Friday, May 02, 2008

Southern Utah Part 1: The Spice of Life

April 24th, 2008: The production team drove south to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and arrived around 8:00 AM after a quick rest stop at a rest stop. All of us were running on approximately two hours of sleep after an all night drive. After Jade and Todd arrived, we set up camp near the rangers station. Michael Franklin, our contact, said it was alright to camp in a non-camp area. It was extremely generous and very convenient, given the proximity to the park entrance.

For this trip, our transportation and lodging came in the form of a 54-foot RV. This gigantic HQ on wheels was convenient for keeping all of our production equipment in a central location. Jeff could easily offload our video cards, recharge batteries and keep the equipment out of the elements. The RV also offered a nice pad to kick back and relax after a long day of shooting. Since Jeff's family came along for the trip, our ride was perfect for dining, sleeping and changing diapers. The Willie Nelson Mobile was a beast to get into. For me especially. Luckily Jeff's son helped me up and down the stairway from Hell. The bathroom was also very difficult to manage. Do-able, but very tricky.

Our original plan was to begin shooting at 9:30. But because everyone was exhausted, we decided to push the shoot back to 1:00. This gave Jeff and I time to get a grand tour of the dunes. Mike took Jeff and his son out first. Then I headed out for the ride of a lifetime. We drove in a Rhino, which is like a two-person cart. Mike tore off over the dunes and I could feel the vehicle slip sideways on the steep hills. It was better than a roller coaster ride.

After finding a couple of spots it was time to get on it. Jeff suited up in his steadicam rig and hopped in the back of the Rhino. I hopped (figuratively speaking) into the passenger's seat. We headed out to a beautiful spot with our first participant. Jade and her family followed us out to the dunes and we paused to go over the game plan. Tracking shots first, then locked down shots. We had Jade make several passes down a long strip of gentle dunes. This allowed us to film from the front, side and rear.

After filming some tracking shots, Jeff hopped off the rig and hobbled over to film Jade from her vehicle. Jeff had been thrown around quite a bit while filming from the back of the Rhino. He was in a considerable amount of pain. Still, he continued to shoot. No pain, no film.

Jade was incredibly patient, given the demanding work of the shoot and the waiting around that often comes with elaborate productions.

Next up, we shot Todd. Todd was also very patient. Todd uses ATVs when hunting, but he'd never driven the shifting sands of the Coral Pink State Park. His family was along for the ride as well.

We shot in a large bowl and Todd circled the perimeter. All was going swimingly until Todd's thumb slipped and his vehicle stalled and rolled. He came off the vehicle and landed in the sand. The rest of us raced towards him in a panic. Todd quickly waved his hands to signal that everything was okay. He wanted to see if Jeff had captured the moment on film. Jeff hadn't.

Jeff stuck to locked down shots for all of Todd's footage. We considered some jib shots, but didn't want to get sand in the equipment. We were already experiencing issues with sand finding its way into our camera gear. Damn sand.

Safety is a major concern for any film or video production. Anytime you film individuals engaging in a sport or recreational activity, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong. I always joke that the shot comes first, and safety comes second. But of course I don't believe that. And I certainly don't want anything to happen to any of our participants. Todd was okay, but it gave us all quite the scare.

The ATV shoot went really well despite the sand, pain and near misses. Both Jade and Todd are amazing riders. Jade has a thoracic injury and Todd a cervical. The state park rangers were also very helpful. We wrapped at 7:00 PM and everyone was able to get home early. We retired to the RV for burritos and rest.

Now, here's the thing: I realize a lot of people are against ATV's for environmental reasons. I certainly believe in protecting the environment. But we have to realize that not everyone has the opportunity and ability to access difficult areas in nature such as sand dunes and mountain trails. ATVs give many people, who cannot hike, the option and freedom to see some of the most beautiful places in Utah. Just something to consider.

Up next...Part 2!


Tony said...

That looks like so much fun!
I have never been to coral pink dunes, they look awesome from these pictures you took.

Spinal Cracker said...

Thanks Tony. The place is amazing and very easy to access.