I have re-edited the program. The film that was presented at the first premier is the same that was shown at all the other premiers and the same film that is on video now. I planned that people would “see” a different film every time they watch “Willing to Fly” because they see and hear things that were overlooked in the first viewing. I planned to have more than one thing happen during each shot, so that every time you watch the film there is more to see. A great example of this is in the transition piece after the pond-swooping section; there is a slow-motion shot of a bee buzzing around a water lily and the reflection of a person swooping over the water. Usually, at the premiers, the people missed the bee because they could not hear the buzzing through the cheering of the crowd; but when they watch the film at home, they notice the bee.
I said at the beginning that “Willing to Fly“, though completed, is still a work in progress. My next plan is to release “Willing to Fly” as a video only, without the book. At first, this was not an option because, to me, the book and video are inseparable and the film is the last page of the book. But, as customers have been requesting to buy the tape only, and I am going to make that available as of November 2001. I am also working a DVD version of “Willing to Fly“, complete with an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at the development and creation of the project. I would also like to produce a version of “Willing to Fly” which would present many of the shots in their entirety, and also show some of the out takes which I did not have time to put into the original version. My idea is that this would be something to be put on the TV as background, not necessarily as a movie you sit down and watch. This product would only be available to people who have purchased the “Willing to Fly” package which, as I said before, makes their original investment even more valuable.
“I was a little hesitant about spending so much on one video…but you have made it worth it! Wow! What a great video!” Mark Weaver, TX
“It’s great that there is a person who can show the beauty of our sport and not only the craziness and speed. You are a great man Norman.” Jarslaw “Widget” Szot – Poland
“Now I know what separates you from the other freefall cinematographers. You are truly an artist. Keep up the good work.” JD
“I’ve been skydiving for almost twenty years now and through the years I have always enjoyed your talent for catching the moment on film. You’re the best Norman.” Richard K. Shadle
“Thanks for these scenes, they inspired many beginning jumpers to keep jumping and the ones that has some experience to jump more and more.” Filipe Fontenele- Belem-Brazil
“Ohhh…wow…We just tore one open (Willing to Fly) and looked through the book, way impressive! Photos are awesome, layout is awesome, and the words!” Lisa
“Awesome!! Incredible!! Visually stunning…appealing to all of the senses! … “Willing to Fly” is a move that goes beyond anything ever created about skydiving. With a surrealistic quality it succeeds in bringing forth emotions and feeling that are so difficult to verbalize amongst those of us who have tasted flight.” Claudia Crandall
“About a year ago I bought “Willing to Fly” and (I) use it to show non-jumpers that for most of us this sport is not about ‘Blue skies, Black death’ but about striving for the dreams that make us who we are. About humanity that seeks beauty and artistry in the search to become more than we have been.” Scott Owen
“Some days ago I saw your video “Willing to Fly“. I can only say one word: Excellent!!!!!!!!!!” a beginner skydiver, Luis
“I have just received your video (Willing to Fly). This is not a video, it is a film for an Oscar. This is a video for all. It shows the skydiving like an art, not a sport.” Evandro Araujo- Brazil