Filming Camp Bil-O-Wood

My wife Chelsea is a Camp Bil-O-Wood Voyageurette.  There are only about 100 in existence and it’s a title she proudly shares with her two sisters who also have their “hat”.  Each Voyageurette (and Voyageur, the male equivalent) are granted a funky blue, red and white beret style cap, their name on a plaque, and a life-long honor  – but they’ve got to earn it first.   They have to be hard-core outdoor, canoeing, aquatics and survival experts and pass a variety of arduous tasks before they can even be considered.

Earning her hat was just part of Chelsea’s experiences at Camp Bil-O-Wood –  a beautiful classic summer camp for kids age 7-17 nestled in the Northern Ontario forests north of Blind River, about an hour and a half east of the “Sault”.  She spent 2 months out of the summer for a whopping 10 years where she learned those hardcore outdoor skills, plus gained immeasurable confidence, social skills, leaderships skills and a strong sense of independence.   Bil-O-Wood was a huge part of what makes Chelsea the amazing woman she is.

I had heard many of the tales of Bil-O-Wood (and dozens of the catchy songs that the campers repeat like mantras during meals, on canoe trips, and at random times), and a big part of me wished that I could go back in time and be a part of the camp.   When an opportunity came up for us to create a promo video for Bil-O-Wood and to be a part of the camp life I jumped at the opportunity.

So for two weeks this summer along with Chelsea I had the great pleasure of living among the campers, learning their traditions and songs, eating meals together, playing sports, canoeing, swimming, jumping on the “Rave” water trampoline, stand-up paddle-boarding and just generally feeling like a kid while also filming a promo video.   Most of my life journeys have involved filming in one way or another so it only felt natural to be filming the whole time.  With Chelsea’s help (whose communication skills, artistic eye and decisiveness are invaluable) we shot timelapses, b-roll and for the first time aerial footage using a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+.  I purchased the used drone from my brother only I had few days before leaving, and I’d only had two training sessions with it.  But the 300+ acres of pristine Canadian wilderness turned out to be the perfect practice grounds.  It’s really a revolutionary tool, and I hope to add it to my repertoire for future projects as well.

Each night when the filming was done I would organize and edit the footage, working over a laptop in our beloved pop-up camper.   Once I had things in some kind of form Chelsea and I worked to craft it into a rough cut.   The satellite internet at the camp was less than reliable so we had to make a sojourn into the Blind River Tim Horton’s to find some music to use for the video and catch up on emails.   Then working with the camp owners – the awesome Paul and Trisha Ludwig, we fine tuned the video into the nearly final cut. Then on our last night at the camp we set up a projector and had a private screening with the 100+ campers and staff. One of the great joys of filmmaking is a positive audience response and I’m sure I’ll never experience anything again like that screening.   The kids were literally screaming and cheering as we showed the video twice along with a private 7 minute “blooper reel” of outtakes.  It was really an amazing feeling, and I was overjoyed by the response.   Our goal all along was to create a video that the kids would love and want to share with their friends to encourage others to take part in the camp.

In the end, it was a dream come true to be a part of Camp Bil-O-Wood.    I may never be as hard-core as Chelsea, but I’m happy man now that I’ve had my own Bil-O-Wood adventure.

-Aaron Dennis

p.s. I’m happy to say that Uncle Aaron and Aunt Chelsea have been invited back for next summer to create more videos!


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