In the summer of 2008, a movie producer with National Geographic called me from England. They needed me right away.
To be clear, they didn't actually need me. They needed a warm body to schlep camera equipment around the Columbia Basin for a short-handed crew tasked with filming Vic Baker in the Channeled Scabland. Apparently, I was the only one who responded to her broadcast email sent months earlier. The gig paid $100 per day, so I drove to Moses Lake to meet the crew.
Vic Baker, megaflood expert and all around brilliant guy, wore the exact same clothes for 3 days of filming. Being a Geologist, he didn't seem to mind. "What, not 5 days this time?"
My job consisted of carting around the portable monitor, which the Producer would watch during filming of each scene being shot not 6 feet away.
The UK-based crew enjoyed many, many cigarettes when they weren't doing...whatever they are doing here.
Vic Baker at Dry Falls. "Cue the wind machine in 3...2...1...Wind!"
Professor Baker explaining kolks to the douchbag Producer guy. Having lived in Logan, UT for a time, I know a double-barrel dipshit when I see one. This guy was a Sunday Bullseye.
It soon became clear that the cameraman, a grizzled veteran, was the one actually running the show.
After the first 20 hours of watching this kind of thing, you learn that being the sound man on a film crew is the best union job in the world. You have a bag and a stick. There's a knob that needs turning from time to time. Sweet gig.
"OK, the next shot demands that we take it to the next level. This is the Danger Sequence. I want you to leap from the boat onto this flimsy 2x4 with reckless abandon. Give into your animal urges, Vic. Sell it, Vic, sell it to the people at home!"
Union sound guy in a ski boat. Best job ever.
98% of the time, this is what was going on: Camera guy chooses where to set up and generally does all the work. Sound guy holds the dead cat. Douchbag in ponytail and shants (of course) watches the portable monitor. An extended smoke break will soon follow.
There is a lot of fussing and fixing always going on, too. Much hushed cussing about cable connectors and overtime pay.
If you ever find yourself trapped in desert caravan consisting primarily of heavy-smoking Englishmen, make sure you've got a superstar along with you. Vic Baker is a pure joy. Smart, witty, calm, professional. The Missoula floods are not cool. Vic Baker is cool. He's arrived. Ephrata is now cool.
From left to right: Assistant Producer, Producer, Talent, and Big Bar in the distance. Two of the four are not necessary.
Geology in the middle distance.
"Geology. Right. Its...uh...science. These arrows here...they mean what, again? Really? Okay...we'll just have to do it live. Do it live, people!"
Ephrata, Moses Lake, Trinidad, Othello, Palouse Falls, Dry Falls. Thanks for making the movie, Vic!
A double rainbow over Othello and a few hundred bucks in my pocket make for a perfect ending to the day.