Monday, June 24, 2013


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Friday, April 12, 2013

Bella Vista

"Bella Vista" is the name the Italians gave Missoula when they first came here. It means "beautiful view." This is the name of the feature film we have worked on for the past two weeks. I really wanted to blog as we worked on it, but there was no time left in our days. We shot 37 locations in Montana during a 12 day period.
"Bella Vista" is a feature length drama about culture shock. I (Jesse) was hired on as the 1st AC and Hannah worked as the Gaffer/Grip. We shot the film on Sony's new FS 700. I had never worked with this camera before, but it's pretty similar some of the other Sony models I've worked with. Alex Cuesta, the DP, wanted to shoot using old 35mm, prime Nikorr lenses. We also attached a follow focus, matte box, and monitor. Anders Bronnum worked as the 2nd AC, so we did all the techy camera stuff together and he ran the Slate. We also had Robert Bohannon shooting steadicam footage and "behind the scenes" on his RED Scarlet. Jeri Rafter and Brooke Swaney were our awesome producers. We had the pleasure of working with a great Art and Costume department: Max Kubisiak and Bonnie Kathleen Ryan. And the lead actor, Kathleen Wise, aka "Doris", was great on and off camera. But, no shoot could happen without great PAs, Taylor Lennox and Tommy Driscoll. We were really fortunate to have such fun, positive people to work with.

Vera Brunner-Sung, a professor of Media Arts at the UM, wrote the script and directed the shoot. This was her first feature film. Actually, I believe that this was the first feature film for a lot of the crew. There were some very experienced people, like our audio crew, Heidi and Troy from Digital Sorcery. These guys did an amazing job with audio, and we'd  highly recommend them for any film project. Natural sounds and good audio is really going to tie this film together.

We ran into just about every kind of weather, and the car we rented for one of the scenes broke down three times, but I think this was one of the smoother shoots I've been on. We had a great crew and all the pre-production and location scouting really paid off. Most of the shots were also locked down on a tripod, with actors on their marks, so the actual filming was really simple. It's a good change from filming wildlife. When the variable of animals are taken out of the equation, it's easier to make a successful production.

We did a shot outside the Freestone Climbing gym, which was really weird for us. It wasn't a location we chose and it kind of teased us because we had friends climbing inside. We cracked down and get the shots done, so the climbing will have to wait for another day.
We did another scene at a new Oula dance studio. Oula is a workout dance class. It was the end of the day, so we were exhausted, but the studio was full of woman bursting with energy. We must have done 5 or 6 takes of the same song and routine, but they kept up their pizazz and enthusiasm. I don't think I've ever seen people so expressive and energetic with every move.

I think the film is going to turn out great and we had an awesome experience working with everyone. Vera is predicting post production to last into the fall, so maybe expect to see some type of cut by October/November.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Big Deer, MT

I just got back from filming a coyote hunt out in Eastern Montana. The show is called "Big Deer." Word to the wise - Don't shoot coyotes out of the car! This is what happens.  If you look through the scope, but don't see where the barrel is pointed, you might just shoot your mirror out.

I had about a nine hour drive to get out there and on the way realized that this is one of the first shows I've done in Montana. Crazy!!! I have to admit, it's awesome staying in Montana for a hunting show. Even though it was eastern Montana it was great terrain and good people. I always thought Eastern Montana was flat, but it still has some pretty gnarly terrain, and our guides hiked our butts off.
After about 10 minutes in our first location we had a coyote sneak up on us 50 yards away. They didn't wait for me to give them the "OK" to shoot and fired right away. I was lucky and got the camera on the coyote just in time. The rest of the trip we hiked all over the place looking for coyotes and saw several, but they were either too far away or the guides missed the shot. We did have good weather and it was great getting out and hiking the Montana mountains.

I filmed most of the show on the Canon 5d Mark II, which worked out really well. I also lugged around a sony camera with a long lens for filming the coyotes. It was tough moving the audio gear back and forth between the cameras, so I just ended up running both cameras most of the time. That way I had great audio on at least one of the cameras.
The last day we finally had another coyote encounter. It made for a really long day because we were up at 4:30am, hunted until around 1pm, and then I had a nine hour drive back to Missoula. I got back just in time for another shoot to start at eight in the morning.

The next shoot is a feature film called "Bella Vista". It should be a good change from hunting shows and most of it is shot in Missoula : )

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Beavers and Gigging Suckers

Just got back from filming a "Dead Meat" show down in Missouri. The show usually involves hunting or fishing for something weird and then eating it. We started this episode by trapping and eating beavers. The local trapper set five traps and we caught three beavers from them. We went back to the house and prepared the beavers for a stew, and then fried up the backstraps like any old steak. Surprisingly, the beaver did not taste gamey. It actually tasted a lot like beef.

At night we went out gigging for suckers. Suckers are bottom feeding fish and gigging is a method of catching them. Gigging is done at night on a clear body of water with no wind. There are powerful lights on the boat that shine down on the water so you can clearly see the fish.  The instrument used is just a 15 foot pole with a sharp fork on the end. To catch a sucker, you sneak up on the fish and stab it. Filming the gigging was pretty boring, but after they caught a handful of suckers they asked us if we wanted to try. It was a lot harder than it looked because you have to judge the refraction of the water. Once I figured that out I was able to catch several fish.

Not many people eat suckers, but for the sake of the show we cooked them up. Sucker fish have a lot of bones, so they said you have to fry them for a long time to dissolve the bones. After the filming was done I tried eating some of the suckers and they didn't taste like anything special...just really fried. I also ate some frog legs, which were surprisingly good. Frog legs taste like really tender chicken wings : )

Now I'm back in Missoula and can focus on selling our TV series and doing some more local work.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sailfish in Guatemala

I flew down to Guatemala to film a segment for Fly Fishing the World. We arrived in Guatemala City and drove about an hour and a half to the Guatemala Fishing Lodge (that might not be the exact name). The lodge was 5 stars with an open bar, pool, AC rooms, excellent service, and the list goes on. I've been to Guatemala before, but I was always staying in $10 hostels living on a budget. This was a completely different experience. Even the plumbing worked like it does in the US. Every other hostel I've stayed in in Central America, the toilet paper does not go in the toilet or it will clog it. I felt totally spoiled.

Our host didn't arrive until day two, so day one we went out on the boat to just film some b-roll of fishing. We needed some underwater shots and some close up shots of sailfish jumping out of the water. In order to get those shots someone had to catch the fish.  Meaning, Bill (cameraman), Justin (producer) and myself got to trade out catching fish all day. Running a camera all day can be pretty tough, but running a camera and catching tuna and sailfish all day...that's a hard day at the office. I caught about five 30+ lb tuna. That is by far the largest fish I've ever landed. Bill was the only one to catch a sailfish, but man was he psyched. I've never seen such a big smile on his face. Bill said it was the best day of work he has ever had. It would have been the best day of work I've ever had except I eventually got sea sick. I've never spent that much time out in the big seas and my stomach couldn't handle it. I hardly ever vomit, but once I started feeling nauseous, I couldn't hold anything down. It also doesn't help being glued to a viewfinder and filming on a rocking boat.
Day Two: Conway arrived, but we decided give the fishing a rest and tour the historic city of Antigua. I have been to Antigua on vacation before, so it was weird being there for work. I remembered it being beautiful, but we went to a couple newer, higher end places, and I was just blown away by the beauty.  This little city has everything going for it. It has great people, culture, food, history, hiking, biking, great coffee, mojitos...

The rest of the trip we were out at sea, but this time I was prepared with sea sickness medicine. Conway caught some amazing sailfish. The sailfish fight hard and jump clear out of the water trying to get loose. I think we were able to make a pretty awesome show. To top it off, the wind calmed, the ocean became glassy, and we were surrounded by dolphins and porpoises for hours.

It's going to be hard to top this shoot.
Next up: Gigging for Suckers in Missouri in the dead of winter. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ruger Inside and Out - Wyoming

I just got back from a cow elk hunt in Wyoming. It was for a TV show called "Ruger Inside and Out". A majority of the show is all about guns. The host, James Guthrie, knows a LOT about guns.  Since I know nearly nothing about guns, I felt out of place. I can run a camera and talk camera equipment or climbing equipment all day, but guns are not in my terminology. During lunch and dinner conversations I had little input while everyone else talked about guns.

We filmed the hunting segment with 13 year old Samantha shooting her first elk, which turned out great. The rest of the week we were predator hunting. We had an electric call where we repeated a dying rabbit on a loud speaker to call in Coyotes. Man, did I get sick of listening to dying rabbits. It is a weird line of work, but it gets me traveling, outside, and working with a camera.

Next shoot is in Guatemala!