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You all know how much I love the 101 series from my previous posts, but do I have a surprise for you! I actually got the opportunity to interview the man behind the camera, Wes Olson, himself!
Get ready to giggle at the answers from Wes Olson:
What are some neat things we should know about you?
I like boxes with small things inside of them. My favorite color is clear. Yellow is second. I’ve jumped out of an airplane once…with a parachute. I like hearing people’s stories. I like ice cream with nuts and stuff in it. Fall is my favorite season followed by spring. I really like working inside when it is storming outside. I broke one bone in my body – the metacarpal bone of my fourth finger in my right hand. My favorite food is rice and salad. I’ve written in a journal for over 35 years. I forgot my own birthday one year. I love going on trips with Tammy. As a boy, my bedroom was bright apple green.
How did you learn to do movies?
I went to the film school at USC to learn film but I was nowhere near mentally or spiritually prepared for it. God was after me and He used that time (in the pit of despair) to draw me to Himself. I sort of went crazy and thru that ordeal, I because a Christian. Years later I started a small video production company consisting of me and…yeah that was all, just me… to do corporate films in Portland, Oregon. That lasted about 15 years. We moved to Idaho and circumstances happened where I started the 101 series.
Do you have a camera crew?
My children have always been the crew for the 101 series. My two boys did the camera and lighting and sound for Biology 101. For Chemistry 101 they were married and busy so Rebekah, my oldest daughter did everything! Filming with them, especially when we are “off location” to some cool place is the very best part of producing The 101 Series.
How do you plan for the series?
The original plan was to do films where Christian faith and the culture clash. Biology was one of those areas and world history was another. My customers had a different plan however. THEY wanted a complete science series including biology, chemistry, physics and then general science. So that’s what we are doing. WE have some plans for world history, maybe ethics or world religion but I suspect my customers have some ideas that will again help us make decisions as to what they would like to see.
Do you have any “101 Series Bloopers”?
We DO have a number of bloopers from the films also known as the “gag reel” or outtakes. We have had one for years for Biology 101 (which only a handful of people have seen) and we have all the stuff ready for the Chemistry 101 outtakes. Our intention is to put all three as “bonus material” on the upcoming Physics 101 DVD.
How many times do you have to recite a scene in the films before you go on to the next thing?
Sometimes I get it right the very first time and nail it. But even then we will do two or three takes. Other times it can take DOZENS and DOZENS of tries for me to get my act together – to stop laughing or stop saying a word incorrectly or wait until that dog over there stops barking.
Do you travel to different places for the making of The 101 Series, or do you do it all at home?
The vast majority is filmed right here in the Clearwater Valley of Idaho. We live in a very nice area of the country where trees, mountains and rivers are just a short drive away. But there’s always about two or three weeks where we shoot footage out of the area in museums or amusement parks or a train station or the ocean or whatever the script calls for and we stay overnight during that time. That’s a very fun part of production.
How long does it usually take from the beginning to the end to make a full 101 series curriculum?
Forever…at least it really feels like forever. I often liken it to digging a modern four-lane highway tunnel straight through a mountain…using a spoon. The Biology 101 tunnel took over 4000 hours. Chemistry 101 took about that long too. That averages out to about 10 hours a day six days a week for about 18 months. I think I can relate to mothers who work for HOURS over a great meal just to have the family come and wolf the whole thing down in 15 minutes!
When did you first think of making a DVD series for science, and why did you choose that subject of study?
I had kissed corporate filmmaking goodbye when we moved to Idaho. A couple of years later, Vision Forum had their very first San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival in 2004. They sent out a flyer and email. I threw the flyer away and deleted the email. Tammy dug it out of the trash and said, “Hey I’m looking for a biology curriculum for the boys! Why don’t we make a short film and enter it into the contest!” I mumbled something like, “uh…what…huh…like a film…huh? No.” SO we made the short film, entered it into the contest and won first place in the creation category! Based on that success, we built the entire biology curriculum. (Where we lived during that time is quite a story in itself…some day…)
How long do you study for one segment?
The research is by far the most difficult and time intensive part of the production. (That’s called pre-production is film lingo). If you get the research and the writing correct, the rest flows pretty smoothly. Also this is where the content happens…what you actually teach. It is astonishing how much disinformation is out there on even scientific subjects and how much parroting is going on…just saying what your teacher told you without really understanding or really grasping what you are teaching. Breaking through all the fog and nonsense that is being taught is what really takes the most time. I have questions but the answers are not always easy to mine.
Is your family ever in the series?
Let’s see, I know the boys are in both films and my daughter-in-laws are in chemistry. Hannah shows up in both and Rebekah is in both. Tammy is only in Biology 101, I believe. Rebekah’s plush stuffed horse “Blaze” is in Chemistry 101 – see if you can find him!
Is this a dream job of yours?
Hmmm. Now that you ask, I’d say that yes, maybe it is. I REALLY enjoy researching things like this and I especially like teaching difficult content in an understandable way. I get to work from home, which is incredibly important to my sanity (and we like it when Daddy is sane, clothed and in his right mind). I think I am helping people and bringing honor to God so, I guess this really IS a dream job!
Besides working on these series, what are your other hobbies?
I actually considered what my hobby-for-life should be years ago. I decided that the Bible would be my actual hobby, studying it and working to understand it as best as I could. That way my hobby would be useful to myself, my family and anyone I happened to talk to. Also, if God ever made it that I had to speak I would be ready or at least would have tried to make myself ready. In fact, I do speak at our church where I serve as one of the teaching elders. I spend one hour every day walking with Tammy which I consider a sort of hobby. When I was a boy, for years I collected match books as a hobby…until I realized that the match heads were a great source of small explosive material. We clipped the heads off of tens of thousands of matches one summer and had a grand time getting into mischief…uh…doing research.
How many “crew” members do you have?
This really is a family thing. There is only the Olson’s. I write and produce the films. The three oldest have done all the grip work (shooting, lighting, sound, etc.). Lucas has done all the music. Micah does all the design and website stuff. Tammy does EVERYTHING ELSE including homeschooling all the kids for 26 years, all the housework, all the cooking, all the marketing for The 101 Series, taking care of all my whining, overseeing the music and website production, managing the social calendar, keeping us all healthy and occasionally mowing the lawn. Other than that she has tons of time on her hands.
Oh…there is one more little detail…the GIVEAWAY!