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Phil Bowen

"We're Rolling" 
– Behind the Camera and In the Water

Phill Bowen
Phil Bowen, Walnut Creek Masters, is on the phone. When he hangs up, he looks at his wife, Suzanne Heim-Bowen, and says, 'I'm going to England. Or Sri Lanka. Or an 18 day trip around the world. I have to be on a plane tonight." No, Phil isn't an international troubleshooter, but a well-respected cameraman for hire. Ever hear of "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Chasing Mavericks," "Star Wars," "Hunt for Red October," "The Lone Ranger," "Minority Report," "Dark of the Moon," or "The X Files"? These are only a few of the motion pictures and television programs that list Phil Bowen in their credits.

Phil is a whirlwind––a fast talking, joke cracking guy who remembers names and events from 30 years ago. He is also a past All American swimmer at Foothill College Community College, Los Altos and has won gold, silver and bronze medals as a member of American water polo teams at five different FINA Master World Championships.

"I always swam just so I could play water polo. Now my swimming is geared to work. I could be in the water six days a week; then I get a call and I'll be gone for two months working on a project," said Phil. "Swimming keeps me strong, somewhat flexible, along with lifting weights, so I can carry 70 pound cameras all day."PHil Bowen Shooting

Bowen is a Bay area native.  He played football and swam at Mountain View High School.   But Phil had another interest––water polo.  He bugged the track coach to start a team.  He did and Phil began competing in water polo his senior year and earned an All-Conference honorable mention. Although Phil had a lightning fast backstroke, it was his water polo skills that got him from Foothill College to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he competed and was an All American his senior year. He was recruited with three other athletes to play water polo in Australia on their club and the Queensland state water polo team.

"They even re-enrolled us in college at the University of Queensland so we could play water polo and swim at their collegiate level (similar to NCAA). We won both titles," he said.

Eventually Phil came back to California looking for a job.

"I ended up working for my brother-in-law in Sausalito who was importing fruit from New Zealand. Downstairs was the office of Keith Mason, a gaffer (an electrician in motion picture/television crew talk). He rented out electrical equipment, trucks, and generators to film crews." It was 1979 and Keith wanted to hire Phil. Instead Bowen headed off to Tasmania to play water polo. When he returned, he took Keith's offer. That was his introduction to the motion picture business. The first movie he worked on was "Hunt for Red October" at Industrial Light and Magic; George Lucas' live action effects studio.

Besides shooting on land, water and in the air, Bowen has a special place in his heart for special effects cinematography or filming live action explosions. Remember the demolition of the train trestle in the recent "Lone Ranger" movie? Phil was part of the crew that blasted it to smithereens.

Wookies"For 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' a 35' replica of the English Endeavor and a 6'deep lake surrounded by shipping containers were built. They were stacked six high and painted green. Then they blew it up. Huge explosion. It was great," he recalled.

Phil has a way of being in the right place at the right time. A few years ago, he was the assistant water polo coach at Diablo Valley College (DVC), when the head swim coach Rick Millington casually asked if his wife, Suzanne (three time English Channel swimmer, past member of the US Long Distance Team, and inductee into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame) would like to swim distance events for DVC. Suzanne who still had her college eligibility said 'yes' and with two master's degrees under her belt enrolled as a freshman. 

The outcome, besides Suzanne breaking records and annoying the parents of boys she lapped in the 1,650 yard events, was a documentary called "The 50 Year Old Freshman." Although Phil calls himself Suzanne's "towel holder", he was also the cinematographer for the well-done, entertaining documentary. "The 50 Year Old Freshman" has won three film awards, including Best Sports/Outdoor Feature, 2012 Indie Phile BowenSpirit Film Festival, Colorado Springs, Co. (See the trailer for "The 50 Year Old Freshman" on YouTube ––

"This is a great motivational piece for kids and adults. They see that swimming is a sport they can do for the rest of your life," said cinematographer, camera man, husband, water polo player and swimmer, Phil Bowen.

Story by Glenda Carroll. Glenda is the past Pacific Masters Open Water Chair. She is also the author of "Dead in the Water" a murder mystery that is available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle.

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