SUBMITTED AUGUST 2015
This is a follow-up to Cynthia’s original story about searching with Thomas that can be found HERE.
The Hunt…Searching for Fenn’s Treasure*
Last month, Dal posted my story about Thomas, a 10-yr old boy and his family from Arizona who allowed me to film a couple of their searches for a documentary I was making about Forrest and the massive appeal of his treasure hunt to those of all ages. I just finished adding the final touches, and uploaded it to Vimeo for anyone who is interested in watching three separate search parties in the remote (and not so remote) wilderness of northern New Mexico, as well as an interview with Forrest.
I got the idea for making my own documentary after being interviewed by two professional companies also making documentaries about Fenn and the searchers. I felt like my contribution was boring…all talk, not even about my particular solutions to the poem, and not on-location actually searching. I felt I could do better…and that I could add some pizzazz…a wow factor. I came up with a preliminary story and sent it to Forrest for his approval, and asked him if he’d allow me to interview him in his home like the pros, to give it some legitimacy. He said yes…
I had never shot a video before but had taken thousands of photos…I thought “how hard can this be?” (As Dal is reading this, I bet he is rolling on the floor laughing his butt off since he is a professional videographer, I think.) After ff approved the “script” and agreed to the interview, my arrogance surpassed my confidence, and off to the store I went to buy a GoPro camera (the palm-sized ones that athletes attach to their bikes, surf boards, etc.) and all the accessories. My budget was zero when it came to paying anyone to help, but I was lucky to have a few people agree to let me film their searches for the documentary.
My partner agreed to help as the cinematographer (cameraperson) which was a tremendous help since I only had one camera (the GoPro) and didn’t want to film every scene Les Stroud-like (Survivorman). By the middle of June we had all the gear we thought we needed and started practicing at home, not to mention spending oodles of hours watching YouTube videos on how to make a movie, top ten mistakes of new film makers, etc. (I don’t know why anyone goes to college anymore because you can learn everything on YouTube… Or so we thought.)
We got up at 4:00 am some days just to drive to the areas in Taos Canyon to shoot my search scenes..I wanted to be there and hike up the canyons before any clouds moved in…even though I was a first time movie-maker, I was aware of continuity between scenes and wanted to get everything right. (By the way, Dal, what is the difference between a “movie” and a “video”? When strangers would happen upon us while we were “filming” which I know is an incorrect term since we were shooting a digital movie/video, I always preferred telling them we were shooting a movie, not a video. When I hear the word “video”, I think MTV…when I hear the word “movie”, I think Hollywood or Sundance.)
We even practiced “interviewing Forrest”… a lot. This was in the midst of the real media madness at his home, and I knew it would be tough to get an “appointment”. I knew there would be no “do-overs”…if we made a mistake, we’d have to live with the footage and audio we got. The night before the interview, I didn’t sleep a wink…I was so nervous…I couldn’t pronounce any words more than a syllable
without stammering. I couldn’t even remember the questions I had decided upon to ask him, so I wrote them all down.
The 50-min drive to his home was spent in silence…I kept going over the questions in my head…practicing “quietly” not to stumble over the words. I wondered to myself if I should have had a drink (alcohol!) before leaving my house…I wondered which would sound worse…me stammering from the jitters or me slurring my words from too much booze. Too late…we were at his front door. As always, Forrest greeted us with a smile and graciously escorted us into his office. He worked on some emails as we “set up”. Then we chatted…by the time the camera was ready to roll, I was okay, mostly. Forrest was, and is, such a pro when it comes to being interviewed. He knew where to sit for the best lighting, and how to turn the statue on the stand beside his chair just right for the best composition. Within an hour, we were done, and heading home. As much as I always enjoy seeing Forrest and chatting, this time I felt such a sense of relief to be leaving…I couldn’t wait to get home, and watch the interview…
Weeks seemed to pass rapidly…we spent most of July following Thomas and his family, following Frank, and re-shooting a lot of my scenes in Taos Canyon. Then it came time to “make the movie”…holy cow, if you’ve never edited a movie, video, whatever, you can’t imagine how tedious it is to look at 500 video clips worth hours of footage and try to edit segments to make a “movie” less than 50 mins long. All along, my idea was to make a documentary/docu-drama “short” to submit to the Sundance Film Festival, and their rule for a short is less than 50 mins. Everybody’s footage got cut drastically, including Forrest.
The final version of this movie/documentary/video is about 44 mins long. We learned a lot, we made some major mistakes which had to be fixed, our shotgun mic went bad part way through Thomas’ search so we had to improvise and record the sound on my cell phone (which is quite obvious when you watch this)…but mostly we had FUN. If watching this makes any of you smile, then I accomplished what I set out to do…to entertain as well as to inform.
I hope you enjoy my MOVIE (don’t like the word video)…here is the link.
PS: Several days ago, I uploaded a preliminary rough copy to Vimeo so Forrest and the people in it could view it and approve it before I put the link out there to the people on this blog. If you are one of the 50 people who have watched this in the past few days, this link will take you to the new and improved version which includes a few new short clips.