Up at 4am. Walk out onto my deck in the cold dark air and look up. Stars.
It’s on. We’re gonna get this.
5am call time rallies the cast and crew. We’re wheels up at 6am. Convoy of 6 SUVs heading to meet the snowcat for a lift to the top of Telluride Resort with all our gear. We’re packed in the back of the snowcat like sardines, but it’s sorta comfy. These people are my friends. We’re warm despite the freezing temps in the back of the open-air rig. Puffy jackets and knit hats. We’re sticking together. Whole story + photos after the jump. Hit continue reading…
Spirits are high – wrought with anticipation. We’ve gone over the creative needed to wrap this shoot a hundred times. We’ve rehearsed in foul weather and on dry land. We’re ready. On the production side of things, we’ve also done the math. If we can get up top, nail the few remaining video shots that require sunshine before the lifts open to the public at ten and get off the mountain by 11, we’ll still have time to catch our plane out of Montrose, CO by 4pm. This saves the client umpteen thousands if we can pull if off. We’re all gunning for victory.
When the snowcat pulls up to the lodge at 7:30 atop the mountain at 12,000 feet, the sky is a deep blue, but the sun has not yet risen. There’s a line of warm yellow light building atop the peaks to the east. It’s clear above us but clouds are already building to the southwest, blowing gently our way. Wispy, milky kinds of clouds that threaten our job. This will be a straight up race.
We’ve got a handful of shots to nail in between when the sun hits our location at 8am sharp and when the resort opens up and the general public steamrolls into our production at 10:15 am, forcing us to stop. Between the 7:30 mark of our arrival an 8am when cameras roll, the summit of this mountain is a fury of energy, people are scurrying all over, checking shot angles, wardrobe, battery charges, and more. We’re assembling cine-cranes and cameras. It’s gotta be sub 20 degrees, but no one feels the cold because our blood is running hot.
We’re shooting the day’s first shot within 5 minutes of the sun hitting our location. It’s a long lens shot, critical focus, steady. Half a dozen takes, check focus, double check focus. Download to workstation, triple check. Bam. Onto the next shot. Steadicam. Scott nails it in 4 takes. Critical audio. Bam. Completely authentic. Erik captures it, plus another long lens focus pull. I gotta call it what it is: we’re on fire.
As we’re ticking off our shot agenda, the time is ticking away and those clouds headed are way are building. And i’m not over dramatizing this. I’m in disbelief right now that the entire 9 day shoot will in part be measured by whether or not we nail these shots before the clouds sweep through the sun.
Onto the jib shot. Camera locked and loaded. Jib swinging. Couple takes on one shot, couple takes on the next shot. Operator Travis nails it. Just then Tom with Telluride resorts reminds us that we’ve got 15 minutes till the lift kicks over into mountain operations hands and prepares for the public in another 15 beyond that.
The next 30 minutes go by in a blink. Talent is completely on point. The production is screaming on greased wheels, down to the minute. It’s a beautifully-choreographed dance, where everybody knows the moves.
In the moment after I call cut on the final shot, the crew goes quiet for a second. We all look around at one another. The pause is my cue. I yell out the three words the means we’ve done it: “That’s a wrap!”
Hugs, fist bumps, yelps and hollers all around. You couldn’t manufacture this little drama in your head and you couldn’t cut through it with a knife. Giant exhale. The clouds sweep in before we’ve packed up even the first camera. It’s gone milky, but we don’t care. #Winning.
Although our primary goal is accomplished, if we’re still to succeed in our secondary goal of catching our plane in a matter of hours, we’ve still got to get 20 people down 3,000 feet and 100 miles across Colorado. My Executive Producer Connie and AD Jason have known it all along, but I haven’t told you folks at home this little secret yet: me and my crew have got a call time for day 1 on another shoot in at 7:30am tomorrow at a soundstage back in Seattle. 1,500 miles from here. Suffice to say, we’ve got to get crackin.
We tear of the mountain on our skis to save time. 3,000 feet of quad burn, but the snow is great and the vibe even better. Once at the bottom, we tear off our gear. Quick shower and reconvene to pack all the gear that the shipping expediter will pickup and deliver to us back in Seattle. Mission critical gear needed for tomorrow gets packed in backpacks that will be carried on to ensure nothing goes awry.
Steak sandwiches and Cokes-in-bottles to go at a great little spot called The Butcher The Baker before rolling out of Telluride. 90 Minutes to Montrose Airport. Rental car return. Jumper flight to Denver on Embry Air jet. Feels more like a roller coaster. Denver – Seattle United flight 407 is on time out of gate B31. Wheels up and headed out. Should be home by 10pm
…only to get up and do it all over again at 7:30am call for another client tomorrow. And so it goes. Thanks so much for following along.
This reads like a college English class assignment to write like Kerouac.
Thank you very much for sharing this adventure. For those of us stuck in Midwest office buildings, dreaming of the good life as a pro photographer, it was great to get an inside look at all of the work and preparation it takes to be a working photographer.
Absolutely loved following along this adventure. Thanks so much for making time in your long, busy days to write these posts.
Congratulations 🙂 It was great to follow your week of shooting 🙂
Great stuff chase was allot of fun following along, and I have to admit I am slightly jealous actually very jealous you get such cool assignments. Though I have to admit here in Dubai the weather is more often on our side.