Thomas…a Follow-up



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.


37 thoughts on “Thomas…a Follow-up

  1. Really nice film Cynthia..
    You’re right…you can do much better than many of the stories we’ve had to endure over the years …

    Looks like Forrest got a haircut for your movie…he must like you…
    in fact, it looks like he got them all cut…

    I like the opening shot…it taught me that I should never go searching with you in bear country because you can clearly out run me 🙂

    We need a few more movies Cynthia…that’s a hint…

  2. What a great effort Cynthia! You have put a lot out there for us all to see. Thanks for thinking of others as you trek through some of the most beautiful scenes on earth…

  3. Excellent Cindy! I couldn’t wait to see the finished product and you didn’t disappoint ! The New Mexico landscape is awesome and you presented it beautifully.

    Thanks for sharing.


    • Spallies, When I first found “Mildew” almost hidden beneath the tall grass in that area down the hill a tad from that leaning aspen tree and barbed wire, I about had a heart attack, thinking the treasure could be hidden beneath it. I used my rock pick to dig several inches below that rusty hat and bucket cover, only to find more dirt. But what an adrenaline rush I had to scoot me further up the canyon that day.

  4. Cynthia, it was nice to see you again. I know it was in “movie” form, but it was nice all the same. Molly looked good too. Does Frank post as “Frank” on this blog? I like his way of thinking. Do you know “Ed”, Cynthia? He should try to contact me.
    The adventures you shared were nice to check out. I’d like to make it out to that Embudo area. As far as Elliot Barker, beautiful area. Wapiti to marbles can be found there. That is good hunting area. Sir Thomas is a wide searcher. I listened good to what he had to say. After all, kids do have that agility and non-stop thirst for exploration.
    Kudos to you, Cynthia! This community wants more movies from you.

    • Slurbs, This Frank posts as Frank Abel using his full name; I think there is another different Frank, too. I don’t think I know Ed. Frank is coming back in Sept so we can go back into the Embudo Box area and hike up stream in the Embudo River to get to more waterfalls. We were told by a local the only way to get to some of the falls is to slog up the creek because there are no trails along the river once you get into the “box”. Would you like to join us? We plan to put the GoPro on our head fastened to a helmet and film this which we will then ask Dal to post.

  5. Bravo Cynthia! Made me smile a lot to see some of the places many of us have been. Love your post marks and embellishments on your tutorial. Great footage. Looking forward to the whole enchilada!!!

  6. Cynthia I really enjoyed watching your movie. It’s amazing how much work goes into making something like that. I think you did a great job for your first time out.

    You did great with the interviews; it’s obvious you made everyone feel comfortable talking to you. And I really liked the out takes; the tent falling down and the dog wandering off trail. That was hilarious.

    I loved your scenery shots on trail and driving down the highway. That’s a lot more difficult to do than most people realize.

    Your “Blair Witch” segment had everything, wolves, mountain lions, escaped serial killers, scary guys wearing camo and carrying machetes. I kept waiting on a big hairy Bigfoot to eat the camera or Dal to sneak up behind you with his ice axe. 🙂

    Great job……

    • Thanks…I’m delighted some of you got the connection to The Blair Witch Project. Originally, I was going to duplicate the scene with the scared girl in the tent crying and spewing gibberish with snot running out her nose with the flashlight in her face. But I can’t act and no real actors will work for free, so I tried to “imply” it. I had a guy lined up to play the creepy trapper…he grew a scraggy beard and bought the props…then he moved to Texas a week before I was ready to shoot it in the Jemez Mountains. Oh well…I did think about asking Desertphile to play the part but figured he’s too busy this time of year. Totally forgot about asking Dal!

    • Cynthia, the suspense is killing me! 🙂 can’t wait to visit the flatland so I can see ur movie! It’s getting great reviews! 😉

    • Thanks. When I submitted it to Sundance, I had to add a “logline”…I wanted to say “it’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” meets “The Blair Witch Project” documentary-style. But I thought that was pushing it, so left out the 1948 Bogart movie and only mentioned the Blair Witch.

  7. I was only able to watch the first 5 minutes. Not sure if it’s cause I live in the boonies or if there are a lot of people watching or what.

  8. Cynthia, there’s no way I would spend a night alone in the wilderness without my Winchester Model 94 30-30 by my side (if there was no one I could outrun) – dog or no dog. Very nice film/movie/video – whatever it is properly called. Super in how you got three different solvers involved on this project – nice work!

  9. I’m sorry you didn’t get to see the waterfall. I remember thinking it was a nice reward for scrambling up the rocks of the embudo. That entrance into the box is the same way we went in also. The embudo is part of my solve. No longer the ending spot for me but part of the path. Like Frank I thought about the Canada del agua also. It reminded me of Forrest talking about how the potholes on canyon street would get filled with water. I enjoyed your movie Cynthia.

  10. Cynthia, you do good work! I am so glad you caught how beautiful NM is when it gets a little rain. 🙂 Thank you for sharing with us all.

  11. Cynthia. What a great job and so enjoyable. sorry I am a little late but I have watched at least 5 times and see something new every time. You have a new vocation so keep up the good work!!

  12. The first time I clicked on the link it played only for a few minutes. I thought it was a tickler. Then watched it second time and it played the full video. Beautiful job! Enjoyed it thoroughly. I appreciated it coming from another Searchers organic experience. A true keepsake for a large episode in your life indeed!

  13. Nice work Cynthia and Michelle! M for Mature LOL. We laughed so hard, almost peed our pants when you were telling the scary stories by the campfire. I really must meet you someday….maybe we can get Forrest to take us on a ride in the Bullet?

    Hummingbirds rule. Just sayin’

    • Yes, we should meet the next time you come to New Mexico. Michelle and I were forced into early retirement in April when we lost our jobs which gave me the opportunity to be a full-time Fenn treasure hunter. Retirement has given us the flexibility to meet folks anywhere in the state of NM. It should be a place with hummingbirds! Hey, that would be on my back porch. When can you get here?? Maybe we should host a mini-Fennboree in September. Is anyone planning on being near Santa Fe in Sept?

      • Cynthia, sounds like a lot of fun! I just started a new gig so I’ll think about your idea for Sept.

        Congrats on your early retirements, you’re both bringing us a lot of joy through your active and creative participation in the chase.

        Cheers to the fellow searchers,

  14. Cynthia, just returned from my latest thrill chase, Picuras to Apodaca. It was a treat to come home tonight to find your wonderful “Trilogy Hunts” posted on the blog. I too am fully retired and fully searching. Would be nice to meet up with you and Frank next time you’re in SF. Did you know a mile of special trout water above Picuris could pass for warm waters halt, and Picuris for Home of Brown. Anyway that was my impetus for spending two days in this area. You may remember when we talked at ff’s mayoral presentation, I offered to go with you on any scary trips……. I thought about that when I saw your boogey man sketch at the campfire. I had just spent two nights in the boonies and felt pretty secure but on my ride back to sf listening to the radio I heard an experienced hiker had been killedand partially consumed by grizzly bearsin Yellowstone. This causes pause on my serendipitus tiptoeing through the wilderness seeking the treasure. I enjoy all your posts Cynthia and look forward to more! P.S. Seeing we botth crisscross a lot of the same search areas we may bump into one another but be assured, no camo and no machete.

  15. So fun to watch Cynthia! I really enjoyed it–and appreciate all of the work that goes into a project like that. Nice try attempting to get Forrest to “whisper”. He is so cute. I love the part where you say something to him about searchers going “crazy” if they never learn the whereabouts of the chest in the case where a finder wants to stay anonymous and he points out that some searchers are already crazy. Made me laugh as did your Blair witch takeoff and the “looking for the blaze” scenes and tent clip. Thanks for sharing!

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