Chasing Light till the End of Day: Filming the Jondachi, Day 2

After the previous day and putting some thought into the fact that the whole crew was sick, I saw a silver lining that I was actually able to get 100% of the logistics out of the way while the guys suffered in bed.    Considering the ambitious nature of this short film and the people we needed to work with taking the time to lay the groundwork for the days to come was extremely important. However, when I went to bed I knew it was do or die for the following days and seeing the shape of the guys when I left them I knew it was highly unlikely they would be in any shape to do the amount of work needed to get back on track.

Waking up this morning I wasn’t sure what I would find when I went into the guy’s room. Dylan came out with a look like he had been through war. Dylan is the Director of Photography for this project.    He is the most talented cameraman I know and I could only hope to one day have a fraction of his talent.  Where Dylan fails is getting himself known and I really hope after this week this will change.    Dylan is also a great friend and very fun to work with. It is rare to work with someone so talented that you can share a laugh and a beer with at the end of the day. That is essential in this line of work.

After a small breakfast we decided that we were going to do the shoot that we knew was going to be long and had many parts that needed to come together. We knew it was a big day but that it did not involve dropping into the class five canyon of the Upper Jondachi. Instead, we went to the put-in of the Lower Jondachi to get the pieces of the story that we needed to lead up to the paddling shoot. This was the longest shot list that I had put together because at that location there is also the ‘Gran Canion’ which could likely be a whole day shoot on it’s own.

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The Gran Canion is this magical area that is pure Ecuadorian paradise. Pools, creeks and waterfalls lay beneath a canopy of jungle tucked away beside the Jondachi River. It is an amazing place. 

We got to a late start because of latin driver culture (our driver was consistently late everyday) and the fact that the boys were moving slow. That makes it hard knowing that we are going to be chasing light until the end of the day.   

Since we had so much gear we had to hire porters to get us down through the muddy trails to the river. This included a DJI Inspire, DJI Ronin, various lenses and cameras, full audio, Lite Pro Gear Feather Crane, Edelkrone slider with action module and more. All of these pieces had specific tasks to tell the story and we used them all.

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We got to work and things started coming together. It was a great feeling after weeks and weeks of planning and stress to make this happen. Seeing the first shot come to reality was an incredible experience and I knew this was going to be special.

All day we battled rain. This is Ecuador in March. It is a reality. We were constantly scrambling to put gear away in our many Watershed bags and Pelican cases. We would have time outs for up to 30 minutes. This is tough when you know the sun will be down by 6pm.  (Deep breathe.)

By the time we got to the Gran Canion, we knew it was going to be tough. We started shooting and it was spectacular until we started losing light. This came at a crucial moment of the story that we could not pass over. We had to wrap for the day with the intent to come back and shoot this one scene. It was too important to skip.

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We packed up with the porters and made the 45 minute hike up the muddy canyon trail back to the van.   We were covered in sweat, mud, and completely soaked.   Our gear was everywhere and we packed up and paid the porters.   

As we got back to the hostel and started backing up the footage I knew we had done a ton of work and really made a dent in the project.  I was exhausted but feeling satisfied to know that losing a day of shooting and getting the logistics out of the way was a blessing in the end.   

Still, this doesn’t make the next days any less important. There is still a huge road ahead and I know that if any factors prevent this from going smoothly we aren’t going to be able to get this done in the time that we have on the ground.    

Read on. There’s a shaman in part 3.