This morning in the pre-dawn gloom of downtown Berkeley, I watched the Revival Bar & Grill recede in my mirror, lit by a fading red glow from the last of the taillights. This was the last location on the final day of principal photography for the feature film “August Falls”, a low budget passion project by the writing/producing team of Sam Hancock, Matt McKay, and Dan Mayer, and the second time I’ve been the cinematographer on one of their projects. I’m used to the euphoria that sweeps over on the last day of a feature shoot. Its one of the best feelings…like climbing an epic mountain. Exhaustion, over caffeinated-adrenaline, comradeship, joy, melancholy all blend upon completion of really hard things done as a team. Things that call for you to dig deep, day after 12-18hr day, cast and crew alike, breathing the same air, sweating in hot attics, freezing on cold windy night sets, stuffed in awkward places with no ventilation so the sound is good. Strangely, this is one of the things I truly love about shooting independent feature films. It’s probably what calls most of us artists and craftspeople who continue to answer their siren call…film after film, each one telling a new story we find meaningful or thrilling or entertaining. Each film brings together a new team, a new family, a new gypsy tribe…every member focused on the same goal…or their part of the mission. It’s a strange life, and it’s a wonderful life filled with amazing people.
August Falls was this to the nth degree. The cast was superb, lead by Fairuza Balk and Charles Baker. I can’t begin to describe how satisfying it was to see them in my camera’s viewfinder, each day putting flesh and bone on the lines from the script I had fallen in love with months earlier. The crew? 100% flat out each and every person constantly worked at the peak of their abilities to give the actors the direction, production support, set design, wardrobe, makeup, sound, lighting, and camera work needed to match those performances. And all within the tight constraints of an ultra-low budget, 20-day shoot. Every member of this gypsy tribe over performed in their own big or not-so-obvious role.
I was inspired every day, as we told the powerful story of a woman moving through great grief and seeking truth. I think of the people involved…happy that old friends who again joined with me to work on this film got to share a great experience, and the interns and young crew-people for who this was a first or second long form project; how lucky they were to be on this project.
In 6-months or a year we will all get to see the finished movie and only then know if our on-set inspiration translates to the audience. I think it will. But I know that -I- will hold this project as a very special one for a long time.
And for those who feel this note is overly maudlin and unprofessional…please excuse me, I’m still drunk on the euphoria of completing a very hard thing with a band of fellow filmmakers.
Now, on to the next project.