Desert, Dessert Delights
October 12, 2011
Apart from rattlesnakes, runaway bandits, and the threat of death by dehydration, the desert is quite advantageous. For filming a movie of course. There is a reason why Hollywood films all of its movies here. It is desolate and expansive, which can serve a.) to provide the foundation to recreate almost any environment, or b.) as a compliment to showcase or enhance the tone of a film. We often rely on the latter because we don’t have the money to recreate Times Square, but we also benefit from a third advantage, often forgotten by the Michael Bays out there, which is visibility of the Pacific Crest Trail of course. Since the terrain has gradually changed from forest to desert, access to the trails and the success of our shots, have gotten easier. Not a lot easier, but easier. This day provides a perfect example of the aforementioned easy access.
Sam woke up at 4:45 a.m. this morning and began his 40+ mile day. We woke up a little bit later than that and found a place where the trail crosses an isolated road, and made it our destination, leaving a cloud of dust in our wake. The road to the crossing seemed to have been made by a roller coaster engineer complete with drops so steep you couldn’t see the the pavement until you were flying down it. Ordinarily, I might have enjoyed this, but when you are driving your house, there is a lot more at stake. Plus, it’s a rental. Gingerly, we drove our way to the trail, and scouted a location. According to the “dog collar” GPS tracking system, Sam was over 5 miles away, allowing us ample time to set up and eat lunch. The Garmin GPS device, normally used to keep track of hunting dogs, but for our purposes to “hunt” Sam, has been instrumental in our planning, since we are actually able to pinpoint where he is. Needless to say, many of our strategies have been unconventional, but mostly successful.
The location we picked out allowed visibility of half a mile of the trail, making Sam a little white speck when our lenses first caught him. Ben stayed wide with his camera and followed him as he charged along the meandering trail. As he approached, we wondered what it must be like to be completely alone all day and then suddenly, without warning, bump into a group of people silently filming/photographing you. Strange, I would imagine. After filming a quick break at our RV, Sam took off to finish the last 8 miles for the day, and we took the roller coaster route back down, in search of food and gas. After refueling, we made equally crucial purchases of neon sunglasses and local beef jerky, in order to demonstrate how we’ve fully adapted to the local culture. Sam was scheduled to leave at 2 a.m. the next morning, and given the excellent footage we’d captured in the past few days, we decided not to film him leaving in the dark, and splurged on a campground for the night instead. A pool! Electric outlets! Running Water! Level ground! These are the finest of luxuries, and they did not go unnoticed, or unused.
The next morning, Ben, Jon-Michael, and Marion woke up early to film the sunrise in the desert valley, and we met John and Eric later that afternoon at a trail crossing right next to Highway 58, where Sam would be coming in later. Like the Chevron station at Snoqualmie, WA and the impound lot in Ashland, OR, we made the side of Highway 58 our own by furnishing the gravel turnoff with folding chairs. Jon-Michael and Ben filmed the wind turbines, and barbed-wire fence along the trail, before capturing Sam arrive in the 90 degree heat late in the afternoon. Sam, now pushing harder than ever, has regimented himself to 50 miles per outing, punctuated by 5 hours of rest in between. He promptly went to sleep, to be woken up at midnight for the next leg. Our mission for the day a success, we shared some beers with Eric and John and ate chicken and rice for dinner. Having adjusted to the sound of 18-wheelers whizzing by, our decision to stay put for the night fit within our increasingly low standards, and I slept soundly. Our crew has become efficient and dynamic, a well-oiled machine. But just because we are close to the end, that doesn’t make the miles easier for us, or Sam. The days are still long and tolling, we are just more used to it now. The next day, we went back to LA for perhaps our final break, as Sam barrels towards the border of Mexico, like Thelma and Louise, with the fuzz hot on their trail.
Until next time,
Cecily “Crazy Legs” Mauran