Equinox Documentaries Blog

documentary films which inspire a sense of "place" through stories and images

October 16, 2006

Filed under: IMW: Intern's Journal — Jason at 10:52 am on Monday, October 16, 2006

Today was the last day of the production trip, and at Rodham Dam we said our goodbyes to Leslie. Her husband was waiting to pick her and their boat up. The rest of the crew loaded into the pontoon boat and we headed back down the way we came on the Ocklawaha.

Tom Postel was shooting away with his camera as Mark navigated the pontoon boat down the Ocklawaha River. Jen sat in the back of the boat, strumming away at her guitar while singing. Slowly meandering back down the river, heading towards the houseboat on the St. Johns, I sat quietly on the pontoon boat, thinking back on the past six days.

I thought about all of the wonderful people I had met, and all of the experiences we shared together on the river: Navigating through Puzzle Lake, the Econ River, and Salt Springs Run; the nervous crossing of mighty Lake George; listening to stories from big Tracy the deer hunter at Brickyard Slough; the beautiful Ocklawaha River and the controversial Rodham Dam; eating dinner with Bill Jeter and company on Drayton Island; exploring Bear Island and downtown Sanford.

I thought about how much different it must have been for Marjorie and Dessie all those years ago. What other adventures they most likely got into that were perhaps never written about. It made me happy and sad at the same time thinking about all of this. What will the experience be like for people cruising the St. Johns in another 70 years? Population growth, urban sprawl, and dwindling water supplies; all of these factors run through my mind as we make it to the St. Johns and pile onto the houseboat with Mike McGinty.

As we head back down the St. Johns to return the houseboat, the sun creeps down below the tree line and the sky turns from blue to red. I climb to the top of houseboat and watch Tom shoot the blood red sky. As our own adventure comes to an end, I am excited to know that I worked on a documentary that is not only telling Marjorie and Dessie’s story, but that will also help to inspire people to have their own adventures on the St. Johns River. Not only the St. Johns, the outdoors in general.

October 15th, 2006

Filed under: IMW: Intern's Journal — Jason at 9:27 am on Sunday, October 15, 2006

This morning’s sunrise was beautiful. The water was a perfect mirroring of the sky. You could hardly make out where the sky ended and the river began. Bob was shooting on the bottom deck up front, while Tom was shooting off of the upper deck. An alligator swam by in the distance, slowly approaching a flock of ducks. Tom and I watched in silence, hoping to see some action. But the gator slowly meandered by the ducks sinking into the mist of the early morning.

I left Tom and went below to have some breakfast. After my meal, I got into Leslie’s boat with Bob and Bill Belleville. Bob wanted to go get some footage of the mist-covered river, and Leslie and Mark needed to get some gas in the pontoon boat and the center console. So with Mark by himself in the pontoon boat, and everyone else in Leslie’s center console, we made our way through the wall of mist down the river in search of gas.

It took us a while to find gas, since most stations we passed by weren’t even open this early in the morning. We had a good half hour or so of cruising around in the mist looking for gas, which gave Bob and I a great opportunity to shoot video and stills. The sun’s rays where piercing through the trees, and the mist made the light perfectly visible. As we hugged the tree line, I probably snapped around 100 pictures, hoping to get a nice shot of the sun shining through the trees. Bob was busy shooting non-stop, since a misty morning on a river is a cameraman’s dream.

While Bob and I were busy shooting, Mark finally located a gas station. After filling us up, the gasoline attendant told us where we could enter the Oklawaha River, and gave us an estimate on how long it would take us to reach the Rodman Dam. This was our last day with the crew shooting on the St. Johns River, and it was to be spent traversing the Oklawaha River, all the way up to the Rodham Dam.

Full with gas, our two boats headed back through the mist to the houseboat and gathered the talent and crew. Terry, Bob, Charlie, Mark and myself loaded onto the pontoon boat, and the regular Leslie, Jenn, Bill and Tom Postel on the center console.

The Oklawaha is one of the St. Johns River’s largest tributaries, and I had no idea how beautiful the river truly was. It is spring fed, and therefore is crystal clear (most of the time). Bill Belleville has traveled this river several times, and I overheard him state that this is the clearest he has ever seen it. I was standing up on the front of the pontoon next to Bob, and I could see the bottom of the river perfectly, even when it became relatively deep, around 20 feet at one point.

The ride up the river was going good, and I was filled with excitement. There were tons of fallen trees from the hurricanes of the last few years sprawled out across the river, so we had to go slow and maneuver our way through the obstacles in the water. Staring down into the water as we traveled, I could see crab traps every so often, filled with crabs, or beer cans from past parties, as well as fallen tree trunks.

Suddenly, taking the whole crew by surprise, a crab fisherman zipped by our port side in a Jon boat. He was going nearly 3 times as fast as our pontoon boat, and right when he passed, a wave of water came over Bob and mainly myself. Luckily Bob was sitting down next to me, so the entire wave didn’t soak him and the $5000 camera in his hands. The unfortunate part was that I had my Canon Rebel strapped on my back, and I had Bob’s Sony VX 2100 video camera in my hand. Not nearly $5000 worth of equipment, but still a good $3000. The water soaked my entire back and legs, luckily not putting too much water on my Canon. The Sony on the other hand got a good amount of water on it.

Everyone on our boat was extremely angry, and I feared that if we came across that crab fisherman again, someone’s blood would spill into the Oklawaha. Luckily the camera equipment was unharmed, and the crab fisherman was never to be seen again.

We carried on up the Oklawaha, filming Leslie’s boat from different angles. It wasn’t long before we ran into more problems. While cruising through some downed trees, Leslie’s prop smacked into a tree branch, making a loud thud noise. After not being able to fix this, we decided to put Leslie and Jenn on the pontoon boat and make our way to the Rodham Dam, which was not far off from where we busted Leslie’s prop. Terry and Charlie decided to stay behind with Leslie’s boat until we could return to help them.

After leaving Leslie’s boat behind, we rounded the next corner to see the Rodham Dam off in the distance. We got Leslie and Jenn on the front of the pontoon boat, and shot a conversation between the two, with the Rodham Dam in the background. They spoke about the history of the dam, the effects it has on the environment, and several other aspects of this great mass of controversial concrete.

We finally arrived to a boat ramp adjacent to the Rodham Dam, and Jenn and Leslie went out to explore the dam. This was nearly the end of our production journey, with this sequence at Rodham Dam being my last with Jenn and Leslie.

The crew was to split up at this point, with Leslie leaving for home from the Rodham Dam with her husband and her boat, and the rest of us loading into the pontoon to go back down the Oklawaha River, and back to the houseboat.

I enjoyed our ride back down the Oklawaha, since this has now become one of my favorite rivers. I fear that when I eventually come back to see the Oklawaha again, it won’t be nearly as beautiful as it was today. I can only hope so. What a great day!!

October 14, 2006

Filed under: IMW: Intern's Journal — Jason at 9:42 am on Saturday, October 14, 2006

October 14, 2006

Equinox HouseboatLast night I got to sleep in a bed, since our producer Bill Belleville slept at the Jeter’s house. It was nice to sleep on a soft surface, as opposed to the firm ground I had been spending most of my nights on. I enjoyed probably 7 hours of sleep, which is more than I have gotten in the last few nights. Bill Jeter and his wife Deanne cooked up a very large breakfast, consisting of bacon, eggs, grits, bagels, toast and OJ. It was delicious. I scarfed down two large plates worth of food.

Jenn Chase at Jeter's DockThen we had, according to Bob, one of the most difficult shoots of the entire production trip. The scene called for Jenn to walk down a long dock while telling a story to the camera. Our cameraman Tom Postel had to walk backwards on this skinny dock while keeping Jenn in frame, all the while being flanked by a 20 knot wind. My job was to walk behind Tom and spot him, making sure he wouldn’t fall off of the dock into the chest high water below. The wind was posing a huge problem for the audio. We did one take and decided that the audio was just not good enough. Too many gusts of wind were making Jenn inaudible.

Bob shootingSince the audio was bad, Bill Belleville was suggesting that we re-shoot Jenn walking down the dock with no microphone, and that we could do a voice over later. Then Mark Howerton put a small foamy, a large
foamy and a fizzy (These are all technical terms for microphone windscreens) over Jenn’s lavaliere microphone, all at once. Then Tom Postel played with the HDV camera for a while and found a ‘wind’ setting for the mic line input. After all of this tweaking the audio finally came to a good level, and we did one more take which turned out to be a keeper. Bob showed up for the last take and was overjoyed
that we got the shot. It was exciting to see the shot finally come together like that.

After our success on Bill’s dock, we took the pontoon, Leslie’s center console and Deanne’s center console out to Salt Springs Run, which was not far off from Bill’s house. We needed to get shots of Jenn swimming in Salt Springs, along with several scenic shots.

Leslie's boat on Salt Springs RunI rode on Deanne’s center console, and we had Heather and her husband Spencer on the boat with us. As Deanne slowly motored down the run, I was sitting on the front of the boat, snapping away with my camera. I overheard Heather telling some stories of Marjorie and Dessie to Deanne, and one story in particular that I was familiar with. The story was about cockroaches attacking Marjorie and Dessie one night while they were camping near Salt Springs. Apparently Marg and Dess had a greasy meal the night they were camping, and the two didn’t wash up after the meal. They awoke the next morning with cockroaches biting their mouths and hands. I HATE that story!!

Foot in Salt SpringsNevertheless, Salt Springs Run was amazingly beautiful. I enjoyed the boat ride to the springs, hanging my feet in the cold water. The weather was perfect, and as the boat pressed on, the water became more and more transparent. We finally reached the end of the run, and a small armada of fishing
boats surrounded the entrance of the springs. While tying up Leslie’s boat, we saw an otter swim out right by her boat. I have never ever seen an otter in the wild like this, so I was very excited. And since the water was crystal clear, I watched the otter swim for quite a while, streamlined, surfacing ever few moments and hugging the grass line.

Jenn Chase with snorkel gearJenn put on a wet suit and some snorkel gear, and headed up with Tom to the springs. I was anxious to get some snorkeling in as well, but I had to stick around in case Bob and Tom needed anything. They shot some several minutes of Jenn swimming around in the springs, and swimming down into one of the springs. After they finished up, I ran over and jumped into the water with my mask and snorkel. The water was shallow but rocky, and I had trouble walking out to the edge of the giant spring. I swam down into the spring two or three times, but the pressure was great, so I didn’t get too far down. A UCF fraternity group was at the spring, and causing quite a ruckus. They were chanting and shouting and throwing a football around like crazy people. Half of them were in the water, and the other half were up on the shoreline, and they were launching the football back and forth from water to land. While making our way back out of the spring area, Tom, Bob and Jenn interviewed several people visiting the springs.

Salt Springs SceneI jumped onto the pontoon boat with Bob and Mark and all three boats headed back into Lake George and back towards the houseboat. Bob and Mark decided to drop me off at the houseboat since I was soaking wet and freezing cold from my swim. I was glad to be back on the houseboat, chillin with Mike McGinty. I changed clothes and then started uploading my pictures to Bob’s laptop. Mike and I talked for a while about all kinds of different things, which was great. At one point Bill Jeter showed up with Deanne on his boat to give me my shoes back that I accidentally left in Deanne’s boat when I went out for my swim in the springs. Bill and Deanne are such nice people! I am so happy to have met them.

Deanne and SpencerWe said our goodbyes to Bill and Deanne, and the crew headed out towards Welaka, where we would be staying for the night. We met up with several friends of Dessie at a condo. Just before dinner, Bob and the crew went out shoot a scene of the spreading of Dessie’s ashes on the river. Mike and I hung back on the boat, and took the gheenoe out for a spin.

All in all a great day. Salt Springs was fascinating, and the people I met today were amazing. The only bad part of this day was that I had to sleep on the floor in the corner of the houseboat. It’s actually not
THAT bad. Pretty comfy actually.

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