Saturday, August 11, 2007

Two Days and Counting

We are looking at just two full days left before we start shooting Dry Rain. I think I've been working on this thing for at least a year and a half. Needless to say, I'm ready to get going! The crew starts arriving tomorrow, our cast comes in tomorrow, we have a final pre-production day on Monday and we hit the ground running on Tuesday.

Our only concern right now is the oppressive smoke that is choking the sky in Montana. I got out here on Thursday the volume of smoke was depressing. You could hardly see a mile down the road. We've got a contingency plan in place if it gets bad on our production days, but we hope we won't have to do anything drastic. The smoke has been pretty scarce the last couple of days. The winds and temperatures have been on our side. I just hope it stays that way. We'll be glued to the weather reports the next week.

Matt checking out the weather and smoke

Here's this NOAA site that I'll be checking regularily. Of real importance is the wind direction. If it starts blowing west, we could be in a world of hurt. There are a bunch of fires burning west of Helmville. The westerly wind would blow smoke right at us.

Yesterday, Brian and I went out and found some alternative locations. We got lucky to run into the rancher that owned the land adjacent to where we want to shoot. He's a friendly guy that was willing to let us use his land for parking and a basecamp. We were lucky he drove up as we stood around wondering where we'd start to look for the rancer. Good timing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Pendroy, Montana

Doug and I found Pendroy by luck. We were at the end of our location scouting rope. We'd put a couple thousand miles on the car already on the trip and we still didn't have our little town. On our way home on the last day of the trip, we made a last ditch effort to find something. We did a big loop starting in Great Falls, heading North to Carter and Fort Benton, up to the Highline and as far East as Kremlin and as far West as Shelby. Nothing. There was plenty of cool stuff out there, but no little town with the wheat fields coming up to the edge of the road. A town with no curbs. It was harder to find than we thought.

We stopped in Dupuyer, had a beer and stared vacantly at the wall behind the bar. We were stumped with no good options. It was late in the day and time to start heading west and get to Seattle. The road took us south before we could turn right and follow the same path as the return trip of Lewis and Clark. It was only May, so we did have time to find the right town. It just felt daunting.

On that south bound leg, we passed a sign that optimistically pointed us to Pendroy. We took them up on their offer and visited the little town. A handful of buildings, no curbs, run down store fronts, two remaining businesses still open and a post office. We found it. Every where you look and you see fields. Here was our town.

I've been back to Pendroy several times since we picked it as our location for the first few scenes. We met Debbie, the post mistress first. She introduced us to Joann, the local insurance agent. Between the two of them, we had all the access we needed, except for the bar owners. We met them next.

The Rose Room stands out in the little town. It use to be the local bank when the railroad still ran all the way out to Pendroy. There's no railroad any more and the bank gave up, too. The Rose Room is really all there's left for commerce in town, except for the farmers and the mechanic. Bob is the mechanic and he's married to Dorene. She owns the Rose Room. See, it really is a small town.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Dusty got some love

When Dusty came to us, he had been long forgotten about in an alley in Seattle's Greenwood Neighborhood, wedged between the neighbor's overgrown bamboo and the crazy jazz musicians little house. When I saw the pictures of him on Craig's list, I knew he'd be perfect.

Well, we got him home and he just didn't run like he should. I had hoped for a car that could spin the tires and kick up some dust. Dusty was only making dust out his tail pipe.

In comes a friend of mine, Christo Corzatte, with loads of mechanic experience. He immediately diagnosed the problem and jumped in to fix the problem. The diagnosis on Dusty wasn't great, but Christo figured he could get him to run for the shoot. He called me when he had completed the tune up. I think his words were something like "I think your actor can fully realize his part and rise to the challenge." Dusty was back!

I took him for a test drive on Saturday. After he was all warmed up, I stuck my foot in it...the tires spun, the dirt flew and I was a happy man.

Another challenge to the whole film making process checked off our list. Total cost for the picture car: $500 Value in seeing the musician get his cash for an old clunker: Priceless!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Deer 2 Doug 0

Of all the years I've been driving in Montana, I've never hit a deer or any other large mammal. I've hit some squirrels and I've hit some birds, but never anything larger. I haven't even been in a vehicle as a passenger in a car vs. deer accident. My brother Ben, amazingly enough, has never hit any large mammals in Montana, or for that matter, any where else in the world. I don't know how we've managed to prevent that from happening. I've probably jinxed us.

My Uncle Stan had a job for years that had him driving to every corner of Montana. He put crazy miles on his cars in those years. (Ben and I have guessed at about 60,000 miles a year. I'll have to confirm that...) Not once in all that time, did he hit a deer. That is amazing. Even though he never had "deer on the grill," Stan did develop a philosophy about hitting animals. After watching another motorist in front of him swerve to miss a couple of elk then go into the ditch and roll, Stan figured it was best to keep the vehicle going straight down the road. In the event of an immanent collision with a large four legged critter (or even a small one) never, ever swerve to miss it. Chances are, you will hit it straight on, but you won't go in the ditch. Going straight keeps you in control and keeps the vehicle moving properly down the road. I've always adhered to that advice, in my head. Never had to use it, luckily.

On our last trip to Montana to tech scout locations and discuss camera angles, Doug Hostetter and I had lots of time to talk as we drove from one location to the next. Our talks in the car are always productive, mostly. We tend to laugh a lot and talk about our time working for a small time production company in Montana, among other things film related. This trip, I mentioned to him my Uncle Stan's Anti-Swerve Philosophy. Doug cracked up, but figured it was a good idea, but not first with out some convincing. We debated the subject for miles and I managed to set him straight. I had no idea he was going to use the philosophy on this trip!

Doug's truck before the collision.

We left Missoula on Tuesday evening arriving at our first location to take in the strange light filtering through the smoke from the Rock Creek Fire A.K.A. the 124 fire. The rays of sun filtered through the smoke creating this magical and mysterious light that was orange. Interesting, but alarming since we'd be shooting in that very spot. Hope the smoke clears! We then got to two other locations and headed to Lincoln to sack out in a little hotel. (And yes, we got two beds, just to silence the rumors.)

Wednesday, we finally got on the road after a comical search for espresso. The lone espresso stand in Lincoln was closed. We drank "gourmet" coffee from the gas station and a fresh donut to dunk. Being a coffee snob from Seattle is hard in the smaller towns of Montana. I'm sure they'll just laugh at us when we go back to shoot, packing our own coffee and french presses.

Our first stop for the day was Pendroy to walk through shots and check in with our local contacts. Everyone in Pendroy is super nice, helpful and willing to work with us. Very refreshing from a locations stand point. Next stop was Conrad to scout the Home Cafe, the location for the cafe scene. Scott is the owner of the cafe. He has the same eager personality as everyone in Pendroy. My next stop was to talk with the police and city hall to get the okay to hold parking spots on Main Street and to block the sidewalk with gear on the shoot day. You gotta love one stop shopping. I hit city hall and in 10 minutes, talked with everyone that cared to know about our production. With all that complete, we started back for Missoula.

Doug in the Home Cafe, Conrad, Montana

We were making good time. The sun was setting behind a cloud of smoke making the westward travel pretty easy. Temperatures were getting back to normal in the evening and we were enjoying the drive. We had one side trip to make back to one of the locations to confirm drive time and mileage from Conrad. Just as we rounded a bend, out of the left bank came a deer. She tried leaping over the road, but Doug's truck caught her hind quarters. Pieces of the truck flew like shrapnel from a grenade. The loud thump was, well, loud. Doug didn't even have time to swear.

Through all of this, Doug remained calm and stayed his course, adhering smartly to Uncle Stan's advice. The truck didn't fare too well and neither did the poor deer. We pulled over immediately to look over the damage. Bent metal, broken plastic, a missing marker light, a head light pointing wildly out of true and some deer fur lodged into the cracked grill were all we had. Not bad, but I figured at least $2500-3000 worth of damage. Dang.

So that is one for the Deer. Doug's other incident with a moving car and a deer happend last year on a rainy night on I-90 west of Spokane. Doug plowed right into that sucker, but it hardly made a dent. Luckily, in both cases, Doug was OK and walked away with just a good story to tell.

The word from the auto body joint is that Doug's truck will cost about $3500 bucks to fix. I made a pretty good guess. Good thing Doug has good insurance.

Now, I'm not sure how he's gonna get those points back from the deer...