Days 7 & 8: Estes Park

Back in the spring, when we planned the schedule, I didn’t see why would ever need something as silly as days off. We would all be having the time of our lives! It would hardly feel like work at all! Why would anyone want to stop? That’s right: I was almost one of history’s greatest monsters.

Either Cam, Dave, or both had told me, gently but firmly, I think days off are important. So I had relented, and when I woke up in Estes Park, CO at the start of two totally free days (except for Dave, who’d volunteered to drive to Boulder to get the picture car repaired, though he did manage to fit in seeing a movie) I was very, very glad they’d caught me before I made a mistake.

Some shocking news: Days off are important, even when you’re out there doing something you’ve wanted to do your whole life. Not only did we all need a chance to wake up without alarms, to only get in a car if we really wanted to, but we’d barely had a chance to actually enjoy each other’s company, to sit around outside having a beer and talking without the pressure of getting to bed because tomorrow was another long day. We hadn’t bothered to become friends.

The issue of friendship was a tough hurdle for me to clear. I struggled with opening myself up to social time with the crew. Part of it was shyness among a group of mostly strangers—I’ve never quite stopped being the weird kid who assumed nobody would want to talk to him—but I also couldn’t figure out how to balance feeling like a strong leader to this team while simultaneously allowing myself to form personal connections with them. All week, I’d retreated to the RV or my room as soon as we were finished with business, knowing that they were off somewhere having fun, but knowing that was a luxury I couldn’t afford.

Consequently, though, I was starting to feel isolated on my own production, so our first night in Estes Park, I pushed myself to relax, get to know these people I’d hired, and it turns out I really did like them as much as I thought I did. I could have spent the rest of the shoot at arm’s length, but by taking the step of making connections, I turned the rest of the trip into a much richer experience, and I only wish I’d done it sooner.

The other significant development in our time in Estes Park was the advent of dailies. All week, Cam had wanted to download a program onto my laptop that would allow us to view the video files we’d been shooting. I’d been able to see shots on the monitor over Cam’s shoulder, but those tiny images, barely visible in the glare of the sun, hadn’t allowed me to actually assess whether or not we were making a good-looking movie. I assumed it must look fine, Cam was a talented guy, but I couldn’t picture it at all.

Then we got the program fired up, and we all realized what we were dealing with: a really, really beautiful movie. We weren’t able to sync sound files up, just preview the raw video files, but that didn’t stop most of the crew from developing a sudden addiction to the dailies. We would cue up our own soundtrack and watch the footage of Ryan and Kelsey exploring a ghost town at sunset, and we’d look at each other and marvel. Did you see that? Did we really do that? Is this really our movie?

Seeing the dailies, finding the joy and wonder in what we were making, lit a new fire in us. There’s nothing like pride in your work to make the work feel worth doing. It was a morale boost, and we needed it as the weekend drew to a close. We had mountains and deserts to cross before our next break.