Acro Camp is an independent feature film about four pilots’ experiences coming together and flying aerobatics for the first time.
In the spring of 2010, four pilots came to Oakland County International Airport in southeast Michigan. Two men and two women. All pilots, but no one had ever flown aerobatics and no one even so much as had a tailwheel endorsement.
Lynda, the US Army helicopter pilot and corporate jet pilot, who brought along some uncertainties about aerobatics. Jim, the USAF reserve JAG officer and Civil Air Patrol pilot who wanted a challenge. Michelle, the psychologist and flight instructor who had always been curious about how aerobatics work. And Paul, the long-time airline pilot who said “I’ve been flying airliners for so long, I’ve become a systems manager. I want to learn to fly an airplane again.”
When they arrived, the “campers” were met by two flight instructors and three aerobatic aircraft and, over the next four days, they flew their first aerobatics. From the basics like stalls, loops, rolls, and learning to land basic tailwheel aircraft like the American Champion Citabria and Super Decathlon to seeing the outer edges of the envelope in a Pitts S-2B biplane.
We captured all of that and more in high-definition video with cameras and digital audio recorders in, on, and around the aircraft, on the ramp, and in the pilot lounge.
And it goes deeper than that. Acro Camp is a labor of love that was shot, edited, scored, and produced by a cadre of pilots and aviation enthusiasts from all over the country. For several years, a number of pilots and aviation enthusiasts had been producing audio, video, and text media in the form of podcasts, blogs, and other online media devoted to aviation. In 2006, they began meeting annually at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Soon after that, they took over parts of the on-site radio station programming at the Sun ‘N Fun Fly-In each spring. And, as these new-media personalities cross-pollinated, they found that they comprised a pool of talent and passion that might be tapped from time to time.
Acro Camp is, in many ways, the first aviation media project to result from this collaboration born in the streams of data criss-crossing the Internet. Originally the brainchild of Steve Tupper (producer of Airspeed), the project grew to include Will Hawkins (The Pilot’s Flight PodLog and A Pilot’s Story), David Allen (The Pilot’s Flight PodLog and Other People’s Airplanes), Roger Bishop (AirCore Entertainment) and Jack Hodgson (Around the Field and Uncontrolled Airspace). Other new-media and social-media personalities (Kent Shook of The PilotCast and Rod Rakic of myTransponder and OpenAirplane among them) flew in to visit the shoot.
Even the soundtrack was born in the foment of new media. The entire soundtrack was written, performed, and mixed by the cast, crew, and fans of the project. The main theme, Acro Grass, was crowdsourced across the audience when Steve posted the basic tune online and fans played, recorded and sent in pieces of music to be remixed into various versions of the theme.
Acro Camp is a love story about what happens when four pilots come together to fly airplanes upside down for the first time. It’s also about the new-media and social-media community trying out its own wings for the first time by creating a feature-length expression of its love of aviation.
At some point, you quit wondering, climb over the fence, and go find out.
We made this movie for anyone who’s ever flown an airplane upside down. Or who might if given the chance.
Go find out.