June 15, 2003
Back from New Mexico: the weekend was a great example of seizing the moment. I had several re-enactor friends and a Phoenix video shooter who I tried to get to join us but they all flaked. I called Al Frisch in LA on Wednesday night and he said, “I’ll be there with a four man crew.” Now that is inspiring. Throw in Dave Daiss, who is always ready for an adventure and Tom Chenal, who owns the plane and loves history and we were all jumping off a cliff with the general idea of figuring it all out on the way down.
Got up at 3:30 AM on Friday morning. Met Dave Daiss at his house and we drove over to Carefree and got Tom C. and drove down to Scottsdale Airpark. As we got in his small Mooney four seater, Tom asked me, “Are you nervous?” and I looked at him probably much like Buddy Holly looked at the pilot at Clear Lake, Iowa, and said, “Should I be?” We took off at 5:30 bound for Saint John, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Cimarron, Turkey Creek Canyon and Raton (which means “rat” in Spanish, so it’s Rat Town). Flight was smooth but a tad cramped.
Peeled off the flight plan at Cimarron and made two sweeps at Turkey Creek Canyon. Shot DV and stills out the window. Landed at 10 NM time, picked up by Jason S. of the Philmont Ranch. He drove us back down to Cimarron (40 miles). We met our four man film crew from Hollywood (they drove straight through—17 hours!), and we headed up to the canyon. Rough going, narrow, rutty roads, wet and rocky. Finally got on location at one, didn’t get our first shot until almost two. It rained on us three times (which was great because it rained at the actual gunfight). Great shots of Dave D. as Will Carver firing from the actual sniper position, first with smokeless powder, then with blackpowder. Really quite amazing to see. Will play nicely on the History Channel (assuming they pay enough for the shot).
Filmed Tom C. as Elzy Lay getting hit as he filled his canteen. Shot it at the exact spot where the real Elzy went down (it was exactly as described in newspaper reports by the way). Black Jack’s cave and the canyon looked remarkably like my illustrations and that was a relief. Unfortunately it was choked with vegetation (second growth ponderosa, they told us), and so it was hard to get wide shots. We filmed until eight, got almost everything we planned on our master shot list. Got probably 10 solid scenes.
Went back out Saturday morning to a different location on the Philmont Ranch, where there was less vegetation. Picked up another ten or twelve scenes. Al Frisch brought wardrobe, guns, blanks, reflecters, a sound boom and a state of the art Canon video camera (one of those new ones that simulates film). A veteran actor and stuntman, Jeff Dolan was on the crew (he was in “Tombstone”) and he added a professional touch to the proceedings with his commanding voice: "Fire in the hole! Two Squibs, one live round, rolling, and. . . ACTION!" The director of photography was a cocky kid named Stephen McCurry (remember that name) who I liked immediately and we hit if off. I told him the history (what really happened) and he blocked the shots. I shot 62 minutes of B roll (second camera positions) with my palm held DV camera.
According to our hosts, no one has ever filmed the event on the actual site. As I looked around at the crew I realized everyone had one thing in common: we were all seizing the moment. And even if nothing ever comes of it, that was worth the whole trip.
“In Heaven all the interesting people are missing.”
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