It’s 5AM in the desert and in the distance we hear the howling of a pack of coyotes. The sun won’t rise for another half hour, but already the world is coming to life.
My DP, TJ Hellmuth, and I quietly walk along old animal paths, winding our way up to one of the main locations for our film. When we get there, we crouch into the dust and watch the sun slowly peak over distant mountains. The blue world turns pink.
TJ takes pictures while I just watch and listen. Watch and listen.
In the car, later that day, TJ says that there are different levels of presence in consciousness: asleep, awake but daydreaming, awake and paying attention, meditating…and then the most present of all: filmmaking.
I think this is why I love it so much. I slow down, I take notice. Of everything.
An ant on a grain of sand, the length of the shadows, the tone of the light at this minute and the next, the color of a teacup, the effect of a single cloud in the sky. The sound each step you take makes on the soft sand and on the gravel, the crunch that reminds you of snow.
The poetry of place is observed, inhaled, watched, felt and heard. And if we’re lucky, when we come to make the film, that presence will be passed on – the details we have discovered by slowing down and bearing true witness will be passed along.
The sun is higher now. I’m kicking dust in the air and TJ is photographing it, and we’re imagining our movie, a pivotal scene and how we will capture it.
A cloud of dust rises into the hot air, drifts out over the vast land…and evaporates into nothing.
Less than three weeks from now, we will start to shoot the film. Try to capture the dust cloud before it disappears.
But right now, we have to return to the world: to shot lists, to contracts, to finance agreements and budgets and schedules, but soon, soon we will be back in the desert.
And the coyotes will howl again.