untitled event

ruminations on a series of unrelated events

Clowning Around

I spent this past spring break in Nevada shooting for local Indy artist Casey Roberts. Casey asked me several weeks ago if I would help him finish shooting a film he started in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area last May. Always being up for a shooting adventure we struck a deal that I would shoot in exchange for one of his truly amazing paintings. The plan was to shoot in an abandoned borax mine and shoot a separate piece on the once-submerged banks of Lake Mead.

On the technical side, this would also give me a real-world trial run with the Sony A7s camera I got for Kenya, plus I would get to a chance to play with the new DGI Ronin stabilizer Casey was renting. Casey was also renting two Rokinon E-series lenses I was considering renting or buying for the Kenya shoot as well. We only used one of the lenses, the 35mm f1.5 cine lens which I loved.

The plan was to rent jeeps and an RV and stay in a campground adjacent to Lake Mead and about 25 minutes from the mine location. I flew out with Casey Roberts, Mike Lyons (who was acting in the film) and Jessica Sowl who was acting in the bank piece and photographing the environs and the filmmaking. We spent a good chunk of the day meeting up with Casey’s brother, Donavan, and getting the RV, jeeps and groceries before heading to the campsite. Shortly after setting up camp we decided we better check on the mine site to make sure nothing had changed since spring. Casey, Jessica and I headed over, which involved a lot of fun off-roading and beautiful Nevada geology. But we were pretty shocked when we encountered a seemingly impenetrable gate blocking off the road to the mine, complete with private property signs and other warnings. Hopes were rather dashed. But we weighed a lot of options and returned the next day with everyone. Pretty quickly we figured it wasn’t so bad after all; we could scale the fence and pass all the cases over. Yeah it would be a serious effort and multiple trips, but it was doable. We would start the next morning.

The next day was a 12-hour shoot in the mine. What a surreal experience it was to walk into that space. Cool dark and quiet, the mine went deep into the mountain. We never did take it all the way to the end. There is an intensity about the utter and complete silence and darkness of the mine when I felt when I had a chance to sit there alone. It is total. It made me realize that it all my years I don’t think I have ever experienced both complete silence and darkness before. What a great place to meditate. Too bad there wasn’t anytime for that.

The next day we had a desert shoot with lots of Ronin tracking shots and a balloon release and we had a late night return to the mine for some shots we hadn’t gotten to the day before. We shot more Ronin tracking shots. The Ronin can be a little tricky to set-up. We ran into some inexplicable trouble with it on the first day in the mine and couldn’t use it. So the following day Mike, Casey and I spent a couple of hours trouble shooting why it would intensely shake for no apparent reason. To the best of our knowledge the settings we adjusted in the phone app during our test run with it were too high for when we set it up the day of the first mine shoot. Go figure. When we lowered those numbers and skipped the auto-tune feature in the app we got it to work. And thankfully there was still enough time to go back and get the shots we hadn’t been able to do.

All in all I had a great time. It was wonderful to get a break from Indiana’s cold weather and get a taste of the desert with the cacti in bloom, and it was fun to go out on location and do some shooting with Casey.

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Discussing a shot with Casey on the bank of Lake Mead.


Pretending not to shoot Casey’s nephew, who after two days of asking when it was going to be his turn to be in the movie, suddenly decided he didn’t want to be.


Setting up a clown shoe shot in the mine.

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Assessing our options.

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Conveniently located diagonal girder came in handy.

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Another option rather than hopping the fence would be to drive down this road. Yes that is nearly vertical. No thanks.

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A little wardrobe test.

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This entry was posted on March 30, 2015 by in Film and tagged , , , .
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