Working on a strategy to continue the storytelling at Tar Creek. Looking to produce a 4-6 episode series that could be picked up by one of the big streaming services. Looking for interested parties and/or producers that might be able help me see this through.
Working on the script for this concept, based on my recently completed short film of the same title.
Now that I had an idea, my next step would be research. I had a lot of history to cover, a lot of catching up to do on the history of Tar Creek. I spent time reading, discovering scientific articles, news stories, videos, and more. Most of all I’d hope to discover someone to speak to, I needed to have a voice and a perspective of someone who lived in the area. During this process I found LEAD Agency and Executive Director, Rebecca Jim. I reached out to Rebecca explaining what I wanted to do and expressing my interest in meeting with her. This step alone felt like a big one, to reach out and share a vision and to ask someone for their time. In that email I expressed:
I was pleasantly surprised that she returned my email quickly and enthusiastically.
Story & Planning
After making contact and receiving confirmation that I’d have someone to interview, I was anxious to get going. Maybe a little too anxious. At this point I felt like there were some major piece in place to create a production but didn’t really have a fully fleshed out story yet.
So much of “story” comes from exploration, brainstorming, testing ideas out loud, maybe talking through them, sharing them with others willing to listen – and sometimes, for me, writing my way through a concept. My writings these days often take place spontaneously through the Notes app on my phone. If something strikes me, even a fleeting spark of an idea, I will often make a note of it. Often times I’ve found, the ones I come back to more than once are the ones that have staying power, and end up in the film.
Through all of this, I’d been pondering the angle I wanted to take. i think of this style of film; these short Super 8 films, most akin to a poem in many ways. Knowing that I wouldn’t have time to introduce the entire spectrum and breadth of Tar Creek, this would not be an all encompassing documentary of the area – that’s not what I wanted. This was an opportunity for a singular perspective – and what better than the perspective of Tar Creek itself?
And so I began to think in this way, as if the Creek could speak. Then to begin thinking about titles, because the title could be the essence of the story. So many ideas came to mind, so many titles, but the one that kept coming back up, was “Take Care, Tar Creek.” It was as if the film would be an open-letter from Tar Creek to the world, and then at the end would be the salutation, Take Care, Tar Creek. And credit where credit is due, my wife helped me to solidify that concept when she suggested that the film could begin with “Dear…”
With that, I felt that the film, at least in my mind, presented a bookended concept with what could be a clear beginning, middle and end.
Then, to assemble the pieces in a meaningful way. I’d need music, I’d need some narration and of course, some moving pictures.
More to come on the shooting day, music and more in next posts…
Lots of progress made in a fairly short amount of time. I have been keeping notes and have some information to share over the next few posts.
First, a little bit of backstory on where the idea originated. It’s been over 20 years since I visited NE Oklahoma and Picher, OK. Last time I was there was as a student collecting soil samples for a scientific research project associated with my Masters thesis. In that work, I was investigating the relationship between particle size distribution and heavy metal concentrations in chat for extrapolation to potential exposures and health hazards. Even then, I remember feeling like the research I was doing, while useful in some respects, did not convey or communicate any real message, the way I wanted to. I recall having a discussion with my advisor once, about a documentary or story – but at that time it only felt like a pipe-dream, nothing more. Soon after achieving my degree I got my first career-level job, life took over and I moved on to other things. I never forgot about the place, kept up with the headlines, but always wondered if my work made any difference. I kept tabs on issues and followed stories about the area but it wasn’t until recently that I felt like maybe there’s something more to contribute.
Straight 8 is something I have entered a couple of times before. I’ve always embraced the opportunity to try and think of a concept from nothing, to something, to execution. This year I registered before ever having a real idea. I just felt like the pressure of knowing I’d committed to it would be a good driver of having to come up with something. Going into this one, my mind was actually headed in a completely different direction. I was thinking much more fictional and experimental. I went back to some old notes I’d made years ago and worked through the concept. But the more I thought about it the more I wanted to explore something in a documentary style. I started thinking out loud, talking through it, talking about ideas accessible to me, relevant to Oklahoma. And something that I thought an international audience might find unique or interesting about Oklahoma. This idea was in my wheelhouse – I’d known about Tar Creek, I’d known the challenges there, and the continuing struggles that the place has experienced. So the more I thought about the more it began to seem possible.
What I’ve found many times is that an idea that feels right seems to take on a life of its own. It grows legs and starts to move in a direction that wasn’t necessarily planned. It morphs and evolves into something more, something greater and sometimes, something different. Part of this feels like trying to bridle a mustang. It can get out of control. Trying to get my arms around something with so much weight, so much impact, and such a vast and storied past is difficult – and i felt that right away in approaching this idea for a mere 3 minute and 20 second film. My intent, from the beginning was to create a multi-part story, even a multi-film story. But I’ve since come to accept that I need to handle this one piece at a time. And while I could enter the Straight 8 festival multiple times and have multiple parts, I felt like I would be moving away from the intent of being able to tell a story with only one roll of Super 8 film. Arguably, an even harder task than knowing that I might have more time with multiple entires. The idea was then re-centered on keeping the focus on a single roll.
I have a film title. A subject. And a complete concept. Now, just to put it into action.
Going to be cautious in not revealing the idea or the title until I have some more solidified – so going to be a bit cryptic about it for now. But I am really excited about this direction and feel it has the potential for a must larger project.
I recently attended the ‘friends, family, and movie-people’ premiere of This May Be The Last Time, a documentary produced by Matt Leach, Sterlin Harjo, and Christina D. King and directed by Harjo. This was the first feature-length film backed by This Land Films a section of This Land Press based in Tulsa, OK. The premiere took place at Circle Cinema in Tulsa on the heels of a successful debut at Sundance Film Festival in January 2014. Here is the posting about the film on the Sundance site.
I was hired to work on the film last year. I worked with the director and producer and other members of the cast and crew to capture re-created historical events that took place decades. Though, there was some original home movie footage of other stuff they could not unearth any archived footage from this particular significant event. So the goal was to re-create several scenes in a manner that might pass for film footage captured in the early 1960s. Super 8 film shot in a hand-held ‘man-on-the-scene’ type way was used to create a stylized, authentic appearance.
Coming into the picture I had seen a rough cut of the film and I understood the scenes and what they wanted to capture.
The shoot was a memorable one for me as many of the shots took place with me standing in the North Canadian River with a camera in my hand. All told we shot 7 rolls of film that day at 24 fps which amounted to about 17 minutes of film. The film stock was Agfachrome 200D Color Reversal film and shot on a Canon 814 XLS.
The intention was to use about 5 minutes of the footage. I was happy to see that every roll of film turned out wonderfully; good light, good focus, and framing. Plenty of the footage made it into the final film and the trailer.
I was happy to have been given the opportunity to share in this experience. The documentary is beautiful, heartbreaking, and uplifting, all at the same time…it’s a story worth watching.
Posted below is the official trailer for the film:
I received word that a film that I did some Super 8 film work for has been accepted to Sundance. The documentary film This May Be the Last Time, directed by Sterlin Harjo and Produced by Matt Leach, both of This Land Films, will be shown at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 16-26.
Here is the announcement on the This Land Films website:
Here is the short description of the film on the Sundance website:
“This May Be the Last Time / U.S.A. (Director: Sterlin Harjo) — Filmmaker Sterlin Harjo’s Grandfather disappeared mysteriously in 1962. The community searching for him sang songs of encouragement that were passed down for generations. Harjo explores the origins of these songs as well as the violent history of his people.”
My contribution to the film was minimal in terms of the overall production but I had a fun experience working with these guys, the talent and other crew. I was hired to shoot several rolls of film as a part of the film that re-created a specific historical event. I shot the film using a Canon 814 XLS and Agfachrome 200D Reversal film stock. The film was then digitally transferred and scanned at HD resolution.
I have seen the raw footage but not the final cut of the film – so I’m excited to see how the footage was integrated into the story.
Congratulations to all those involved! We’ll be watching the progress of this film to see the progress it makes.
For the past few months I have been assisting Rick Sinnett (mothman333, mothmancollection.com) on the Silo Art Project. Mainly, I’ve been helping out by shooting video for a documentary for the project . Yesterday we went to El Reno, OK to shoot some footage for an upcoming Kickstarter campaign which he’ll be lauching in the coming days. A few weeks ago we visited Digital Media Warehouse in OKC where Rick printed a number of fine-art prints in order to raise money for the project. OETA was there (along with myself, whom you may catch a glimpse of here and there) to capture the process.
I am excited to be involved with this project. It’s always refreshing to find someone passionate about their work, especially when it comes to bettering the environment, the community and making a positive social impact – that’s what this public art project is really focusing on. Furthermore, Rick is incredibly driven to see this project through. It’s been more than a year of work – lots of behind-the-scenes stuff and still we are inching closer and closer to making “This Land” a reality.
F47 Productions, LLC announces the production of a feature length documentary motion picture about climbers and the history of climbing in Oklahoma. Research and principle photography for the documentary has begun and will take place over the course of 2012.
I am currently seeking information about historical milestones in Oklahoma climbing, central figures that have influenced Oklahoma climbing, and other individuals that might hold a place in Oklahoma climbing history.
This film (title forthcoming) is a documentary about climbers and the history of climbing in Oklahoma as told through the voices of first ascensionists and those that have followed. It’s a look at the personalities, the areas, and the routes that have etched themselves into Oklahoma climbing lore. These tales, told in personal interview format, are about routes climbed, trips taken, lessons learned, and legends created. It’s a look at the lifestyle of climbers who’ve cultivated a niche in the most unlikely of places for rock climbing, a place often overlooked as having any stone at all.
In the coming days there will be further announcements, including a website and Kickstarter page.
This is a big project, a worthwhile documentary, and a part of Oklahoma history at climbing history at large – I’m hoping to have community support to see it through. All keep you posted.
For inquires, questions, etc. please contact: