Saturday, March 25, 2006

Gloss Mountains

The departure was late as usual. Derick, Jes, Fae and I left in my Mother's van, bound for the house of Conan. We had provisions enough to feed a small group of filmmakers, and we had our gear loaded and ready. Fae, my Navigator, sat up front while the other two sat in the rear. After some minor difficulty finding the exact apartment, Conan was aboard and we made way for Merrit's Bakery.

The trip was smooth, pleasant and easy; it is straight West on 412 for nearly three hours and about two-hundred miles or so. We stopped only a few times on the way, and we listened to strange stories and the music of Def Leppard.

When we made our final approach, the road opened into a long stretch that changed from green grass and trees to barren desert. The mountains lay ahead.

The mountains receive their name from the gypsum flakes embedded into their facing, which reflect the light with a similarity to diamonds or glass. They are more plateau than mountain.

We approached the State Park entrance and entered. A nice parking area, fairly new, awaited us. We began to search around, to get a feel of the area. The nearest mountain was the only one accessible. All four of my passengers and I prepared to ascend the rock facing. It was a tolerable temperature, sunny, with plenty of wind.

Scaling the mountain was not the easy manner I anticipated for a state park. It is almost vertical, zig-zagging upward over man-made stairs and real earth. Handrails and supports are aesthetic at best. The climb is approximately 1000 feet.

Once we reach the top, we survey our immediate surroundings; the view, of course, is amazing! There are hills and trees scattered across the top of the mountain. Dry grass mixes with red clay and gypsum deposits. The sun is reflected everywhere. The sad picture of oil equipment can be seen everywhere from this altitude; there are tanks seen for miles below.

Our exploration takes across the expanse of the mountain's topside. It narrows to about 20 to 25 feet in the middle. There are no guardrails, no restraints. Hawks fly overhead.

After our tour, I gather the group. I feel it is in our best interest, and that of time, if we descend and have our lunch before shooting our scenes. So, that is what we do.

After lunch, Fae and Jes decide to stay below. I gather all I need for my costume, and strap the fifty pound flight case containing Bret's camera onto my back; it was very important for me to have both hands free for my second ascent. Derick took the tripod and Conan carried his walking stick and a duffle bag. We began to climb.

Once on top, I began to assess how I wanted, or how I could translate the script in our current surroundings. You see, I had not scouted this location. I pointed at a place on the map, looked it up on the internet and said "let's go". You will find that, even with scouting and planning, the situation may not be the same once you are there to shoot. Another is hard to reference a script with crosswinds!

Our first scene took place at point in the script where "Awakening" has just snapped his fingers from the previous black background scene. Adam now finds he! Conan was framed in the foreground, the ledge about ten feet behind him and another mountain, swarming with hawks, in the background behind him. We were not too far from the trail we had used to reach our summit.

The wind was a challenge. I tried to flip my hair out of my face, and instead it swarmed around me like a ball. Conan's lapel was flopping in the wind, and I was certain I was going to lose my Rex, and I would have to watch it fly from atop Conan's head, over the mountainside.

We moved to different vantage points, always trying to stir things up, that is, I wanted each scene to be a little different. Conan was having difficulty with his lines. One scene was half a page of dialogue, and that is when I had an idea: from our current position, you could see the middle portion of the mountain top with bluffs in between and visible...I asked Derick to frame up the shot so he would see Conan and I in the distance, walking! This allowed us to appear to be talking, far enough away so no one could read our lips and it allowed for a voiceover.

Throughout the day, I was trying to think of something else that I could shoot while I was there. I did not want to pass on the opportunity!

We finally made our way down...I wanted to stay up until it was done, and we did! Three hours later, we hit the bottom.

As we left, I felt like we had accomplished a great deal. I still have to point out, there are talkers, and there are people who talk about what they just did. There is a lot of room for talk. I have ideas that are still ideas, I have unfinished work. Everybody does! There are those who talk...and talk, and they have this great idea...and they talk...and they get really good at...talking! I feel that I have accomplished a great deal, and I have excellent company along for the ride!


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